The Run That Back series is a deep dive into some of music’s most popular or underrated projects. Whether it’s been 5 years or 50, there’s never a wrong time to ‘run that back.’
Aaliyah's 1994 debut was engulfed in scandal. Many presumed the end had arrived before she could really flourish until she rose like a phoenix from the ashes with 1996's One In A Million. With the help of then-emerging songwriting/producer duo, Timbaland and Missy Elliott, they flipped what the world perceived Aaliyah to be and showed them exactly who she was destined to be.
On the LP's intro track, "Beats 4 Da Streets," Missy is heard saying, "...you just now entered into the next level..." And she was absolutely correct. One In A Million was innovative, revolutionary and changed the face of R&B during that time— this is what we would call a cultural reset.
Let's zone in on the 7-track run from "Hot Like Fire" through "4 Page Letter." Timba and Missy experimented while Aaliyah got to explore her range. The 17-year-old was no longer a teenager with an edge; she was a young woman with mystique. Her tone transcended time. To this day, "One In A Million" is one of the greatest R&B cuts of all time. Even the instrumental with its signature drums and bass speak for itself. It stood out against the emerging neo-soul era.
"If Your Girl Only Knew" is a personal favorite. It was the album's lead single and set the standard for Timbaland's production and Missy's songwriting. Deep cut ballad, "Choosey Lover (Old School/New School)" is Aaliyah's second cover of an Isley Brothers classic. She embraced the song's original feel and then slid into making it her own. That was the magic of Aaliyah. The very next track, her rendition of Marvin Gaye's "Got To Give It Up" featuring Slick Rick further proves that point.
She took elements from the soul and funk music she was raised on, but breathed new life into it with her natural edginess. 25 years later, a whole new generation can now understand the Aaliyah older fans knew and grew up with. That is how her legacy lives on. One In A Million is now available on all streaming platforms.