Feb 16 2022

Album Review: Aaliyah – One In A Million (#MWE)

With just the right combo of suave, sophisticated, and a little weird, Aaliyah’s second album showcased the maturity, growth, and strength she brought to her music. In the aftermath of a split from future convicted sex offender R. Kelly and Jive Records, Aaliyah did a full 180 and transformed her sound into something simpler and more sensual. The results were legend-making.

The superstar duo Missy Elliott and Timbaland open the proceedings with just a taste of what they were cooking up for the following year’s Supa Dupa Fly. The pair continue setting the vibe with “Hot Like Fire,” a smooth funk track designed for Aaliyah’s charismatic vocals to glide over. In fact, Elliott and Timbaland have co-write credits all over the album, with the latter behind the boards for a majority of the album’s 70-minute runtime. This gives One In A Million a sophisticated, yet slightly off-kilter mood throughout. This is perhaps best embodied in the album’s title track; laid-back synths accompany skittering, but subtle percussion, never upstaging the understated, coy declaration of romantic contentment from Aaliyah.

The vibe pivots slightly when Naughty By Nature’s Treach shows up for a feature on “A Girl Like You,” featuring a pleasant boom-bap that doesn’t bang too hard; the song reveals Aaliyah’s versatility and ability to switch up her flow. We hear other transitions, from her take on an Isley Brothers slow jam, to a “Billie Jean” sampling Marvin Gaye cover with Slick Rick in tow, to the streetwise swagger of “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright,” to the Jermaine Dupri-produced “I Gotcha Back.” In all of these, Aaliyah remains poised, her voice leading the presentation without missing a beat.

The long duration of One In a Million, with a fair share of filler, is really the only thing that hampers the overall experience. Aaliyah’s sophomore effort, as a whole, is a measured, enjoyable piece of 90s R&B from a formidable artist who was just beginning to find her footing after a tumultuous entrance into the industry. She rebounded from the drama quickly and let the music do the talking. And before she left us too soon, she would change the conversation again.

Score: 7/10