Music debates happen on a daily basis, whether at the barbershop sounding off on the best emcees of all time, going to bat on social media over why Brandy is way more than “Ray J’s sister,” or simply arguing in the groupchat over who had the best album release this past Friday. However, one of the most revisited conversations when it comes to the hierarchy of pop stars is the question of who is worthy of carrying the coveted titles of “King,” “Queen,” “Prince,” “Princess,” “Icon” and everyone’s favorite: “Legend.”
Today (January 16), many across the world will be celebrating one of those honorific title-holders in music who sadly left us far too soon over 20 years ago. However, the essence of R&B/pop phenom Aaliyah Dana Haughton (1979 – 2001) is still immensely felt in the music industry to this very day, particularly on what would’ve been her 44th birthday.
With that said, happy heavenly birthday to the Princess Of R&B!
With the voice of a hummingbird, dance moves that’ve been describe by industry experts as “fluid like water,” music production that was literally decades ahead of her time and a personality that had every single person who crossed her path describe it as “angelic,” Aaliyah truly embodied a spirit that was destined to make soul music, albeit for a short time. Within those 7 years she was active in the industry though, Baby Girl laid down a musical legacy that has since inspired countless artists after her reign to carry on a legacy that was limitless beyond words.
With help from main producers Timbaland, Missy Elliott, the late Static Major and, yes, even a disgraced former R&B king that doesn’t need to be mentioned — see how easy that was! — Aaliyah created many timeless records that will always tug at your heartstrings. Need a heartbreak anthem? She literally has a song titled “Heartbroken” off her game-changing 1996 sophomore album, One In A Million. If love is actually on your side, you can go from “Street Thing” off her 1994 debut album, Age Ain’t Nothing But A Number, to the cool-chill of “All I Need” from her posthumously-released 2002 LP, I Care 4 U.
…Oh, and those are just the deep cuts!
As Baby Girl’s legacy expands even further into new eras — R&B chart-topper SZA’s new music video for SOS single “Kill Bill” gives an artistic nod to Aaliyah’s 2001 Japanimation commercial — we wanted to make sure the world knew exactly why it’s accurate to deem Aaliyah as a legend of R&B.
In her short-yet-impactful career, Aaliyah’s music has influenced a legion of soul music fans on a level that matches that of predecessors like Mary J. Blige, Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston, while also setting the blueprint for successors like Rihanna, Jhené Aiko and even the solo career of Beyoncé to flourish.