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20 Years Ago Today: A Look Back At Aaliyah's 1996 Classic 'One In A Million' [VIDEO]
It was the most important album of her career. Back in 1994, Aaliyah burst onto the scene alongside singer/producer/songwriter R. Kelly to release her debut album Age Ain't Nuthin' But A Number. At 14, the singer who's presence seemed a lot older than the numbers would suggest, broke through with a successful debut that included popular singles such as "Back and Forth," "At Your Best (You Are Love)", and the of course "Age Ain't Nothing But A Number."
Following some controversies surround the personal and work relationship of R. Kelly and Aaliyah the singer left Jive Records and signed on to Atlantic. This is where he life changed forever.
At the time two producers from Virginia were looking to find their break in the music business. Relively unknown at the time Aaliyah got a chance to hear what they were working with and established a clear chemistry from the start.
"We were nervous when we first worked with her because nobody knew who we was," Missy said in an interview on MTV's RapFix in 2012. "She came in and was so warming; she made us immediately feel like family."
It was August 27, 1996. Finally stepping out of the shadows of her former producer R. Kelly, Aaliyah came back on the scene a young woman, with a new anthem for the ladies titled, “If Your Girl Only Knew.” It was a new beginning for the singer on Atlantic Records. She got a chance to link up with Timbaland and Missy Elliott for a new sound that would become the soundtrack for women for the next few years.
The track spoke about the consequences of what would happen if a man’s girlfriend found out the dirt that he was doing. Directed by Joseph Kahn, the video showcased her brand new sexier look with her showing a little bit more skin, but keeping that edge by wearing bandana and all black outfit to blend the mystery with a blend of bright pink and black and white in the background. Artists such as Missy Elliott, Timbaland, 702, Lil’ Kim and Ginuwine all made cameos in the video.
“If Your Girl Only Knew” peaked at 11 on the Billboard 100, but it was just the precursor to her next single which helped shaped the albums success.
The slower paced “One In A Million” was released in December of 1996. Timbaland and Missy Elliott reached gold with the track, as it paved the way for a new, edgier sound for the new generation of the r&b genre.
Her second single ruled the Billboard charts, reaching number one on the R&B Airplay Chart for six weeks while topping out the Hot 100 chart at 25. Its video is still engraved in the mind of many as she laid on the hood of a black convertible while fans all reached for her and showcased her dance moves in a contrasting all white room with all white clothing. It was just a unique time in music videos.
Aaliyah really showcased her potential on the album giving a blend of traditional r&b sounds with a modern hip hop twist. You have songs such as “Got to Give It Up” which brought Marvin Gaye’s 1977 back to life with a hip hop twist as it features Slick Rick. Then you have “Choosey Lover” which kept that 1980’s r&b vibe and then remixed to give it a new, hip feel to the track.
The beginning of “4 Page Letter” serves as a classic introduction to the track as she asks the producer to increase the levels of the music.
If you want a taste of the 1990’s and what r&b sounded like during that era, its an essential album to get that feeling back. It’s classic for many reasons, but the the quality of each and every song speaks to why we hold Timbaland and Missy Elliott among others as legends today.
To this day the album has been certified 3x platinum, it took a while for it to take off but by the end of 1997, One in a Million was considered as one of the better albums of the decade.
Although her next album didn’t come until 2001 (Aaliyah), she continued to be an influential artist by following the album up with successful singles such as “Are You That Somebody” and “Try Again,” from the Dr. Dolittle and Romeo Must Die soundtracks respectfully.
As of today, Aaliyah has sold over 32 million albums worldwide, and helped create a legacy in hip hop and r&b that is still impactful with this generation today. We will never know what it would be like if she was still here, but we can continue to keep the legacy alive through her music, and work.
You can purchase One In Million here.
Take a look back at the career of Aaliyah through video below.