It’s hard to believe that 20 years ago today, Aaliyah slinked onto the scene with her debut album, Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number. The R. Kelly-produced album helped define the New Jack swing sound made popular by acts like Bobby Brown, Color Me Badd, Tony! Toni! Toné! and even Whitney Houston. While the album wasn’t a runaway hit, it did go onto sell 3 million copies in the U.S. alone and immediately found fans among critics and consumers alike. Two years later, One in a Million would catapult her to even more success, but songs like “Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number” and “Back & Forth” established a new sultry R&B diva ready take control.
On the 20th anniversary of her debut album, VH1 is taking a look back on all those ages—ahem, numbers—in the singer’s short life.
35, how old Aaliyah would have been on the 20th anniversary of her debut album.
23, how old the singer would have been when her final film role in Queen of the Damned debuted in theaters. The role as a vicious vampire reportedly influenced the look and feel of her final album, Aaliyah.
22, how old Aaliyah was when her plane crashed killing her instantly—and ending both her life and career before way too soon.
21, when the singer landed her first major acting role opposite of Jet Li in Romeo Must Die in 2000. That same year, she became the first artist to top the charts based solely on airplay with the massive hit, “Try Again.”
20, the age of the singer when she earned her first Grammy nomination for the song “Are You That Somebody?” from the Dr. Dolittle soundtrack.
19, when the singer performed “Journey to the Past” from the Anastasia soundtrack making her the youngest person to ever sing at the Academy Awards.
16, the age of the singer when her parents annulled her marriage to singer R. Kelly, who produced her debut album. She was 15 when she first married him.
15, how old Aaliyah was when her debut album hit record stores.
12, how old she was when she signed a deal with Jive Records.
9, the age Aaliyah was when she competed on Star Search.
And with that, we can safely say the singer was more accomplished by 15—let alone 20—than most of us ever will be.