R.I.P. Aaliyah!

I have a confession to make. Yesterday marked the tenth anniversary of Aaliyah’s death and I think it’s time for me to finally come clean about something: I never listened to Aaliyah’s music when she was alive. Sure, I had heard “Try Again” and “Are You That Somebody” and thought they were both solid pop songs but that was the extent of it. She wasn’t on my radar. I was indifferent to her. When she died, however, I, like many others, was devastated by the news. Maybe it was her young age or maybe it was the fact that she was in the middle of transitioning from respected R & B singer to superstar with her upcoming role in The Matrix movies. Whatever the reason, I was heartbroken and immediately went out and bought her three albums—Age Ain’t Nothing But A Number (something that R. Kelly, who produced the entire album, surely told himself when he married Aaliyah when she was only fifteen years old), One In A Million (her breakout record that was primarily produced by Missy Elliot and Timbaland. At the time, Missy and Timbaland were largely unknown producers and had crafted a sound for Aaliyah that wasn’t like anything else out there) and her self-titled album, which was released shortly before her death. I was stunned by how much I actually loved her music. Her first album was sort of forgettable ’90s cheese whiz but her next two were flawless. One In A Million’s production is edgy and dark, making Aaliyah’s ethereal vocals an unlikley captivating match. With her last album, Aaliyah redefined her sound yet again by working with new producers and even experimenting with rock. Her discography may be small but it made an indelible mark on the music world. It’s hard to picture artists like Ciara and Alicia Keys existing without Aaliyah paving the way.

When the topic of Aaliyah comes up, I’m always hesitant to admit that I only got into her music posthumously because it makes me feel like less of a fan. But I realize now that that’s silly. Whether I got into her when her first album dropped or yesterday, there’s no shame in the discovery. What matters is that I adore her music.

When an artist dies, it’s interesting to see not what people choose to remember but what they choose to forget. In regards to Aaliyah’s story, two things are seldom mentioned after her passing. One was the fact that she illegally married R. Kelly in 1994 when she was only fifteen. Vibe magazine famously ran their Illinois marriage certificate before Aaliyah’s parents had them annul the union. Keep in mind that this controversy was before the tapes of R. Kelly having sex and pissing on young girls was released and the singer was sent to trial. I find it bizarre and downright troubling that the two were ever  married and I’m also confused that R. Kelly didn’t get into trouble for it. Since Aaliyah’s death, however, that blemish has been largely erased from her story.

The second thing that rarely gets discussed is the painful reality that Aaliyah may have caused her own death. The singer was traveling with members of her entourage after her video shoot for “Rock The Boat” wrapped in The Bahamas. Nine people were in a twin-engine Cessna plane with hundreds of pounds of video equipment. They were allegedly advised to remove some of the equipment because they were over capacity but the party refused. Shortly after takeoff, the plane crashed 200 feet from the runway, killing all on board. Granted, it’s the pilot’s responsibility to refuse to fly when the aircraft is clearly overweight and after the crash it was even discovered that the pilot was high on coke and wasn’t even authorized to fly the plane. However, it’s sad to know that Aaliyah and her entourage refused to take anything off the plane even after they were advised to do so. If they had just agreed to remove some things and have them flown out later on another plane, Aaliyah would’ve been alive today.

It’s hard to think that Aaliyah and her friends’ diva behavior is what caused their untimely demise. But in the end, it doesn’t make it any less tragic. A gifted singer is gone. I rarely am sad about a celebrity’s death. Aaliyah has been the only exception. TC mark

image – Aaliyah

Ryan O'Connell

I'm a brat.


More From Thought Catalog

  • Anonymous

    I have to be honest, I didn’t read this after the 2nd sentence. I just… don’t want to hear it.

    • Hmm?

      I usually stop reading once I see “By RYAN O’CONNELL”

      • Ryan O'Connell

        Which is why you clicked on my article that clearly said By: Ryan O’Connell? omg hunny

      • Veronica

        I usually start reading once I see “By RYAN O’CONNEL.” 

        Although I like Aaliyah fine, I wasn’t drawn in by the headline. Usually its a combination of Ryan’s headline and Ryan’s name that draws me in. But this time is was just Ryan’s name, even though I wouldn’t have read this article under other circumstances. I just love Ryan’s thoughts and how he expresses them. It’s like he’s inside my brain. Maybe not necessarily with this one, but for sure most of the time. 

        Thanks Ryan, for always cheering me up when I’m down and totally fucking getting it. 

      • http://www.twitter.com/mexifrida Frida

        so true

  • Um

    I don’t really understand why flying with two much equipment is diva behavior. Nor do I understand why you are putting more blame on Aaliyah than the pilot who was “high on coke.”

