Were Aaliyah still alive, today would be her 36th birthday. It’s been more than 13 years since Aaliyah’s untimely death, and her influence on modern R&B is not budging. From her hypnotic music to her timelessly cool style, Aaliyah occupies a niche in music history that can never be touched. Here are just a few things we think of when we think of Aaliyah, and a few things we will always love her for. Happy birthday Aaliyah, we’re thinking of you.
She paved the way for a totally new sound in music
While most ’90s R&B was dominated by divalicious powerhouses like Whitney Houston, Toni Braxton, and Mariah Carey, Aaliyah’s unconventionally sultry style was a welcomed change of pace. Her first single, “Back and Forth” debuted in 1994 when Aaliyah was just 15 years old. Unlike most teen singers, Aaliyah’s work was carbonated with a rare maturity that she carried throughout her entire career.
She really cemented tomboy-chic style
Few things could rival Aaliyah’s music, but her style was certainly one of them. Often seen wearing baggy jeans, men’s underwear, and tight crop tops, Aaliyah became the ’90s poster child for tomboy-chic. In fact, Aaliyah’s style is what booked her an ad campaign with all-American bigwig brand of the ’90s, Tommy Hilfiger. Can anyone else in history sport menswear so effortlessly? FUN FACT: Her now signature one-eye-bang-cover-up was actually inspired by her mom. She found it mysterious and it reminded her of old Hollywood actress, Veronica Lake.
She was WAY ahead of her time
Between breathy vocals and twitchy samples, Aaliyah’s music didn’t fit the conventional R&B bill of the ’90s— it had a futuristic sensibility to it. Alongside Timbaland and Missy Elliott, Aaliyah’s mainstream success helped pave the electronic future of R&B music. Her self-titled album, Aaliyah was released in 2001 and shot to #2 on the Billboard 200 after selling nearly 200,000 copies in its first week. This album also included Aaliyah’s famous song, “Rock the Boat“. The accompanying music video was shot in the Bahamas just days before her death, making the video one of Aaliyah’s last appearances on camera.
Her career and life may have been way too short, but we know we’ll be honoring and remembering Aaliyah for years to come.