When news broke that R&B songstress Aaliyah had perished in a plane crash on August 25, 2001, her fans and music lovers throughout the world were shocked and devastated. Aaliyah was only 22-years-old and at the height of her career when her life was cut short after a plane crash in the Bahamas, which also claimed the lives of eight other passengers. Ten years after the tragedy, we are paying tribute to Aaliyah and her influential stamp on music, as she made big waves in the R&B industry up until her untimely and heartbreaking death that summer day.
Aaliyah first broke onto the music scene at the tender age of 15 with her 1994 album ‘Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number,’ which she released on Jive Records with the help of her mentor R. Kelly. With her beautiful, smooth and soulful vocals, the album yielded hits like ‘Back & Forth’ and a successful cover of the Isley Brothers’ ‘At Your Best (Your Are Love).’ However, her true breakthrough as a superstar wouldn’t come for another couple of years.
In 1996, Aaliyah released her second studio album under Atlantic Records with help from producers Missy Elliott, Timbaland, and Jermaine Dupri. The LP, ‘One in a Million,’ not only cemented Aaliyah’s
place as a powerful musical force, but it also helped further the careers of the production team working with Aaliyah. ‘One in a Million’ was a big success, being certified platinum not once, but twice, and birthing hugely popular singles like ‘If Your Girl Only Knew,’ ‘One in a Million,’ and ‘The One I Gave My Heart To.’
With her stunning beauty and immense talent, Aaliyah’s popularity just grew and grew as the years went by. In 1998, her track ‘Are You That Somebody?’ for the ‘Dr. Dolittle’ soundtrack dominated the airwaves during the summer. She starred in the film ‘Romeo Must Die’ in 2000, releasing the infectious Grammy-nominated sing-along ‘Try Again’ for the movie’s soundtrack.
After ‘Romeo Must Die,’ Aaliyah continued to showcase her hardwork and love for both acting and singing, as she starred in the motion picture ‘Queen of the Damned’ and also released her third and final album ‘Aaliyah.’ The eponymous record saw the release of five singles, including ‘We Need a Resolution’ and ‘Rock the Boat,’ three of which were released posthumously.
While leaving the Bahamas after filming her ‘Rock the Boat’ video, the small plane Aaliyah was aboard crashed shortly after takeoff due to exceeding the weight capacity. She was buried on August 31, 2001, with more than 800 people attending the service.
It is still evident that Aaliyah’s inspiration lives on, as countless R&B songstresses like herself have expressed their love and respect for her in a recent Billboard article. Ciara said, “It never felt like she was trying to reach across or do anything more than just keep that cool, soulful, heavy urban core about it. It wasn’t like she was trying to be anything more than who she was. I really respect that and I appreciate that.” Monica also commented, saying, “Sometimes people are totally different than the image they represent, but what I love about her is that everything that you saw was really her. When the lights and the cameras were off, that same pleasant, mild mannered, sweet personality, that’s just how she was.”