Aaliyah: Happy would-be 30th birthday

It seems strangely apropos that Jan. 16 marks both the nationwide opening of the Biggie biopic Notorious and what would have been the 30th birthday of Aaliyah — two artists whose outsized talents exceeded the too-short time they spent on the planet.

The R&B singer and actress, who was only 15 when she released her platinum debut album (fittingly titled Age Ain’t Nothin’ But a Number) in 1994, died in a plane crash in the Bahamas in August 2001, just as her career seemed to be hitting an exciting new level — her last, best album, Aaliyah, went gold within a month of its release, and she had been cast to appear in two sequels to The Matrix (the role eventually went to Nona Gaye).

Friends and collaborators like Timbaland and Missy Elliott still reference her in their work today (Timba dedicated a portion of each DJ set to her during Justin Timberlake’s 2007 FutureSex/LoveShow tour), and it’s not hard to see why. Even the nearly-decade-old songs like "Try Again," posted below, still sound as indelible today as they did then.

And after her death, a host of famous names, including Missy, Jay-Z, Rosario Dawson, Queen Latifah, Quincy Jones and Toni Braxton, gathered on both coasts to film a video for the top-5 hit "Miss You," as tribute to the singer they called "babygirl" (clip after the jump).

Popwatchers, do have a favorite Aaliyah memory? We’d love to hear about it.

More Aaliyah:
Aaliyah’s family sues Virgin over her fatal crash
A glance at Aaliyah’s brief, bright career
Review: ‘Aaliyah’

Comments (48 total) Add your comment
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  • Ohio

    RIP – I remember every time I saw a new video of hers thinking she got more beautiful with each one. My favorite is still “Are you that somebody”

  • Andie

    Being someone who grew up surrounded by alternative rock, I was never really familiar with Aaliyah’s until I saw Romeo Must Die. When I heard of her death, I was saddened by the loss of whatever her future would have held.

  • BC

    Um, her role in the Matrix sequels went to Jada Pinkett (not Nona Gaye).

  • C

    Jay-Z isn’t in that video.
    And Aaliyah was amazing. “Try Again” totally holds up, as does her other music. Such a tragic loss.

  • Leah Greenblatt

    Hey BC, Jada Pinkett actually played the role of Niobe — Nona Gaye was cast as another character, Zee, when Aaliyah passed away.

  • Bashir

    Thank you for posting this article in remembrance of Aaliyah’s 30th Birthday. I always have enjoyed watching her MTV Diary – it showed the down-to-earth, kind, GOOD person that Aaliyah truly was. She loved all of her fans very much, and was extremely thankful and grateful for what she had in life. She was truly blessed, and we were even more blessed to have her here with us…
    And actually, to the two below debating Aaliyah’s role in the Matrix…..Aaliyah was set to play ZEE, and the role was, as the article stated, re-cast with Nona Gaye (Jada Pinkett Smith would still have been Niobe and was always set to be).

  • Bluearcher

    Marginal talent. Prepackaged and way over rated. Dozens of far more talented artists and she happened to sleep with the right industry players.

  • Marlena

    I love u Aaliyah and miss u more and more each day. Happy Birthday Baby girl!

  • wg

    I wasn’t necessarily a big fan of her music, but her breakout role in “Queen of the Damned” was amazing. You couldn’t take your eyes off her when she prowled into a scene.


    (eyes rolling at bluearcher)…HAPPY 30TH AALIYAH…and the article is accurate, thank you E weekly!!! :)

  • Joan

    I still miss her. She was good. Her 2 last albums were great! A tragic and (still) painful loss

  • A Goddess

    Music is missing u Aaliyah! I’m missing u! Happy 30th Birthday Babygirl!!

  • aaliyah

    I MISS YOU BABYGIRL!HAPPY 30TH BIRTHDAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Matt

    Aww. This makes me sad, remembering that I miss her. “Rock The Boat” is one of my favorite songs. Happy Birthday, Aaliyah!

  • AK

    Wow, Bluearcher. It’s one thing to go after a living artist, but it’s another when that artist died seven years ago in a plane crash, especially in an article in memorial to them. Yours is not even a criticism of her artistry and talent (which was impressive for a young singer and clearly growing), but of her as a person.

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