One In A Million is the second studio album from singer Aaliyah. Originally released on August 27, 1996 it is celebrating 25 years. For that celebration the album was also made available last week for the first time on DSPs for streaming.
It features a variety of producers but is mostly notable for the combo of Timbaland and Missy Elliott the stamp they put on a majority of the project. That sonic stamp is just as notable today as it was revolutionary in 1996.
A lot of hype has been been placed on Aaliyah and her music for sounding futuristic compared to the landscape of the time and for laying a foundation for what a lot of artists try to replicate today. Debates on social media have occurred nonstop over the last decade as to whether the accolades placed on Aaliyah are deserved. You'll see a lot of those making the argument that it's not deserved are younger generations who weren't around in the late 90s to experience this first hand. And until last week they haven't been able to go back and listen to this album and others in Aaliyah's discography unless they had a actual physical copy or took the time to find all the tracks on YouTube.
One In A Million is the album responsible for the start of those accolades and it's all because of the perfect match that was Aaliyah, Timbaland and Missy Elliott working together.
The first single from the album was "If Your Girl Only Knew". It was one of the first songs recorded for the project. Aaliyah in a interview with Billboard stated, "I wanted to maintain my smooth street musical image but wanted to be funky and hot yet sophisticated". Many praised Aaliyah's vocal delivery on the record. "If Your Girl Only Knew" would peak at #20 on the NZ Top 40.
A cover of Marvin Gayes' 1977 classic "Got To Give It Up" served as the second single and also featured a guest appearance from rapper Slick Rick. Aaliyah decided to do the cover because she wanted to have party songs on the album She felt she could bring a different flavour to the track after her uncle played her the original. It would peak at #34 on the NZ Top 40.
The third single is the iconic title track from the album. When you're talking about the sonic impact on the sound of R&B at the time this is the record. At the time radio stations didn't know how to fit it into their mixes and rotations because it was just that different from everything else out.
It's a slow jam without following in traditional slow jam format due to the trip hop and drum & bass influences used by the combo of Missy and Timbaland. "One In A Million" was one of the earlier songs recorded and you can see how it just laid the path out for the album. New Zealanders certainly loved the record as it would be the highest charting single from the album peaking at #11. It peaked higher in NZ than any other country.
"4 Page Letter" was released as the fourth single. A ballad that once again saw many critics praising the production and Aaliyah's delivery. It would peak on the NZ Top 40 at #49.
Both the fifth and sixth singles were released simultaneously. The fifth being "Hot Like Fire". The video version was different than the track on the album. Its video used a remix known as Timbaland's Groove Mix which was also included at the end of the album.
"The One I Gave My Heart To" was the sixth and final single. It's a traditional ballad that was penned by legendary songwriter Diane Warren. She had really wanted to work with the singer and reached out to her label for the collaboration. It featured Aaliyah really stepping into her soprano tone. Warren's goal was to push Aaliyah to do a song she would not have normally done showcasing a different side. Look we're not calling Aaliyah the strongest power vocalist but it is a solid performance and delivery. "The One I Gave My Heart To" would peak at #28 on the NZ Top 40.
One In A Million is an iconic album from the 90s and it has truly been a shame that a lot of folks haven't experienced it before due to it not being available on DSPs. We had a listen to the whole album for the first time in a while and it sounds just as futuristic and innovating today as it did back in the 90s. It certainly gives you 90s vibes and elements but there is also something about it that is timeless.
Do yourself a favour, especially if you haven't before, give this album a listen now that it's available on streaming services. Not just for its 25th anniversary but because you need to experience it for yourself to understand why many hold Aaliyah in the regard that they do. This album isn't hype.
Once again, we are not calling Aaliyah the best singer or even best artist of all time. But she certainly was one of the most impactful artists in the 90s from the music to fashion. It's reflected even it what some artists attempt to do today. And that's not just because of One In a Million, we reviewed her 3rd album Aaliyah for it's 20th anniversary a couple weeks ago. You'll have the chance to stream that one as well for the first time in the upcoming weeks as well.
Happy 25h anniversary to One In a Million and forever Rest In Peace to the iconic Aaliyah.