Aaliyah
One in a Million


4.5
superb

Review

by Get Low USER (57 Reviews)
January 12th, 2022 | 6 replies


Release Date: 1996 | Tracklist

Review Summary: 90's R&B classic

One In a Million is the 1996 sophomore album by late R&B singer Aaliyah, following her semi-infamous debut Age Ain't Nothing but a Number. That first album, masterminded by the once-loved R. Kelly, shot Aaliyah into fame and scandal simultaneously, with eventual rumors of an illegal marriage between Kelly and a then underage Aaliyah. A couple of years later, after the couple split, and as to try something completely different the second time around, Aaliyah gathered an army of songwriters and producers to engineer what would eventually become One In a Million, after a recording process that would span almost an entire year. This long and decadent album – the product of Aaliyah's growth and maturity as an artist and person, as well as the time and effort of many big names including Timbaland, Missy Elliot and Jermaine Dupri – is a landmark of 90's female R&B.

One In a Million begins with the Beats 4 Da Streets intro, which features Missy Elliot ushering us into "the new world of funk" as Aaliyah teaches us to spell her name over a percussive beat with blipping synths. The first proper song, the single Hot Like Fire, sets the tone for the rest of the album, with Aaliyah crooning suggestive promises to her new lover in her sensuous and sweet alto, over a mid-tempo beat composed of sharp, male exhales and synthetic glockenspiels. Other singles, which take up much of the first half of the album, and of which I suggest watching the music videos for to further enjoy the nighttime-romance aesthetic of One in a Million, include the title-track, If Your Girl Only Knew, Got to Give it Up and 4-Page Letter, covering themes such as appreciating your man's love, being the third wheel in a love triangle, gaining the confidence to go dancing at the club, and being separated from your lover, respectively.

The beats on One In A Million, about half of which were produced by Timbaland and the other half being covered by a smattering of less famous names, generally have a louder snare and kick-drum track, with a quieter array of melodic synth-lines that compliment Aaliyah's soothing voice. The essence of new jack swing is evident, especially in the percussion; and mixed with the vibrant, hip-hop style beats, it gives the album a distinctly 90's vibe that any millennial could appreciate. Each track also has a distinct introductory beat, that will trigger the listener's memory as to which song it's leading into after a couple playthroughs, which is important for an album that runs for an hour and 13 minutes.

The guest-spots on the album, of which there are several, are consistently useful to their respective tracks, and never feel like a waste of space. The song A Girl Like You, which could have easily served as another single for the album, features a playful alternating chorus between Aaliyah and Naughty by Nature rapper Treach, where they sing to each other about wanting a girl (or in Aaliyah's case a guy) like the other. The aforementioned Got to Give it Up, which is actually a cover of an old Marvin Gaye tune, features a witty narration by English rapper Slick Rick as he and Aaliyah end up at the same club together as per the story of the song. But by far my favorite guest feature on One In a Million is on the deep cut Never Givin' Up, which features the most honest-to-goodness, soul-rendering verse by a little-known Tavarious Polk, then concluded by a shared bridge where Aaliyah and Polk sing "Angels watchin' over you, over me" – a simple line that hits hard in the wake of Aaliyah's untimely death.

I want to conclude this review on a personal as well as contextual note, as I could talk about this album for pages and pages, but have actively attempted to stick to explaining the music itself until this point. Before One In a Million and the Aaliyah self-titled albums' long-awaited return to streaming platforms in 2021, I had listened to neither and was more excited to hear the latter due to its popularity. The self-titled album is very good, but I find One In a Million to be superior, due to the combination of its consistency and length. When I listen to an album that's nearly an hour and twenty-minutes long, if there's even one bad song on it, I'm going to rant about lack of quality-control. One In a Million, which is 73-minutes of non-stop R&B bliss, does not fit that bill, and is one of the very few albums of its length that I've heard that doesn't. For this, I can't recommend the album enough, as it is timeless in many regards, and truly one in a million.



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Aaliyah


Comments:Add a Comment 
Get Low
January 12th 2022


11743 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

According to Wikipedia, a user named Nick Butler had a review of this album up at one point. Dunno whatever happened to that, so I decided to pick up the torch. Beautiful album.

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
January 12th 2022


22341 Comments


wow, hell yeah. I love this album, great idea to review it and will read

Atari
Staff Reviewer
January 12th 2022


27083 Comments


nice. I've been on a huge 90s R&B kick lately and not sure I ever heard this whole album. I'll jump on it shortly

Digging: Mos Def - Black on Both Sides

Get Low
January 13th 2022


11743 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Also if anyone knows what user Nick Butler is, please lemme know. Not sure if it was a staff writer or not. I want to ask him what happened to his review.

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
January 13th 2022


22341 Comments


Iai.

Get Low
January 13th 2022


11743 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

He gone forever RIP



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