Aayilah | My Heart’s Still Yours

It made you want to move, but calculatedly, like that hunch in your shoulders while you bob your head to the beat kind of movement.



A thugged-out lady. Soft spoken, but vocal. An angelic spirit that was gone too soon, Miss A-A-L-I-Y-A-H had all of these characteristics and more. Dressed in quintessential ’90s style with baggy leather pants, a leather mid-drift, and a leather do-rag on her head, a partying Aaliyah flashed across the screen intertwined with solo shots as she sang, “She’s crazy to put up with you/ But boy, I won’t be no fool let you like what you see, it ain’t easy to get with me/ That girl is dumb to put up with you/ I won’t be no fool let you like what you see, it ain’t easy to get with me.”
I was temporarily in a trance, not because of the lyrics, but because of the beat of “If Your Girl Only Knew.” It was robotic in a sense and edgy. It made you want to move, but calculatedly, like that hunch in your shoulders while you bob your head to the beat kind of movement. The lyrics came to mean so much to me in my college years. That very bridge reminded me tacitly of what an impulsive, smart-ass mouth I have. It’s a gift and a curse, and it’s brown suga, too.
Thanks to my 17-year-old big sister who could identify far more with Aaliyah and her music than I could at 7, she bought the multi-platinum One in a Million album which allowed me to hear more of her sound. I heard a host of other great songs like “Hott Like Fire,” “One in a Million,”“4 Page Letter,” and “The One I Gave My Heart To,” which forever changed how I listened to Aaliyah.
The video for “The One I Gave My Heart To” was so simplistic as she, alone, recounted her past relationships and how they had come to a tragic end. She questioned her lover boldly, “How could the love that brought such pleasure bring such misery?/ Won’t somebody tell me, somebody tell me please/ If you love me, how could you do that to me?/ Tell me.” Too many questions left unanswered leave open wounds that hurt forever. Questions we all wonder and sometimes ask afraid of the answer, but nonetheless, it’s the one we need in order to heal properly from a broken heart.
Her self-titled third album, released in 2001, gave us a taste of electric greatness. The first single, “We Need a Resolution” featuring Timbaland, told the story of a struggling relationship: “It’s official, you’ve got issues./ I’ve got issues, but I know I miss you./ Am I supposed to change? Are you supposed to change?/ Who should be hurt? Who should be blamed?”
Aaliyah invited us into her sensual, sexy side with “Rock the Boat,” her second single, and I loved it. The song was laced with so many innuendos and filled with so much tension that I burned on the inside just from listening. The emotion was strong and its tropical melody made my body long to explore the escape of the boat-rocking ocean.
I was committed to being Aaliyah’s fan from heart to mind. She had all of my brown suga appeal: effortless elegance, smooth vocals, and a beautiful soul that radiated each time I heard her voice. Let me not forget to mention she definitely knew how to move her body. Her videos were filled with such awesome choreography. I was sure that I would hear her voice and mimic her dances for years to come as I grew older, but little did I know then that the only way I would be able to hear her voice and see her move was through recordings.
On August 25, 2001, Aaliyah was killed in a plane crash in the Bahamas along with eight others returning to the United States from shooting the video for “Rock the Boat.” I remember vividly, as  it was a terrible day. I was in such disbelief that she was gone—that is, until her funeral was broadcast on Fox a week later on Saturday afternoon. Just like that, she was gone and the world would never hear her voice live again.
After her death, “I Care 4 U” was released as a single, and this song is still one of my favorite ballads of all time. In this jam, Aaliyah is comforting her guy friend through an emotional breakup. This scenario is so refreshing and original as oftentimes, in breakups, we tend to forget all about the men who hurt and suffer from the wounds of a failed relationship. More often than not, their hurt is not talked about, nor does it heal properly since to all of us, ladies in particular, it’s somewhat nonexistent.
“Miss You” came from one of the final studio released albums, I Care 4 U. It was a memoriam album that included her past hits and some unreleased songs from the album she was working on before she died. The video was filled with colleagues and close friends paying homage to her. It opened with an emotion-filled DMX recounting his friendship with the singer, and as the record began to play, his voice broke.
“It’s been too long and I’m lost with you, what am I gonna do?/ Said I been needing you and wanting you, wondering if you’re the same and who’s been with you?/ Is your heart still mine? I want to cry sometimes. I miss you.” A perfect echo of how the world felt about her. It was as if she knew, too.
In this love letter to her first love, she wants to know where does she stand now, after they’ve been living lives apart from each other, and how often, if he thinks of her, does he? “Now I’m sitting here thinking ’bout you and the days we used to share/ It’s driving me crazy, I don’t know what to do I’m just wondering if you still care?/ And I want to let you know that it’s killing me, I know you got another life, you got to concentrate baby/ Come back to me (to me), can you (feel me calling) hear me calling (for you) for you.”
She was so vulnerable, honest, and open on this track, and this is how she left the world—or me, rather: open, vulnerable, and wanting more. This year makes 10 years since Aaliyah left this earth and there’s not a moment that goes by where I don’t wonder “What if?”
I appreciate everything Aaliyah stood for: elegance, honesty, fluidity, sensuality, femininity, candidness, and sarcastic sassiness. I’ll always remember your all-or-nothing mentality (and your MTV Diary); it brought great joy to my spirit as I watched you be you. No walls, no fireworks, no gimmicks. Just Aaliyah living life to the fullest with a beautiful smile and a hair flip. We thank you, we miss you, and yes, my heart’s still yours.
I’ve shared my love affair now I want you to share yours. Email me at intern@playbackstl.com and tell me your story of how you fell in love with music.

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