On 25 August 2001, singer Aaliyah was killed in a plane crash, cutting short the life and career of one of the brightest and most promising talents in pop and R&B.
The music world was, understandably, in shock – Aaliyah was just 22 and, while she had been having hits since her early teens, was beginning to enter the most successful and innovative phase of her career.
To mark what would have been her 39th birthday, we look back at some of the milestones in Aaliyah's short but prolific career.
Back and Forth and debut album
Aaliyah's debut single Back and Forth, a laidback, new jack swing classic, became one of her signature songs and was her first hit off her launch album Age Ain't Nothing But A Number – a reference to the fact that the album had been recorded when Aaliyah was 14. If Aaliyah sounded wise beyond her years, it's because she'd been a signed artist since the age of 12, and counted R Kelly as a mentor. She was primed for success.
Age Ain't Nothing But A Number spawned five Top 40 singles: the most successful being Back and Forth (16) and (At Your Best) You Are Love (27).
Meeting Timbaland and Missy Elliott
There was a change of pace for Aaliyah's second album – she left behind R Kelly and her original label and signed a new deal. Along with working with Jermaine Dupri and Rodney Jerkins, she also established a working relationship, and close friendship, with Timbaland and Missy Elliott that would endure for the rest of her career.
Timbaland and Missy were nowhere near as well-known as they are now, and If Your Girl Only Knew, the lead single from Aaliyah's second album One in a Million, was one of the very earliest songs that showed off Timbaland's now much-imitated production style.
The original is great, but this remix by Timbaland – which appeared on the single release in 1996 – samples Bristol trip-hop group Portishead. It's quite a mashup and was groundbreaking for the time.
Five Top 40 hits came from One in a Million, with the most successful, a 1998 rerelease of If Your Girl Only Knew, giving Aaliyah her second Top 20.
She'd then land a third Top 20, and her UK chart personal best, with Are You That Somebody, from the Eddie Murphy comedy Dr Doolittle, which reached Number 11 and scored her a first Grammy nomination. Bigger success was just around the corner.
The new millennium, baby
In 2000, anything felt possible in pop, and the dawn of the new millennium inspired artists and producers to explore more futuristic sounds. Aaliyah, with Timbland, cleverly tapped into this vibe with Try Again, taken from the soundtrack of Romeo Must Die, which gave Aaliyah her first movie acting role.
Try Again's stark beats, in contrast with Aaliyah's sweet but attitude-packed vocal – not to mention Timbaland himself giving it some serious adlibs – finally gave Aaliyah her first ever UK Top 10, reaching Number 5. It's also her biggest selling single in the UK, shifting over 209,000 copies.
Third and final studio album
Aaliyah seemed unstoppable, and a year after Try Again, she kicked off the campaign for her self-titled third album with the dark and moody We Need A Resolution, which made the Top 20. It was, sadly, to be her last UK hit in her lifetime.
Just a month after the track made its chart debut, Aaliyah was killed in a plane crash in the Bahamas, returning back to the US after shooting a video for future single Rock the Boat.
Making chart history
It would be another five months before it was deemed appropriate to honour Aaliyah's legacy and carry on the campaign, and with that first release, More Than A Woman, Aaliyah made chart history twice.
Aaliyah was replaced at the top of the Official Singles Chart by George Harrison's My Sweet Lord, re-released as the former Beatle had also passed away. It was the first time in chart history one posthumous Number 1 had replaced another.
Not only that, but More Than A Woman was the first ever posthumous Number 1 by a female artist in the UK.
The music goes on
Rock The Boat was the last hit from Aaliyah's third album, reaching Number 12. A fourth album, I Care 4 U, consisting of previously unreleased material, was released in 2003 and spawned one Top 40 hit, Don't Know What To Tell Ya. Aaliyah's voice has also been used in tracks by Drake and Chris Brown, and artists who've cited Aaliyah as a major influence include Rihanna, Alicia Keys and Drake.
Here's Aaliyah's Official Top 10 biggest selling songs in the UK:
|2||MORE THAN A WOMAN||1||2002|
|3||ARE YOU THAT SOMEBODY||11||1998|
|4||ROCK THE BOAT||12||2002|
|5||BACK AND FORTH||16||1994|
|6||IF YOUR GIRL ONLY KNEW/ONE IN A MILLION||15||1998|
DON'T THINK THEY KNOW (WITH CHRIS BROWN)
|8||WE NEED A RESOLUTION (WITH TIMBALAND)||20||2001|
|9||JOURNEY TO THE PAST||22||1998|
|10||IF YOUR GIRL ONLY KNEW (ORIGINAL)||21||1996|
©2018 Official Charts Company. All rights reserved.
*If Your Girl Only Knew features twice as it was re-released as a double-A side with One in a Million in 1998. The song at Number 6 counts sales of the physical copy only; downloads for each song have been counted as part of each individual songs' tally, putting If Your Girl Only Knew at 10.