Just 17 but already something of a music biz veteran with a million selling debut album and dues-paying road activities behind her, the sweetly seductive New York based vocalist catches the full attention of Jeff Lorez who seems more than a little interested in her new album, new label, and her thoughts on movie stardom.
ON THE EVE OF this release of her new album One In a Million, in the midst of a US promotional tour, Aaliyah is able to put her introduction to life in show business into some kind of perspective. Understandably, though, she prefers not to make R.Kelly the point of discussion.
“That was a very rough time for me. It was very tumultuous. But I got through it. I had The Lord in my life and my family and I had a lot of support from my fans. They wrote me a lot of beautiful letters which inspired me to put my all into this new project. You know, through all that which I went through, I said to myself I’m not gonna let this break me down, I’m not gonna hide. I said I’m gonna face this adversity. I’m gonna get past this. I went out and did interviews and shows. I said I’m too young, I’m 17, I’m too young to let anything stop me, I have too many goals to achieve. I’m past that now. I have a new project, I’m on a new label. It’s a whole new situation and I’m very happy to be past that whole mess because that’s exactly what that was.”
Aaliyah has surrounded herself with an army of young blood writers and producers such as Jermaine Dupri, Timbaland, Jay Dibbs, Vincent Herbert, Kay Gee, Rodney Jerkins and veteran Daryl Simmons who has penned the ballad, ‘The One I Gave My Heart To’. Could it have turned into a case of too many cooks ?
“No, not really. It’s important to click on with your producers and I vibed with them all, especially Timbaland. I was able to put my all into the songs.”
Something of a relative newcomer, Timbaland wound up contributing almost half the songs of the album.
“He’s young. He’s 24. It was just like working with a friend because we have a lot in common. He originally sent in a demo and I didn’t really like the song but I liked the track, so I got in touch with his people and said I’d like to work with him but I wanted the songs to be a certain way. We did two demos and really clicked and it turned into seven songs.”
As far as memorable melodies go, The Isley Brothers have committed more than a few to tape in their time, something Aaliyah has cottoned on to, covering ‘At Your Best You Are Love’ on her debut album and now redoing the classic ‘Choosey Lover’ but adding a little twist in the process.
“I really wanted to do another Isley’s remake. This one is very different from the first one though, because it has more of a beat to it and I liked it for that reason. We also wanted to change up the vibe of it a little, so we thought we’d do like a hip-hop remix and just include it on the album but then we thought it would be cool to merge the two together.”
With time to prepare a lengthy and well thought out campaign behind her album, Aaliyah is thankful that things won’t be as rushed as they were first time around, especially when it come to touring.
“I’d only done two track dates before I went on tour with a band. I mean I didn’t want to do a lot of track dates because I prefer being with a band but I suddenly had confirmation a week before the tour began that I had to go out with Keith Sweat and BLACKstreet, so I only had a week to rehearse and get it together. It came off well, though. I realised that touring is what I most enjoy about this business because you really get to interact with the audience and the fans. Travelling overseas was a completely new experience. I think here in States we’re spoiled. We get everyone all the time so it’s never a big deal. But overseas they appreciated every little thing. They want you to do an hour and a half show. I mean I headlined my own show there. They knew every single song. It was a beautiful eye opener for me to see just how much more music is appreciated there.”
Aaliyah has big plans for herself in the entertainment industry.
“I would like to model myself on Whitney Houston and Barbra Streisand. They went into other things. Whitney went into acting, Barbra into directing. The key to this business is longevity and that’s what I want to have.”
And moving to New York may well allow Aaliyah the chance to star alongside her two favorite actors.
“I would love to have been in Heat because I’m in love with Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro! That’s a dream for me to be in a movie with either Al Pacino or Robert DeNiro. I loved Carlito’s Way too and I can’t wait to see The Fan with Robert DeNiro. I’m their biggest fan!
© Jeff Lorez, Blues & Soul, 1996