Anyone who knows me will know that I’m a big fan of Aaliyah – and not in an, “I’m so cool and ironic that I like R&B” kind of way, but in a, “this was the music I was listening to and loving when I was eleven years old” kind of way; more than the sentimental value, actually, I think mainly it comes down to the simple fact that I thought and, still think, Aaliyah was making some incredible R&B.
The first time I heard her was when ‘Try Again’ came out, and I can remember my friend and I singing along to it on the radio. But I really took note of Aaliyah when ‘More Than a Woman’ [watch on YouTube] was released posthumously and went to number one. I remember complaining to that same friend the first time I heard it that it sounded creepy; but then, with each listen that was kind of what was so entrancing about her sound – the way the music had this strange almost ethereal middle-eastern flavour which sort of danced and interwove lightly around her strong yet sweet and never overbearing vocals. None of her music is like any other R&B singers I can think of – with Timbaland’s standardly brilliant production and rippling beats and her mesmerising vocals, I have a lot of love for Aaliyah’s sound.
So it was with trepidation I first heard that Drake was working on releasing a post-humous Aaliyah album this year, piecing together bits and pieces of vocals she had recorded before her tragic death in 2001. It is a plan that has been met with controversy, as no one seems sure whether the permission of the late-singer’s family has been sought. But then, the track itself is promising. While Drake’s rap seems somewhat incongruous in the song, the track as a whole retains that otherworldliness and enchanting dissonance of her sound. Aaliyah was never about glossy pop, and this song at least seems to work as a continuation of the strange minimalism of her style. With Missy Elliot and, thankfully, Timbaland purportedly working on the album itself, and given that it’s a chance to hear more of Aaliyah’s work, I for one am very excited.