Aaliyah reached the top 10 of the pop singles chart with her very first single when only 15. Originally a protege of R. Kelly, she became even more successful in her collaborations with Timbaland and Missy Elliott. Her posthumous releases show just how strong her talent was up until an untimely death in a plane crash at age 22. These are 10 of the best recordings of Aaliyah's far too short career.
Aaliyah's "Try Again" was her only single to go to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100. It became the first song to hit #1 based solely on radio airplay. "Try Again" was recorded for the soundtrack to the film Romeo Must Die which starred Aaliyah in her first major movie role. The song was produced by Timbaland and was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance.
Aaliyah recorded "Are You That Somebody" for the soundtrack to the film Dr. Doolittle. It was produced by Timbaland and brought them both strong critical acclaim. "Are You That Somebody" was on the charts when Billboard changed their policy to allow airplay only singles on the Hot 100. However, the single was already headed down so only reached #21 on that chart. It was a #4 pop radio airplay hit. "Are You That Somebody" received Aaliyah's first Grammy Award nomination for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance.
Missy Elliott and Timbaland co-wrote "If Your Girl Only Knew" and Timbaland received the production credit. Aaliyah was only 17 when the song was released as the first single from her One In a Million album. It was the first record to showcase the talent of all three collaborators, Aaliyah, Missy Elliott, and Timbaland. "If Your Girl Only Knew" hit #1 on the R&B singles chart and went to #11 on the Billboard Hot 100.
"Miss You" was a song left behind when Aaliyah died tragically at the age of 22 in a plane crash in 2001. Producer Teddy Bishop finished the song and it was released as a single from the posthumous album I Care 4 U. The understated production showcases Aaliyah's vocals. The accompanying music video features clips from her earlier videos as well as cameo tributes from a wide range of her music friends and colleagues. "Miss You" reached #3 on the Billboard Hot 100.
"Age Ain't Nothing But a Number" is the title single from Aaliyah's debut album. It was produced by R. Kelly and generated some raised eyebrows in its lyrics about dating someone older. Aaliyah was only 15 when the song was released. Bobby Caldwell's 1978 top 10 hit "What You Won't Do For Love" is sampled throughout "Age Ain't Nothing But a Number."
"We Need a Resolution" was the lead single from Aaliyah's self-titled third album. It features one of the most sophisticated and complex of Timbaland's productions for Aaliyah. Detailing a relationship with difficulties, lyrical snippets like, "Am I supposed to change, are you supposed to change," and "We need a resolution, we have so much confusion" weave with a hypnotic clarinet sample by John Ottman. The mix is intoxicating. "We Need a Resolution," with its complex, futuristic feel, was only a minor commercial success.
"At Your Best (You Are Love)" was originally recorded by the Isley Brothers in 1976. Aaliyah recorded it for her debut album Age Ain't Nothing But a Number. It became a hit in a version remixed by R. Kelly featuring a notable clip of R. Kelly saying, "1-2, check up, baby, lemme know what's up." "At Your Best (You Are Love)" became Aaliyah's second top 10 pop hit peaking at #6.
"The One I Gave My Heart To" was the sixth and final single from Aaliyah's album One In a Million. It is a ballad written by star songwriter Diane Warren. As such, the song is a departure into more overtly pop territory than Aaliyah's other hit singles. "The One I Gave My Heart To" peaked at #9 on the Billboard Hot 100 and was certified gold for sales.
"Back and Forth" became Aaliyah's first hit single when she was only 15. Produced by R. Kelly, it is a simply song about a teenager looking forward to the weekend, but it also contains strong sexual innuendo. "Back and Forth" reached #5 on the Billboard Hot 100, topped the R&B chart and introduced a formidable new talent.