What Millennials Should Know About… Aaliyah’s ‘Age Ain’t Nothing But A Number’ LP

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AALIYAH Age Ain’t Nothing But A Number (1994) Most Slept On: “At Your Best (You Are Love)” The second single from Aaliyah’s debut album was certified gold, which means it wasn’t exactly slept on. But millennials who don’t know the original version might not recognize how ambitious this song choice was. Recording a cover of this 1976 Isley Brothers classic could have been a disaster but she pulled it off with aplomb. She’s faithful to the original recording and her falsetto, smooth and angelic, does justice to the song while still putting her own spin on it. Listen to the Isley Brothers’ version below and you’ll see how she nailed it.

Lines Best For Status Updates —“Age ain’t nothing but a number/Throwing down ain’t nothing but a thing” (“Ain’t Age Nothing But A Number”) —“When it comes down to the things I like/Boy, you know just how to satisfy me” (“No One Knows How To Love Me Quite The Way You Do”) —“Take control of me/Fulfill my fantasies/Here’s my pager number/Won’t you get with me.” (“I’m So Into You”) —“Now that we have come to know each other/I’ll never go away/Love will always stay here forever (“Street Thing”) —“I check my cellular because my beeper’s beepin’/Booty calls are creepin’” (“Young Nation”) —“I’m down with the way you want me to be/And I would do anything for you baby” (“I’m Down”) —“If loving you is wrong/I don’t want to be right/Because you got that thing I like” (R. Kelly rapping on “The Thing I Like”) —“When you kiss me where you kiss me/When you call my name/ I get a little weak ‘cause boy you’ve got that thing” (“The Thing I Like”) Sidebar: Aaliyah was only 14 when she recorded the album and EVERY song was written by her future-husband R. Kelly Bet You Didn’t Know: Aaliyah’s debut did well, eventually selling over six million copies worldwide. But it never topped the charts, mainly because of the monster records that dropped that same year, including Snoop Dogg’s Doggy Style, R.Kelly’s 12 Play and Mariah Carey’s Dreamlover. Bet You (Also) Didn’t Know: Today, Brandy consistently sings Aaliyah’s praises. But around the time of the release of this album, there was some speculated beef between the two. The details are sketchy but there is video out there of Aaliyah dismissing her fellow singer with a curt, “Good luck Brandy.” See here at the 5:25 mark. Synopsis: The New Jack Swing era was still in full swing in the early ‘90s and Aaliyah brought a feminine youthfulness to the genre that hadn’t quite existed before this album. (Artists like Mariah, Madonna, Janet Jackson, Whitney Houston and Toni Braxton were ruling the charts the year before). Aaliyah’s debut album was solid—though it wouldn’t hold a candle to her later work, particularly her sophomore album, One In A Million, written and produced primarily by Missy Elliott and Timbaland. Age Ain’t Nothing But A Number, as cohesive and fluid as it is, was essentially an R. Kelly album. He wrote and produced every track (with the exception of “At Your Best”). Aaliyah shouts him out on several songs and he raps on more than one. You can even see him in the background on the cover art. It’s a miracle he didn’t completely overshadow her, the way he would with his future protégés. But his heavy-handed musical stamp could not be missed and the similarities between Age Ain’t Nothing But A Number and R. Kelly’s 12 Play (released six months earlier) are striking. Aaliyah wasn’t the strongest vocalist. Some consider that heresy and because of her untimely death, she’s often sainted by millennials (see: Drake). But the fact that she wasn’t a belter with strong pipes doesn’t take away from her contributions to the music scene and her ultimate legacy. Considering her influence on R&B music, if she were alive today, she’d be able to record a song like “Bow Down“. And all your favs would be doing just that.

Aliya S. King’s is the author of two novels and three non-fiction books, including the New York Times Bestseller, Keep The Faith, with recording artist Faith Evans. She had written for VIBE since 1998. Find her at aliyasking.com and @aliyasking. You can also cop Aaliyah’s debut album on iTunes here.