One in a Million is Aaliyah's second studio album that was released on August 27, 1996 by Blackground Records & Atlantic Records.
- Beats 4 Da Streets (Intro) 2:10
- Hot Like Fire 4:23
- One In A Million 4:30
- A Girl Like You 4:22
- If Your Girl Only Knew 4:51
- Choosey Lover (Old School/New School) 7:07
- Got To Give It Up 4:41
- 4 Page Letter 4:52
- Everything's Gonna Be Alright 4:49
- Giving You More 4:25
- I Gotcha' Back 2:53
- Never Givin' Up 5:11
- Heartbroken 4:19
- Never Comin' Back 4:06
- Ladies In Da House 4:20
- The One I Gave My Heart To 4:30
- Came To Give Love (Outro) 1:40
After Aaliyah's uncle, Barry Hankerson obtained a distribution deal with Jive Records, he signed Aaliyah to his Blackground Records label when she was 12 years old and introduced her to R. Kelly (who became her mentor as well as the lead songwriter & producer for her debut album).
Aaliyah's debut album, "Age Ain't Nothing But a Number" was certified double Platinum by the RIAA and sold three million copies in the United States and six million copies worldwide.
For promotion of the album, Aaliyah embarked on a world tour that lasted from 1994 to 1995, she toured throughout the US, Europe, Japan and South Africa. After facing allegations of an illegal marriage with Kelly, she ended her contract with Jive Records and signed with Atlantic Records.
According to Aaliyah's cousin and Blackground Records executive Jomo Hankerson, the music industry “villainized” Aaliyah for her scandal with R.Kelly and that it was hard to get producers for the album.
In an interview, Hankerson said: “We were coming off of a multi-platinum debut album and except for a couple of relationships with Jermaine Dupri and Puffy, it was hard for us to get producers on the album.”
Aaliyah commented on the R.Kelly scandal, saying: "I faced the adversity, I could’ve broken down, I could’ve gone and hid in the closet and said, ‘I’m not going to do this anymore.’ But I love singing, and I wasn't going to let that mess stop me. I got a lot of support from my fans and that inspired me to put that behind me, be a stronger person, and put my all into making One in a Million.”
Initially, the album was supposed to be helmed by Puff Daddy, but the songs that the pair worked on together never got finished. According to Aaliyah: “I went to Puff’s studio in Trinidad for a week, We started working together but we couldn’t finish the songs on time. I had to leave, because I had to go to Atlanta to record with Jermaine Dupri.”
Both Craig King and Vincent Herbert were the first set of producers who were asked to work on the album after plans to have Puff Daddy produce the album fell through. Once the two producers were on board, they were asked by Atlantic records to create a sound for the album.
According to King: "We came in right as she got her budget ready to go. Vincent [Herbert] and I were the first people she called, we were the first group. That’s why we had so much freedom to go in and create a sound because we didn’t have to do a song here or there. They wanted us to go in and build a sound. We built a sound and it was a departure from R. Kelly."
After recording songs with Craig King and Vincent Herbert Aaliyah went to Atlanta to meet with Carl-So-Lowe and Jermaine Dupri to work on songs. When she arrived to Atlanta neither of the producers had any material to present to her during that time.
In an interview Lowe mentioned: "I believe Jomo, Barry Hankerson’s son, reached out to So So Def and I think it happened from there. I knew she was coming to Atlanta, and we had nothing prepared at the time".
For the album, Aaliyah wanted to record songs that were "simplified" and "really good". She worked with Dupri and Lowe in Atlanta for about three to four days on songs.
In the midst of transitioning to a new record label Aaliyah was very anxious about the changes, according to Billboard in a press release accompanying the album, she admitted to "being a little anxious about jumping from Jive to Atlantic and changing up her sound, but that uncertainty never filters into the music."
With a new distributing deal with Atlantic Records and a new team of producers, "One in a Million" was going to reestablish Aaliyah's fan base and broaden her mainstream appeal. The album featured a wide range of producers (unlike her debut album which was produced solely by R. Kelly).
With the release of the album, Aaliyah adapted to a more sexier image which was noticeable by the public. In a 1997 article discussing the "One in a Million" music video, MTV felt that Aaliyah was getting "all grown up and steamy in the video" and they asked her about her new sexier image.
