Today marks the 16th anniversary of the death of R&B superstar Aaliyah. She died in a plane crash in the Bahamas on August 25, 2001 after she finished filming the music video for her single “Rock the Boat“. She was only 22 years old.
Aaliyah was one of the most influential and innovative R&B artists of the 90s, as well as one of my all time favorite singers. Her music was fun, complex, and unique. Her fashion sense from the baggy pants with the exposed Tommy Hilfiger tag, the over-sized open jacket, the cute bikini tops and shirts that flaunted her midriff was copied by girls everywhere. Simply put, Aaliyah was Beyonce before Beyonce became Beyonce cause she was still with Destiny’s Child.
And she was just starting to hit her peak. Aaliyah had been nominated for a Grammy for her signature hit “Are You That Somebody“. In 1998 Aaliyah, who was 19 at the time, became the youngest artist to perform at the Oscars.
She had just gotten into acting, and was set to appear in The Matrix film series ( Nona Gaye replaced her after her death). Her 2000 single “Try Again” made history by being the first song to reach number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart based only on the strength of radio airplay.
These facts just make her death all the more tragic. There are a lot of what ifs regarding what direction her career would have taken her, the new trends she would have created in R&B and pop music.
Even though it’s been 16 years since her death, Aaliyah’s legacy lives on. You can hear her influences in the new generation of R&B singers like The Weeknd, Banks, Tinashe and Kehlani. Many artists have covered Aaliyah’s songs as a tribute to her. And it was just announced yesterday that MAC Cosmetics would be releasing an Aaliyah inspired collection in 2018. Aaliyah may be gone, but she is not forgotten.