Last week marked the 20th anniversary of R&B singer Aaliyah’s passing in a tragic plane crash in the Bahamas in 2001. On August 20, 2021, 20 years after her death, Aaliyah’s 1996 sophomore album “One in a Million” was finally released onto streaming platforms such as Apple Music and Spotify.
Fans of the musical icon have been begging Barry Hankerson, Aaliyah’s uncle and former manager, to release her music onto streaming services for years. Ever since Aaliyah passed away, Hankerson had been withholding her music from streaming platforms because of his perception that her mother, Diane Haughton, did not want the music released. Haughton was not in regular contact with Hankerson after Aaliyah’s death, but an attorney for Aaliyah’s estate denied that Haughton was against the release of Aaliyah’s music.
Unfortunately, the estate does not agree with Hankerson’s decision to release the album onto streaming platforms, citing their desire to “protect Aaliyah’s legacy.”
According to MSN, the estate asserted,
“In this 20th year, this unscrupulous endeavor to release Aaliyah’s music without any transparency or full accounting to the estate compels our hearts to express a word – forgiveness. Although we will continue to defend ourselves and her legacy lawfully and justly, we want to preempt the inevitable attacks on our character by all the individuals who have emerged from the shadows to leech off of Aaliyah’s life’s work.”
“Ultimately,” the statement added, “we desire closure and a modicum of peace so we can facilitate the growth of the Aaliyah Memorial Fund and other creative projects that embody Aaliyah’s true essence, which is to inspire strength and positivity for people of all creeds, races and cultures around the world.”
Despite the estate’s pushback, fans got their wish. Why now? Hankerson told Billboard that he took his cue from an announcement shared from the estate’s Twitter account on the 19th anniversary of Aaliyah’s death, noting that the estate had started communicating with “various record labels about the status of Aaliyah’s music catalogue, as well as its availability on streaming platforms in the near future.”
The release of Aaliyah’s double-platinum album was a celebratory moment for those who believe that she was a pioneering force in the music industry, specifically in R&B and Pop. Her debut album “Age Ain’t Nothing But a Number” from 1994 has been available on streaming platforms for years. However, many fans consider the release of “One in a Million” particularly special because her debut has often been associated with a predatory marriage to singer R. Kelly, who is currently on trial for alleged sex trafficking and racketeering. Aaliyah was only 15 years old when she married R. Kelly, who was 27. For fans, “One in a Million” symbolizes her escape from bondage and her coming into her own as an artist.
“One in a Million” has been influential for many contemporary artists, such as singer Normani and rapper Cardi B. Just weeks before the album was released onto streaming services, Normani and Cardi B released their single “Wild Side,” which is arguably very reminiscent of Aaliyah’s title track “One in a Million” because of similar instrumentation.
The release of “One in a Million” is a milestone in Aaliyah’s posthumous career because the general public has wanted to keep her legacy alive since the day she died. This release, to fans, is a way to pass down Aaliyah’s legacy to the next generation.