According to Aaliyah: "As far as it being sexy, I would prefer to say sensual. Sensual is being in tune with your sensual self. Sexy, I mean that's in the eye of the beholder, such as beauty is in the eye of the beholder. So if people term it sexy, it's different. So I just think it's being sensual, I would rather term it as that."
Recording & ProductionEdit
"One in a Million" was recorded from August 1995 through 1996. It was executively produced by Craig Kallman, Barry Hankerson and Jomo Hankerson, while Missy Elliott and Timbaland both wrote and produced majority of the album's material.
Other producers that were also involved in crafting the album include Rodney Jerkins, Jermaine Dupri, Daryl Simmons, Vincent Herbert, Craig King, Carl-So-Lowe and Kay Gee from Naughty by Nature.
"If Your Girl Only Knew" served as the album's lead single and it was described by Atlantic Records product development director Eddie Santiago as "a very funky mid-tempo track with lots of heavy keyboard and organ work along with live drums and a thumping bass line."
The single was produced by then newcomer Timbaland and promotional copies of the single was serviced to R&B and cross over stations on July 12, 1996.
While speaking with Billboard about the development of the album Eddie Santiago mentioned "We wanted Aaliyah to keep growing, so we didn't want to have the same suspects on her new project".
In that very same interview with Billboard, Aaliyah discussed the direction of the album by saying, "I wanted to maintain my smooth street musical image but wanted to be funky and hot yet sophisticated".
With this album, Aaliyah was more involved with crafting the album's material by taking co-writing credits and assisting in the creative direction of the project.
An example of her crafting material for the album is with the song "No Days Go By", on that song Aaliyah was involved with the vocal arrangement.
The album has two remake covers: "Choosy Lover" by the Isley Brothers and "Got To Give It Up" by Marvin Gaye, which features Slick Rick.
Aaliyah decided to cover "Got To Give It Up" because she wanted to have party songs on the album.
In an interview Aaliyah stated: "I wanted some real party songs, so when my uncle played me that [original track], I thought of how I could make it different. Slick Rick [who’d been in jail] was on work release at the time, so Vincent got him on the song."
She elaborated more about covering "Got to Give it Up" by saying: “I don’t know how Marvin Gaye fans will react, but I hope they like it. I always think it’s a great compliment when people remake songs. I hope one day after I’m not here that people will cover my songs."
Once Aaliyah signed with Atlantic, she and Atlantic Records chairman Craig Kallman discussed that it was important to find innovative producers who wasn't dominating the music charts at that particular time to produce the album.
Eventually, Kallman started meeting with multiple unknown songwriters and producers and one producer by the name of Timbaland stuck out to him the most.
Kallman mentioned: "I really just started meeting with tons and tons of new songwriters and producers, just looking for someone creative that had their own spin on things. And one day, this young kid came in. His name was Tim Moseley. He started playing me beats and it was a really obvious meeting of, ‘This doesn’t sound like anything that’s out there and really had its own super exciting and electric, just dynamic properties."
Kallman eventually contacted Aaliyah and told her about Timbaland and when they met for the first time they hit it off immediately."
According to Kallman: "I called up Aaliyah, and I said, ‘You need to meet this guy. His name’s Timbaland, and he’s new. He’s out of the Devonte [Swing] camp. I said I think this could be your muse to really create something special. And they hit it off"."
During the process for recording "One in a Million", Aaliyah's label received a demo of a song called “Sugar and Spice,” from Timbaland and Missy. The label felt that the song was too childish in content for her, but they liked both the structure of the record and the melody and they eventually sent the record to Aaliyah.
After hearing the song she thought that record was the best thing that she ever heard, so Aaliyah's label flew Timbaland and Missy to Detroit to work with her.
Prior to working with Aaliyah both Timbaland and Missy were skeptical about working with her because they didn't think that she would approve of their material.
According to Aaliyah: “At first, Tim and Missy were skeptical if I would like their work, but I thought it was tight, just ridiculous, Their sound was different and unique, and that’s what appealed to me."
Prior to working with the duo, Aaliyah spoke with them over the phone and explained what type of material that she wanted to record.
She stated: “Before we got together, I talked to them on the phone and told them what I wanted. I said, ‘You guys know I have a street image, but there is a sexiness to it, and I want my songs to complement that’; I told them that before I even met them. Once I said that, I didn't have to say anything else. Everything they brought me was the bomb.”
