Happy Birthday, Baby Girl: Remembering Aaliyah Through Age Ain’t Nothing But A Number

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Aaliyah Dana Haughton would have turned 35 years old today had it not been for the tragic plane crash that took her life and eight others in 2001. It’s phenomenal how easy it still is to be swept up in imagining what could have been for the R&B singer, dancer, actress and model who burst onto the scene with her debut Age Ain’t Nothing But a Number as a high school freshman. After all, Aaliyah was only fully in the public eye for seven years before her death at 22. And yet, in just those few short years, the “Back & Forth” star truly embodied the title of that initial multi-platinum release.

Aaliyah’s soft, but powerful, vocals over Executive Producer R. Kelly’s New Jack Swing beats on that record, combined with her unique style (what would the ’90s have been without LiLi’s patented tomboy sex appeal?), and genuine confidence about who she was as an artist and person at 15 sparked an immediate movement that transcended her years on earth and pushed a burgeoning pop star to the threshold of world icon status. With this year also marking the 20th anniversary of Age Ain’t Nothing But a Number, let’s celebrate the debut that gave birth to Baby Girl, as we knew, her for generations of loyal fans worldwide.

Can’t get enough of Aaliyah today? We don’t blame you. Get a recap of her life career with the extended version of VH1’s 2001 Behind The Music: Aaliyah below. Keep some tissues handy. R.IP., Aaliyah.