Aaliyah’s Spirit Sounds Like a ‘Million’


*** 1/2


“One in a Million”


While her major claim to fame is having allegedly been the teen bride of R. Kelly--a rumor both sides have denied--this 17-year-old is more than just an R&B; icon’s pretty appendage. Aaliyah has skills of her own, as displayed on her capable duet with Treach on “A Girl Like You,” and on an irresistible version of Marvin Gaye’s “Got to Give It Up,” on which Slick Rick also appears.

Kelly, who produced Aaliyah’s 1994 hits “Back and Forth” and “At Your Best (You Are Love),” took a girl with admittedly thin vocal chops--but a truckload of poise and precocity--and turned her into the most convincing studio-produced marvel this side of “Control”-era Janet Jackson.

Kelly had no publicized input on this record, and Aaliyah fares well in his absence. The 17 tracks offer no shortage of great material, ranging from the teasingly witchy “If Your Girl Only Knew” to the gently poignant “4 Page Letter.” Between the songs, Aaliyah’s self-assurance and production from a variety of young sources, all of this album’s winning elements are right on the money.


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