Death adds a certain mystique to an artist and gives people reason to constantly wonder “What if?”
Aaliyah’s life ended
13 14 years ago, but the debate on her legacy has carried on. Well, in certain circles anyway. I’ve seen plenty of my music writing peers make their adoration for the late singer clear time and time again. I’ve also bared witness to fans on various message boards, social media, and – gasp – directly in front of me, question what Aaliyah has done to receive as much praise as she’s garnered post-mortem.
If anything, the commentary has only intensified recently in the wake of Lifetime developing a movie based on seemingly the more salacious aspects of her life. Some questions are fair. Did Aaliyah really make that great an impact, and if so, to what extent? Likewise, did Aaliyah, who had the time was not as great a success as her contemporaries (Brandy, Monica) get an added boost from an early departure? And as far as a movie about her life goes, are the more controversial aspects of her life – i.e. her short marriage to R. Kelly – more reason to highlight her life on film than her musical accomplishments?
Here go the answers: The evidence points to yes, given she was a muse for one of the most innovative producers of a generation and there are several artists (Tinashe, for example) presently citing her as an influence. Such is proof that a short career doesn’t make it any less impactful. Or that a voice, no matter how thin one finds it, still has the power to resonate and be impactful.
Death does add a certain mystique to an artist, and gives people reason to constantly wonder “What if?” However, as far as this question that’s posed everywhere – would Beyoncé be as big as she is if Aaliyah died – the answer is yes, dummy. The Aaliyah album was underperforming before her death, so if you’re into revisionist history, you should find a new hobby.
As for the R. Kelly factor, the man is an alleged pedophile who married a teenager whose first album he produced. Seediness does make for interesting storytelling. Such is life.
I recall one tweet in particular that read, “Death does not make you a legend.” No, it doesn’t, but if you can leave such a mark on the world before age 25 that a decade-later, people still clamor for your story, whatever label you use, the truth remains the same: you mattered, deeply.