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"Aaliyah was a flower that was just blooming."—Missy Elliott
Aaliyah Dana Haughton (January 16, 1979 – August 25, 2001), who performed under the mononym Aaliyah, was an American recording artist, actress, and model. She was born in Brooklyn but raised in Detroit. At an early age, she appeared on the television show Star Search and performed in concert alongside Gladys Knight. At age 12, Aaliyah signed with Jive Records and Blackground Records by her uncle, Barry Hankerson. He introduced her to R. Kelly, who became her mentor, as well as lead songwriter and producer of her debut album, Age Ain't Nothing but a Number, released when she was 15. The album sold three million copies in the United States and was certified double platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). After facing allegations of an illegal marriage with Kelly, Aaliyah ended her contract with Jive and signed to Atlantic Records.
Aaliyah worked with record producers Timbaland and Missy Elliott for her second album, One in a Million; it sold three million copies in the United States and over eight million copies worldwide. In 2000, Aaliyah appeared in her first major film, Romeo Must Die. She contributed to the film's soundtrack, which spawned the single "Try Again". The song topped the Billboard Hot 100 solely on airplay, making Aaliyah the first artist in Billboard history to achieve this feat. "Try Again" earned Aaliyah a Grammy Award nomination for Best Female R&B Vocalist.
After completing Romeo Must Die, Aaliyah filmed her part in Queen of the Damned. She released her third and final album, Aaliyah, in 2001. On August 25, 2001, Aaliyah and eight others were killed in an airplane crash in The Bahamas after filming the music video for the single "Rock the Boat". The pilot, Luis Morales III, was unlicensed at the time of the accident and had traces of cocaine and alcohol in his system, and the plane had been massively overloaded with recording equipment. Aaliyah's family later filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Blackhawk International Airways, which was settled out of court. Since then, Aaliyah's music has achieved commercial success with several posthumous releases. With album sales estimated to be between 24 to 32 million copies worldwide, Aaliyah has been credited for helping redefine R&B and hip hop, earning her the nickname "Princess of R&B".
Aaliyah exhibits these tropes:
- Biker Babe: The videos for "More Than a Woman" and "If Your Girl Only Knew".
- Feather Boa Constrictor: "We Need a Resolution," both song and video, have a snake theme. They were her favorite animal.
- Genre Roulette: Her third album had elements of R&B, pop, electronica, and rock.
- Heroic Resolve: "Try Again"
- Idol Singer
- Intercourse with You: "Rock The Boat"
- Never Speak Ill of the Dead: Aaliyah ran into this; people would claim that she owed her fame more to her beauty and overproduction thanks to Timbaland rather than her own singing talent. Of course, after she died tragically, this is rarely if ever brought up. She's now remembered as a great singer who died too soon.
- Short Lived Big Impact: She only released 3 albums over 7 years, but is considered one of the defining artists of R&B today.
- Signature Song: "Try Again", "Rock the Boat"
- Soprano and Gravel: Her duet with DMX, "Come Back in One Piece"
- Tall, Dark and Bishoujo
- The Unfair Sex: Her music intentionally avoided this. Which is rare considering R&B is prone to lopsided male bashing.