President George W. Bush had a lot of screw-ups during his eight-year term, but he did do a couple things right. One of them was proclaiming June as Black Music Month on May 31, 2002. June is here,* and to celebrate Black Music Month, I'll be featuring one of my favorite artists each day, sharing my first or most personal memory of them, and explain what their accomplishments are and why I felt they should make the Black Music Month Top 30 list. There will be some oldies, some newbies and some artists you may not know of yet.
Black Music Month Heat Factor "Why's this artist hot?": I wasn't into Aaliyah when she first came onto the scene, but as soon as she danced to "One in a Million," I started rethinking my indifference to her career. Female dancers can sometimes get swallowed up by the guys, but when she wrapped her arms around the guy in that video and strolled behind him, I thought, "Now that's power." In "Try Again," she was kicking, walking on walls, jumping, flipping and strolling with a cane, but she did it so smooth, I didn't get the impression one single hair was out of place. In "We Need a Resolution" with dirt all over her body and a snake crawling around, she still looked like the epitome of cool. I loved watching her collabos with Missy Elliott, Timbaland and Magoo on songs like "Up Jumps the Boogie," but she always managed to steal the shine even when she wasn't singing. She had that "it" factor.
First Memory, Most Personal Memory of the Artist: The first time I saw her was in my teenage years with a childhood friend of mine and her two cousins. The four of us went to the west side of Chicago for a free concert. I went to see some other group who I can't remember because of two reasons: 1) Aaliyah stole the show and it was the first time I'd paid attention to how talented she was 2) I hadn't eaten anything all day, it was over 90 degrees and I almost fainted. I had the bright idea to walk away from my group to stand in the front row and no one even knew who to tell to help me. I'll never forget how wild it was to almost black out with no water or food in sight. Even though that was a scary experience, I never forgot how well Aaliyah held her own onstage and didn't seem to notice that this wasn't the best neighborhood to be in. Super thugs were clapping for her and suddenly forgetting how hard they were supposed to be. It was one of those moments where I realized the power of womanhood from watching her. I managed to get through her performance and then struggled to a tree trunk to sit down.
In 1998, I saw her dance to "Are You That Somebody?' That sealed the deal for me. She managed to do some of the hardest moves, some of the sexiest moves and out-danced most of the fellas. Aaliyah proved that you don't have to strip down to nothing to be sexy.
Accomplishments from the Artist: Like too many brilliant artists, her shine while she was living was respectable, but her shine when she was killed in an August 25, 2001 plane crash was overwhelming. 2002's "I Care for You" stayed on the Billboard charts for 40 weeks, her self-titled 2001 album for 188 weeks, "Try Again" from the "Romeo Must Die" soundtrack in 2000 hung around for 32 weeks and "I Miss You" -- her song which was uncomfortably suitable for how her fans felt after her death -- stayed on the charts for 37 weeks. In her earlier years, her 1994 album "Age Ain't Nothing But a Number" went platinum almost immediately. "One in a Million" was double platinum, and "Four Page Letter" and "If Your Girl Only Knew" were also hits from her 1996 album "One in a Million."
Although Aaliyah clearly knew she had a loyal fanbase, unfortunately she didn't get to see the huge success her last album created. The plane crashed after she filmed parts of her "Rock the Boat" video, so fans were a little melancholy watching the last memories of this brilliant 22-year-old singer. But one thing we knew for sure was she literally was one in a million.
Timbaland was a regular producer for Aaliyah.
There were heated arguments in the '90s about who was a better dancer between Aaliyah and Mya.
Aaliyah, singer Ginuwine and rapper/singer Missy Elliott were very close.
* This entry was originally published on Associated Content in June of 2010. It has been republished with permission from Shamontiel. To find out who the other 29 artists were who were selected in 2010, visit this Pinterest board.
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