Two decades after her untimely and tragic demise, Aaliyah continues to shape generations of artists from all around the world: her music and style embedded in pop culture. Despite only releasing three studio albums in her relatively short career, she’s left a timeless and enduring legacy—her work spans the realms of soul, hip hop, and R&B.
For the longest time, younger listeners can only access Aaliyah’s 1994 debut, (the awfully titled) Age Ain’t Nothing But A Number, which was marred by controversy due to the project’s association and Aaliyah’s illegal marriage with R.Kelly.
After years of bitter disputes between Aaliyah’s estate and her old label, Blackground Records, her 1996 sophomore album One In A Million finally arrived on streaming platforms last month. Last Friday (September 10), her critically acclaimed final album, ΛΛLIYΛH, also became available.
— Spotify (@Spotify) September 10, 2021
To celebrate the GRAMMY-nominated R&B icon’s music, we’ve listed down six companion songs to enjoy the music of Aaliyah.
H.E.R. – “Could’ve Been” ft. Bryson Tiller
H.E.R.’s slow-burn single “Could’ve Been” featuring Bryson Tiller exhumes the long-gone possibilities of a relationship that never was. The award-winning singer-songwriter, whose mother is Filipino, recalls Aaliyah’s willingness to be vulnerable. In a “song association” challenge, H.E.R. sings a part of “Try Again,” which she cites as one of her favorite songs.
Priya Ragu – “Leaf High”
“Leaf High,” the opening track to Tamil-Swiss musician Priya Ragu’s debut mixtape, damnshetamil, is a sensual neo-soul cut (Those guitar layers! Lilting vocals!) reminiscent of Aaliyah’s more velvety tracks.
June Marieezy & FKJ – “Amsterdam Live Session”
Filipina-American musician June Marieezy has made a career making effortlessly smooth jazz-tinged neo-soul, most notably after she rechristened herself as the unpronounceable ((( O ))), collaborating with her husband and long-time collaborator, French producer, FKJ. The two’s chemistry is palpable in this impromptu jam simply titled “Amsterdam Live Session.” Aaliyah herself was known for fearlessly exploring beyond the boundaries of R&B, with critics describing her latter work as “experimental.”
Snoh Aalegra – “I Want You Around”
Like Aaliyah, Snoh Aalegra also considers the inimitable Sade as a profound inspiration. Snoh Aalegra’s 2019 record, Ugh, those feels again, center on intimacy—and the inhibition and surrender that go with it. The Swedish-Persian artist’s standout cut, “I Want You Around,” finally owns up to its vexing desire to take things to the next level.
Tsunari – “ไม่เอาแล้ว No More”
On 2020 track, “ไม่เอาแล้ว No More,” Thai-Trinidadian singer Tsunari stands her ground—“ ก็บอกว่าไม่เอาแล้ว / กุไม่เอามึงแล้ว” (I said no / I won’t take you anymore). Short and direct, Tsunari’s impassioned rejection is in many ways refreshing: a difficult but often necessary choice. Go do you, girl.
Jess Connelly – “Process” ft. Awich
Straight out of ‘90s R&B playbook, “Process” is a delightful homage to Aaliyah, intentional or not. With an assist from fiery Japanese hip hop star Awich herself, Filipina singer-songwriter Jess Connelly drives home the nexus of R&B, soul, and hip hop that Aaliyah embodied in her career.
Stream ΛΛLIYΛH below: