I Miss You: Aaliyah's Indelible Influence On A Generation Of Male Artists

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For a generation, the unexpected death of Aaliyah Dana Haughton 10 years ago today remains as significant as the deaths of Notorious B.I.G. and 2Pac. This especially rings true for millennial men, who were just realizing girls really didn't have cooties when Aaliyah released her debut, Age Ain't Nothin' But A Number, in 1994. In the years since the plane carrying her and her entourage crashed shortly after taking off, killing everyone on board, the fanboy-like appreciation for Aaliyah has only grown.

None of this is to put her memory in the context of a battle of the sexes; many women were in awe of the way she was able to be so cool without being coy, or how her made-for-church voice never overpowered. But for young men, Aaliyah's death was like losing a crush. We didn't really know how to deal with losing a crush, and we'd never had one like her.

Mary J. Blige was a bit too seasoned; TLC had Aaliyah's sexy, tomboy style but none of her grace. She accentuated her perfect midriff, she wore dark shades to cover her eyes when her jet-black hair didn't do the job. And her songs—"At Your Best," "4 Page Letter," "One In A Million"—had men wishing she was talking about us, and women listening to them was thinking about us.


Aaliyah feat. Jay-Z, "I Miss You (Remix)"

The affection felt toward her by male fans, and the effect her death has had on male artists—those who knew her and those who did not—is evident in song, starting with Jay-Z's tribute in rhyme over Aaliyah's posthumously released single "Miss You." Keep in mind: Jay-Z never spoke at length on how he felt about Aaliyah's death. These bars are probably the most he ever said and will say about his fallen friend.


Aaliyah, "Miss You"


Aaliyah feat DMX, "Come Back In One Piece"

The star-studded official video for "Miss You" begins with a heartfelt prayer from DMX, her co-star in the movie Romeo Must Die. DMX getting the honor of reciting a eulogy is a telling sign; a look further back at the video for "Come Back In One Piece," from the Romeo Must Die soundtrack, shows how much DMX adored her. There's none of that "This is my bitch" vibe to him in the video. It's more like, "This is my sister, my homegirl."


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4 comments
DDB9000
DDB9000

 LAgirl makes a good point about Aaliyah not screaming like Beyoncé. I'd wager if Aaliyah were still alive, nobody would be paying any attention at all to Beyoncé.

Brett
Brett

I must have been in third or fourth grade, I was really young, but I remember watching MTV and Aaliyah's video for "One In A Million" came on.  Needless to say I was spellbound.  The way her voice glided across the instrumental with such restraint, but at the same time conveying such self assurance.  Timbaland's immaculate production (the skipping & skittering drum pattern, the crickets sample) fit perfectly with her soft vocals, there was literally nothing else on the radio quite like it.  It was amazing how Aaliyah and her team were on the constant borderline of mainstream and taste-maker qualities of music.  No wonder why so many artists, both established and independent, list her as an influence.  Truly an original talent.  You are missed!

Chris Molanphy
Chris Molanphy

Her voice was so distinctive—Aaliyah made a limited range work for her like few singers I know. (Arguably more than Janet Jackson, who's released a slew of singles I've loved but whose voice was often an obstacle to be overcome rather than an asset.)

In the 10 years since she's been gone, when you consider the women who've sorta filled the Aaliyah space in the modest-voice-big-beats camp—Amerie, Cassie, maybe Rihanna—really, no one has her particular vocal quality. What made tracks like "Try Again" so bone-ratting was how deep and ethereal and just right she sounded against those Timbaland beats.

That's what I miss, more than anything. She was the definitive "muse," in every sense of that word, especially for male artists (but also for the likes of Missy Elliott, for whom she was a superb foil). And she's had a classier afterlife, if you will, than Tupac or maybe even Biggie.

LAgirl
LAgirl

She did have a solid voice; especially to sing the type of songs she did at 14. Just because she wasnt screaming like beyonce doesnt mean she 'certainly didnt have the best voice'. The article was good up until that point. 

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