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It’s been some time since Aaliyah has committed herself to a long player, but it’s not like she’s been slacking. She had one of those can’t-avoid-hearing-it-every-twenty-minutes-unless-you-were-fishing-in-the-Northern-Territories-all-summer-long-type hits in "Are You That Somebody" from the Dr. Doolittle soundtrack a few summers back. Aaliyah also co-starred in a Big Time Motion Picture Action Thriller, Romeo Must Die, picked up some decent reviews for her work in the role, and scored a big hit on the movie’s soundtrack to boot. With Destiny’s Children running the pop soul diva show for the year 2001, Aaliyah is showing up halfway through the summer as the only real competition, and the girl has definitely got game.

It wouldn’t matter to me if TEN BILLION copies of "Survivor" were sold, and I don’t care about how hot the Destiny Chicks looked as they slunk their glistening bootylicious bodies through the botanical gardens on the set of the "Survivor" music video shoot. "Survivor" is a bewildering mess of a song, with everything from the Casio Store going off at once as the Children took turns at the mike, each in a vain attempt to cram ten minutes of lyrics into a four and a half minute bag of space while sporting their flow. Success from such awful excess just makes me wonder if people who actually buy that stuff (‘specially after hearing tracks like "Survivor" over and over again like some weird secret Chinese military brainwashing project designed to test the limits of sanity) really listen to the music. I bring all of this up because Aaliyah’s opening track barfs on itself the same way. Although he can’t resist leaving his sonic stamp on every record he works on, long-time Aaliyah collaborator and molten-hot hip-hop producer Timbaland isn’t usually given to the type of overkill that makes "We Need A Resolution" such a horrible disaster. Aaliyah is allowed to work from way too many directions…honestly, it sounds as if there are ten Aaliyah’s singing, sighing, purring, weeping…and a potentially pretty melody gets lost in the confusion.

So, in order to enjoy Aaliyah’s new disc, simply skip over its weak opener and work from "Loose Rap" on down. "Loose Rap", featuring a flirtatious flow from Static, pares the sound back down to where things usually are in the Timbaland Laboratory of Robotic Sonics, and there are merely a handful of Aaliyah's harmonizing with each other. The track pops along pleasingly, as does "More Than A Woman", where Aaliyah, without getting bogged down in the language of specific warranty details, promises more than any man can dare hope for, all to a nice n’ plump bass keyboard line, some high synths and Timba’s syncopated drum programs.

Aaliyah is an artist ready to blow up big time, and this is the record that might lift her up to icon status…here’s why. The music scene has been dominated by teen pop idols for some time now, and that trend shows no sign of slowing down. Hip-hop is huge as well, and just seems to get bigger and bigger everyday, despite the self-destructiveness (read: STOOPID BEHAVIOR) of some of it’s bigger stars. Aaliyah, who is barely old enough to buy booze legally, is already a veteran hit maker, and her music isn’t soft serve for the masses. In fact, compared to her competition, she’s actually challenging. Take a smoker like "What If" for example, with it’s machine percussion and blasts of electric guitar that rock harder than anything currently being made by any black artist this side of a certain Mad Genius composer from Minneapolis. Check the quirk of the robo-Cuban horns, keys, and beats of "Read Between The Lines." Listen close to notice the cartoon-sputter sound used as rhythm instrument in "I Care 4 You", and you may catch yourself wondering if that goofy little noise is enough to stop you from filing the disc next to The Very Best Of Luther Vandross and your other bedroom classics. Listen closer and you’ll notice Aaliyah isn’t engaged in the current ghetto posture trend, lacing lyrics with profanities for the sake of "keeping it real." Aaliyah could pull off sounding ghetto about as effectively as Sean "P-Diddy-Ding-A-Ling-Daddy-Doorknob" Combs, so thank goodness she doesn’t embarrass herself trying like he has soooo many times before. Instead, she comes off sounding classy and sophisticated, which could mean that perhaps she is, in fact, classy (zounds!) and sophisticated.

This is, by no means, the best record I’ve heard all year, and I don’t think it’ll change anyone’s life but hers. She has made the right record at the right time, and by this time next year, everybody including yer grandma will know her name.

-Jeff Noise

Track Listing:

  1. We Need A Resolution - Featuring Timbaland
  2. Loose Rap - Featuring Static From Playa
  3. Rock The Boat
  4. More Than A Woman
  5. Never No More
  6. I Care 4 U
  7. Extra Smooth
  8. Read Between The Lines
  9. U Got Nerve
  10. I Refuse
  11. It's Whatever
  12. I Can Be
  13. Those Were The Days
  14. What If

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