Before Brandy wanted to be down and Britney did it for the first time, Aaliyah carved her niche as a platinum teen queen. With her third, self-titled album, the 22-year-old has dramatically switched up her sound yet again.
Not surprising, as she's never been easy to pin down. After going platinum with her R. Kelly-produced 1994 debut, Age Ain't Nothing But a Number, and double platinum (with help from Timbaland and Missy Elliott) on 1996's One in a Million, you would think she'd concentrate on shutting the game down with a quick follow-up, not turn heads by becoming a potential Hollywood A-lister. Other than working with Timbaland on soundtrack combo punches like the funked-out, bounce-infused "Are You That Somebody?" ("Dr. Dolittle") and the spacey, dancefloor-igniting "Try Again" ("Romeo Must Die"), Aaliyah's been relatively quiet on the scene, leaving fans wondering just what she was thinking.
Fortunately for those fans, the singer-turned-actress' thoughts are at the forefront of the more intimate, introspective Aaliyah, chief among them that if you're going to put your hands on her, you'd better be ready for a passionate, strenuous workout ... or getting your butt kicked.
"I want you to rock the boat," she demands on the midtempo "Rock Da Boat," going on to explain exactly how she'd like her boat to be rocked. When things become too turbulent, she abandons ship on the ballad "Never No More," in which she ends an stormy relationship when her mate shows his violent side. Recalling the boldness of Trish O'Day, her "Romeo Must Die" character, she threatens, "I just know you better not touch me again/ That is one game I do not play."
"Read Between the Lines" speeds up the pace some, as Aaliyah uses a slithering, rap-like flow to present evidence to a friend that the friend's man is cheating. Don't look for an abundance of club jams on Aaliyah, however. The singer concentrated on showcasing her skills with more laid-back beats, rather than battle for top billing against Timbaland's enthralling, helter-skelter production.
Including the first single, "We Need a Resolution," Timbo's boardswork is limited to three tracks, with lesser-known producers such as J Dub and Bud'da coming to the fore. Missy Elliott, meanwhile, contributes one ballad, "I Care 4 You," in which Aaliyah pledges her unconditional devotion to a friend she has the hots for.
Static, who made a little bit of noise with the male R&B trio Playa in 1998, penned most of the album's lyrics. His past work with Aaliyah includes co-writing "Are You That Somebody?" (on which he also performed) and "Try Again."
Aaliyah hits stores on July 17. The track listing, according to her label, Blackground:
- "We Need a Resolution"
- "Loose Rap"
- "Rock Da Boat"
- "More Than a Woman"
- "Never No More"
- "I Care 4 You"
- "Extra Smooth"
- "Read Between the Lines"
- "You Got Nerve"
- "I Refuse"
- "It's Whatever"
- "I Can Be"
- "Those Were the Days"
- "What If"