Fourteen years ago today, R&B hitmaker Aaliyah was killed in a plane crash after a video shoot. Twice a year since then — on her birthday and the anniversary of her death — she's celebrated for her enduring impact on the music industry. Her maturity, vision, and insane vocal talent continue to bear on pop music, and that seems increasingly true for the youngest generation of R&B experimenters. Below is a list of 7 modern day artists inspired by Aaliyah that you should be listening to, like, right now.
Kehlani, "The Way"
Kehlani is the West Coast's present day Aaliyah. The Oakland-born singer/songwriter pays tribute to '90s R&B's — arguably, its golden era — for an audience too young to have enjoyed Aaliyah in her day, instead exploring her ghostly legacy archived on the internet.
If Timbaland is pushing an Aaliyah remix, it's going to be amazing. According to the producer, Aaliyah visited Timbo in a dream and said that Tink is "The One." The next Aaliyah? Let's hope so. Twenty-year-old Tink's sweet harmonies, smooth rap verses, considerable vocal range, and incisive lyricism are threatening enough that she isn't just an Aaliyah replica, but a talent of similar stature.
Kelela, "A Message"
LA-based singer/songwriter Kelela's music is alternative R&B meets transcendent electronica. Produced by Arca, "A Message" channels early 2000s vibes with a contemporary PC twist. Just like Aaliyah, Kelela doesn't shy away from the avant garde.
FKA twigs, "Two Weeks"
FKA twigs dwells in her own universe. In spite of her many inspirations, she exudes personality — singular and distinct. "Two weeks" is so twigs and yet, if you listen closely, so Aaliyah at the same time. It was inspired by the movie Queen of the Damned, starring Ms. Haughton herself.
The Internet ft. Kaytranada, "Girl"
For a band named The Internet, the 6-piece soul band is pretty low-key, consisting of Syd tha Kyd and Matt Martians (both former members of Odd Future), Jameel Bruner, Patrick Paige, Christopher A. Smith, and Steve Lacy. "Girl" is The Internet's most Aaliyah-inspired song. Syd's old school velvet vocals are reminiscent of "Rock the Boat," while Kaytranada's production seals the deal.
Majid Jordan, "U"
"U" is from Majid Jordan's EP A Place Like This. The Aaliyah influence can be heard in how Majid's vocals intertwine with the production. "U" is atmospheric — the vocals swoon with the gentle production.
Alternative R&B goddess BANKS is often compared to Aaliyah and The Weeknd, but we should remember that Banks does Banks incredibly well. Aside from her cover of Aaliyah's "Are you that Somebody," Banks' influences are etched deep into her music, giving rise to a sound that's sultry, moody, and incredibly now.