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8 Artists Who Should Thank Aaliyah for Their Careers

by Kathy Iandoli Posted Jan 16th 2011 6:00AM

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On Jan. 16, Aaliyah Haughton would have been 32. She died in 2001 at the age of 22, yet she managed to make a sizable mark in both music and film. She may not have had the most powerful voice, but her airy vocals complemented Timbaland and Missy Elliott’s production in a way that the music industry hadn’t heard before. And her influence lives on.

Many of today’s female R&B artists were around during Aaliyah’s time: Brandy and Monica began their battle for R&B pop royalty, TLC was slipping into silk pajamas after challenging stereotypes with baggy clothes and condoms, and Destiny’s Child’s original lineup began to take shape. Lauryn Hill also began her reign with Erykah Badu not too far behind. Of course the staples were there, too: Mariah Carey, Janet Jackson, Whitney Houston and Toni Braxton.

While the new crop of vocalists have their own style and flavor, many were no doubt influenced by Aaliyah. Here are eight artists who, without Aaliyah’s success, may have gone in a different direction musically and stylistically. TheBVX is not saying that these artists wouldn’t have made it without Aaliyah; we’re just saying some homage should be paid.

1. Ciara

From the midriff-baring hoodies to the choreographed dance sequences, Ciara was clearly channeling Aaliyah when she dropped her debut, ‘Goodies.’ Many berated the budding star early on for copying some of Aaliyah’s signature trademarks. But since then, Ci Ci has really carved a niche for herself, and up-and-coming artists are being compared to her this time.

2. Alicia Keys

In all fairness, there is nothing musically that links Alicia Keys to Aaliyah. But around the time of Aaliyah’s death, Miss Keys was pounding the pavement with her debut single ‘Fallin.’ Alicia arrived with the same “tomboy soul” aesthetic that Aaliyah popularized. Sure, later on Leeshy learned to put on a dress, but her introduction came from the Aaliyah blueprint.

3. Keshia Chanté

This Canadian songbird had a budding career (and not just because she was rumored to be linked with Chris Brown on the night of that dreadful Rihanna incident). But now that Keshia Chanté is being pegged for the role of Aaliyah in her biopic, this girl’s popularity has nowhere to go but up.

4. Rihanna

Rihanna entered the scene with golden locks and Bajan rhythms that had the clubs going ham. However, onceGood Girl Gone Bad’ came around, Ri Ri experimented with her style. Her video garb closely resembled Aaliyah’s mid-level career stylings in videos like ‘We Need a Resolution.’ Plus, Rihanna definitely looked to Aaliyah’s role as Akasha in ‘Queen of the Damned’ when she booked a one-way ticket to ‘

5. Keri Hilson

Keri Hilson has long been a songwriter with the writing collective Clutch, but her career blossomed once Timbaland was in hot pursuit of a new voice. For years that spot was unfilled. Nelly Furtado got a few hits out of Timbo and so did Justin Timberlake. But when Timbaland needed a ride-or-die chick for his ‘Shock Value’ vocals, he turned to Miss Keri. That spot was always reserved for Aaliyah, so Keri should feel honored.

6. Cassie

Cassie arrived pre-Diddy riding shotgun on Ryan Leslie‘s beats. While the protégé of R. Les delivered one decent hit with ‘Me & You,’ she was also rumored to be romantically linked with her mentor. Later she worked with a super-producer and her fame soared. Does that story sound familiar?

7. Christina Milian

Before getting her boobies grabbed by former hubby The-Dream on their Vibe cover, Christina Milian had remained somewhat squeaky clean. While her music was suggestive, she didn’t necessarily emit a trashy vibe. That was something that Aaliyah perfected: the ability to speak sexually without being over-the-top.

8. Tweet

Tweet’s success was short-lived, much like Nicole Wray’s, yet Aaliyah was in the video for Nicole Wray’s ‘Make it Hot.’ No disrespect to either, but both of these artists were space fillers once Aaliyah died. Tweet managed to somewhat sustain a career beyond her first single (sad to say Nicole Wray really didn’t, but she is trying to come back now). But at the time, music was so hungry for a voice to assist Timbaland and Missy that Tweet found her way in.