One In A Million

One In A Million

“Aaliyah, Aaliyah—wake up,” says a familiar voice in the opening seconds of the R&B singer’s 1996 sophomore studio album, One in a Million. It’s Missy Elliott, declaring that the 17-year-old singer has now arrived at the “next level.” Elliott and Timbaland had begun their relationship with Aaliyah following her transition to Atlantic Records. Diddy and Jermaine Dupri had both tried to work with the singer, but in the end, Aaliyah was most drawn to the unique sound of Elliott and Timbaland’s work, after the pair—still largely unknown at the time—came to Detroit and played a few songs for her. The three worked together to explore Aaliyah’s many evolving musical facets, a contrast from the tomboyish R&B sensibilities of her debut album, 1994’s Age Ain't Nothing But a Number, written with R. Kelly. With One in a Million, the trio of Aaliyah, Elliott, and Timbaland redefined contemporary R&B. The singer had outlined how she wanted the album to sound: “You guys know I have a street image, but there is a sexiness to it,” she told Elliott and Timberland, “and I want my songs to complement that.” The resulting album included such decade-defining tracks like “A Girl Like You,” as well as the futuristic-sounding "One in a Million” and "4 Page Letter.” Released at a time when the pop charts were powered by R&B divas like Whitney Houston, Mary J. Blige, and Mariah Carey, One in a Million allowed Aaliyah’s balance of strength and soft-spokenness to cut through, and endure as a blueprint for generations to come. “Everything they brought me was the bomb,” the singer once said of Elliott and Timberland’s groundbreaking tracks. Decades later, listeners still agree.

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