2001, Music

Aaliyah (2001)

This is like a British LP from the ’60s where it was released around the same time as a hit single but, in order to encourage you to buy the single instead of the LP (which you presumably buy anyway?) the single is left off. (Not the American version of selling you the single twice – on the single and then on the LP – was better.) It’s not really that bad, as “Try Again” came out way earlier. But it’s still kind of weird that international versions got that very famous song and this…didn’t. Anyway…

There’s a lot of talk about (and praise for) the sound of this album, as it considered pretty forward-thinking in its sound. I guess I can sort of hear that – certainly as compared to ’90s R&B – and maybe if I knew better I would be aware of how influential it’s been on 21st century music (or not). But to me it definitely sounds a lot like turn-of-the-century R&B, albeit lacking a lot of the perspective of a lot of them.

Her voice is pretty good. I’m not sure the rest of the music is compelling enough for me to care about it that much. It does sort of feel stuck between different genres, and very much trying to take just a little from some other things without straying from American R&B too much. Maybe if it was riskier I’d pay more attention to her voice. I don’t know.

I don’t know if it’s just me, but I can’t get over how written for her, this album is, at a lyrical level. Garrett’s perspective if, to me, very clearly that of a man imagining a woman’s perspective (and regularly barely even getting that far). Knowing a little bit about Aaliyah’s career (much more than I know her actual music) I can’t help but be absolutely creeped out by this, in addition to not enjoying it. I think it’s probably very easy for fans to ignore all of this (both his lyrics and how much Aaliyah’s life and career was influenced by a certain awful human being well before this record was made) but I can’t. If she can’t write lyrics, the least she and her team could do is find a woman to write her some lyrics. (Missy Elliott does write the lyrics to one song.)

Given what I know of her life and the nature of this record from a lyrical perspective, I have a rather hard time separating that from the music. People tell me it’s distinct and important and good and all those things. Maybe it is, but I can’t get there. And that it’s crass, I can’t help but wonder how much of this album’s sterling reputation now has to do with Aailyah’s tragic death very, very soon after its release.

Anyway, to my ears it’s pretty generic turn-of-the-century R&B with some problematic lyrics. But I’m very likely wrong.


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