R&B singer Aaliyah Dana Houghton was tragically taken away from the world 15 years ago today, at the very young age of 22, the singer had released three platinum albums, starred in hit films and topped the charts with hit after hit. Breaking onto the scene at 14-years-old with Billboard hits and a debut album executive produced by a budding R.Kelly before switching duties with Timbaland and Missy Elliott on her breakthrough and signature album “One In A Million”. On her sophomore album, the singer explored more alternative sounds from the current wave of R&B setting her apart from her contemporaries, Brandy, Monica and Mya giving a more tomboyish edge with a mix of sex appeal and Hip-Hop dance moves, which seems to have become a staple in modern R&B today.
Before passing away in 2001, the singer released her third and final album, the self-titled “Aaliyah”. This album saw the singer play with various genres from electronica, alt. rock and even traces of latin music. Notably, the album’s lead single “We Need A Resolution” has been quite influential in the works of stars like Drake and The Weeknd, breeding in goth-like instrumentals with soulful R&B melodies. The influence of Aaliyah has reached far past her time in this existence and sowed seeds that blossomed into many of today’s rising vocalists, whether directly or indirectly. I’ve compiled a short list of young ladies that are a product of Aaliyah’s influence.
Like Aaliyah before her, Tinashe got her start at an early age arriving first via a short-lived girl group before making her official solo debut in 2012 with the mixtape, In Case We Die. Shortly after the young singer caught attention from mainstream media resulting in her signing to RCA and released her breakthrough single “2 On”. Stylistically Tinashe mirrors Aaliyah in terms of performance abilities being able to simultaneously sing and dance at the same time and being able to cross from genres of music effortlessly.
Other than sharing a birthday, Aaliyah and FKA Twigs have a lot in common when it comes to groundbreaking visuals. Like many of Aaliyah’s later work, Twigs embodies elements of Afrofuturism and avant-garde fashion to bring to life one of a kind visuals that many fail to compete with. Not only that, Aaliyah has been a big influence on Twigs life when she started off as a dance back in the prime of Aaliyah’s short-lived career.
After a decade in the business, Dawn Richard has taken full control over her career by foregoing independent route with her music after being signed to Bad Boy. Not unlike Aaliyah,who despite not writing or producing much of her material she had full say on what she sounded like, what she looked like and most importantly what she had to say. Dawn is no different since ditching her old bands she has beautifully had a career showered in critical praise and groundbreaking work, most notably, releasing animated and V-R themed music videos.
Taking it back to the earlier days of Aaliyah’s sound, Sevyn Streeter’s sound mirrors a lot of the work featured on the late singer’s first two projects. Blending R&B music with streetwise lyrical content Streeter has built a rep in the business as one of its premiere writers, writing hits for Chris Brown, Tamar Braxton, and Kelly Rowland. Not only that the singer’s two EPs are testaments to her musical prowess.
Rounding out our group of women is Kelela, a singer who’s voice reminds me of Aaliyah’s take on the Isley Brothers classic “At Your Best”. Her soprano vocals are smoother than most of the manufactured pop music on mainstream radio while her music takes on paths that are reminiscent of 90′ R&B music while exploring electronic territories like Aaliyah before her.