Monday, May 23, 2011

90's Jams #5: Aaliyah "One In A Million" (1996)

Timbaland's canvas was as huge as the entire great big starry moonless fucking 2AM sky, and he filled in every last spot with layers upon layers of precious subtlety. As a result, there is a very strong chance, upon the first listen, that the listener will NOT AT ALL get what makes this song the absolute pinnacle of not only 90's R&B, but 90's pop singles, period. Within "One In A Million's" dozens of brilliant subtleties, the absolute standout would have to be its inventive arrangement, showcasing motherfucking cricket noises as a percussion instrument... and backwards-reverb on a recurring soul-guitar fill... Let's just take a moment to really let those 2 elements sink in, considering this song was played on Hot 97 constantly, and sounded nothing like anything else in the world of radio R&B at the time, but somehow set a course in place (along with a handful of other radio singles, most notably "Pony" and "The Rain") to permanently alter pop music production over the next 6-7 years.

Other noteworthy brilliant subtleties, in no particular order:
#1 17-year-old* Aaliyah's barely not-that-innocent delivery, although no more naughty than what high school kids are normally concerned with... We do miss her so.
#2 The vocal arrangement and lyrics were more than likely Missy Elliott's biggest contribution, mostly noteworthy for how they blend so perfectly with Timbaland's warm and silky keyboard arrangement..
#3 This particular style of percussion arrangement, with its slight nods to early 90's drum-n-bass, spent a good 2-3 years lingering within the top 10 singles chart in tracks like Usher's "Nice And Slow" and Christina Aguilera's "Genie In A Bottle," although it was never quite like the first time..

(*Considering Bieber and Earl Sweatshirt and that chick from iCarly are now the same age as Aaliyah when the One In A Million LP was released, she seems notably mature in comparison... And as far as we can tell, her particular style of "teen-girl subtly hinting at promiscuity" predates everyone else, albeit much more tastefully than what followed...)

And that's the bulk of it... With this song, Missy & Timbo kicked off their trippy futuristic sci-fi party. There's a fitting night shot at the end of this video with Aaliyah riding with some motorcycle dude over a bridge with the stars above them. You can listen to this during the day if you want to, but "One In A Million" is a perfect jam for the stars...

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