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Aaliyah 

In a cruel twist of fate, Aaliyah's new self-titled CD came out just days before the singer-actress died in a plane crash, leaving the music world and her fans with lots of unanswered questions. Aaliyah, her first release as an adult, will also, tragically, be her last. But even when she burst onto the music scene as a 14-year-old, Aaliyah possessed a maturity that defied her age. While she had beauty and a sex appeal that was obvious with her debut CD, the R. Kelly-produced Age Ain't Nothing But A Number, Aaliyah didn't resort to using sex to get where she wanted to go. Instead, the 21-year-old Detroit native relied on her talent and business savvy, as well as her voice. And Aaliyah's voice was one of beauty; she didn't sing out to you, but rather whispered, pillow-talk style.

With the release of Aaliyah, her third effort, the multi-talented performer explores more adult, darker themes. Produced by various artists (including Timbaland, whom she hooked up with on her last CD, One in a Million), Aaliyah shows her usual womanly confidence, yet also reveals a subtler, gentler side, with the music switching from syncopated beats and breaks to mellow grooves. There's "We Need A Resolution," the Timbaland-produced cut that focuses on a strained relationship; or "Never No More," which sheds light on spousal abuse. The CD is definitely a must for Aaliyah fans and R&B listeners alike. Simply put, Aaliyah was a step above her contemporaries, exhibiting a grace, poise, elegance and mystique that are missing from female singers in the R&B world today. In an era where being ghetto-fabulous is the rage, Aaliyah chose to walk the narrow path.

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Latest in MUSIC: Soundbite

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