    • Ryan O'Connell

      She didn’t want to wait for her equipment even though she knew it put the airplane in risk. I put 100% of the blame on the pilot obvi but I also think Aaliyah’s not wanting to wait was stupid and, yes, diva-ish. 

      • http://purplelikerawr.tumblr.com Nat

        I think this is what’s confusing:

        “It’s hard to think that Aaliyah and her friends’ diva behavior is what caused their untimely demise.”

        The “high on coke” thing was kinda glossed over, but you said that it was what caused it instead of “one of the reasons” or a factor or something. I think the syntax/wording just kinda implies more (even if it wasn’t intended).

  • Mom

    @ameltoid @hmm? thanks for sharing your thoughts have been invaluable

  • Anonymous

    One of my favorite random things is how Mark Ronson and Rashida Jones are randomly in the video for More Than a Woman.

    • guestc

      rashida and kadida became friends with aaliyah after they modeled for tommy hilfiger in the 90s.

  • http://karyninny.com/ karyn

    I think of her and the others lost that day often. I don’t think any of us can know what really happened that day, and I’ve always assumed that the gravity of the situation wasn’t fully explained to her entourage (and most likely it was never explained to her at all because staff and crew usually talk amongst themselves and protect the celebrity from such worries). I’ve witnessed the power of celebrity over and over and it changes people in otherwise normal situations. It’s quite possible that the pilot, for fear of not being used again, for fear of being unpopular, or just acting with plain stupidity and poor judgement, didn’t emphasize how strongly he felt about the removal of the luggage. Private travel is a sketchy and unsupervised business. Inexperienced pilots are often used for charter companies, and if there’s an accident or problem, the companies change the name of their business so they can’t be researched for their safety records. Whatever happened that day, it was tragic. 

  • http://www.nosexcity.com NoSexCity

    Honestly had no idea she was married to R Kelly. So creeped out right now…

  • Anonymous


  • Guest1

    Did you watch her BET video special where they recorded her behind the scenes footage of Rock The Boat music video? If you did you would have seen that it was clearly evident hat she was not comfortable with the idea of traveling in the small plane with the amount of weigh ton it. Fact check before you post an article like this. Granted, everyone is entitled to their opinion ..but for you to say her and her crew had diva behavior ” caused their untimely demise” is not only inaccurate but it’s offensive. Do you think that on a small plane with hundreds of pounds of equipment, that the the party on the plane would have knowingly and willingly risks their lives like that? It was a small charted aircraft, not a jet. Don’t be ridiculous. 

  • Anonymous


  • N.W.

    I don’t think it’s really fair to blame Aaliyah. One can make the argument that had she waited for another plain, she would still be alive. However, one doesn’t blame someone shot while walking out of Walgreens by saying “Had they just waited to walk out of Walgreens, they would still be alive. But they had to be a diva and get somewhere, and now they’re dead.” As far as I read, while the plane was over capacity, everything was still accommodated, and the crash was caused by a pilot who had falsely obtained a license and was on cocaine. No passenger’s fault.

  • JeremyWatkins1

    Some of you are so sad. You are basically sheep to an individual who would not give a rats ass about you. If you want the truth then listen. One person remarked, “we couldn’t possibly know how it happened” ; that is false. Another remarked that the speculation is untrue and offensive; so what?!? Do you want the truth or live in La La Land?

    As an individual who has flown an airplane, actually three different types and federal log book to prove it, let me say this; it was the likely the fault of the charter company, the pilot, and yes, Aaliyah!

    That airplane was overweight, and being overweight kills! No questions asked, no exceptions, not even for (brace yourself) spoiled divas! Guess what? Here is how it went down;
    Aaliyah: I don’t care, I want to leave now! 
    Pilot: But we can’t, there is weight and balance issue…
    Aaliyah: STFU! (Phone) Yeah, tell this American Airlines wannabe when I want to go that is when we go….
    Charter: Let me talk to him (to pilot) Do what  she says, or you are fired!
    Pilot: (like a pussy) Okay…
    Media: We will blame it on cocaine.

  • http://thoughtcatalog.com/2012/15-awesome-songs-about-infidelity/ 15 Awesome Songs About Infidelity | Thought Catalog

    […] life was tragically cut short, but make no mistake — she was a bad b before she left us. Between a way-illegal marriage to […]

  • http://www.itmakesmestronger.com/2012/10/15-awesome-songs-about-infidelity/ Only L<3Ve @ ItMakesMeStronger.com

    […] life was tragically cut short, but make no mistake — she was a bad b before she left us. Between a way-illegal marriage to […]

blog comments powered by Disqus