Eventually, Aaliyah began working with both Timbaland and Missy at Vanguard Studios in Detroit for a week. The earliest songs that she recorded for the album with the duo was "One in a Million" and "If Your Girl Only Knew."
After spending a week recording songs at Vanguard Studios, the trio then later flew to Pyramid Studios in Ithaca, New York, to work on more songs. Aside from recording songs with Timbaland and Missy at Vanguard Studios, Aaliyah also recorded songs with producer Craig King at that same studio.
According to King: "We did about eight songs and out of the eight, four made it" (including the songs "Got to Give It Up" and "Never Giving Up.")
"Never Giving Up" was written by King and Monica Payne.
In an interview, King stated: "I wrote Never Givin’ Up with a girl named Monica Payne who now manages V Bozeman. We started to work on the track, writing lyrics. She sat on the floor and the first line, Sitting here in this empty room,’ because the room was fairly empty because I had just moved into that house."
The song was King's way of showing love to the Isley Brothers and it was also an ode to gospel music group, the Clark Sisters with the lines: “Angels watching over me."
The song was made into a duet once Aaliyah heard an earlier demo with just Tavarius Polk. She loved his voice and the producers decided to keep him on the song. It was recorded in one session with Aaliyah recording the song with the lights turned completely off in the recording booth so people couldn't see her face.
Aaliyah worked with songwriter Diane Warren and producer Darryl Simmons on the song "The One I Gave My Heart To."
The song came into fruition when songwriter Diane Warren expressed interest in working with Aaliyah, According to Warren: "I remember really liking Aaliyah and wanting to work with her."
Eventually, Warren reached out to Atlantic Records chairman Craig Kallman to express the possibility of working with Aaliyah and Kallman agreed to the collaboration.
Warren's goal in working with Aaliyah was to have her do a certain song that she would not have normally done, to showcase a different side of her, which included displaying her vocal range in a different way than she was used to doing.
Once Diane Warren was on board, producer Babyface was chosen to produce the song. However, due to unforeseen circumstances, he was unable to complete the work, so he enlisted producer Daryl Simmons to replace him instead.
Simmons would go on to produce the album version of the song, while pop producer Guy Roche would go on to produce the single version of the song.
The album opens with an "alarm call" from the jungle inspired intro track: "Beats 4 Da Streets" and it features commentary from Missy Elliot.
Throughout the intro, Missy repeatedly calls Aaliyah's name and tells her to wake up. She also mentions that “You’ve just now entered into the next level the new world of funk” while various sounds such as echoing amid bells, blippy synths, and heavy bass are playing in the background.
The second track, "Hot Like Fire" is described as a "panting minimalist controlled-blaze baby-maker" with suggestive lyrics. On the song, Aaliyah "hums and moans promises to her new bae that his patience will be rewarded."
The third track, "One in a Million" was described as an "ethereal club ballad with seductive trip hop, and drum & bass influences" and it features "shimmering" synths and crickets within its production. Lyrically, on the song, Aaliyah "communicates love and committment to her man."
The fourth track, "A Girl Like You" is a hip hop inspired track with a "standard '90s boom bap beat" where Aaliyah "holds her own" against guest rapper Treach from Naughty by Nature.
The fifth track, "If Your Girl Only Knew" is a funk and pop-inspired song and has been described by critics as being "teasingly witchy." On the track, Aaliyah chides a man for hitting on her when he already has a girlfriend. The song features heavy keyboard and organ work along with live drums and a thumping bass line.
The sixth and seventh tracks "Choosey Lover" and "Got to Give it up" are remake covers by The Isley Brothers and Marvin Gaye, with the latter song featuring a guest appearance from rapper Slick Rick.
For "Got to Give It Up," Aaliyah places her falsetto "toe to toe against the liquid overlapping rhyme scheme of hip hop's ultimate storyteller Slick Rick."
On the eighth track "4 Page Letter" Aaliyah tells her "crush to keep an eye out for the mailman" because she has sent him a love letter; also on the song, she recalls and follows her parents' advice.
The ninth track "Everything's Gonna Be Alright" has been described as a "carefree anthem for the summertime block party".
The tenth track "Giving You More" is described as a suggestive song with Aaliyah playing a "reassuring lover".
The eleventh track "I Gotcha' Back" has been described as a "jeep-friendly" G-funk, mid-tempo song and it contains an interpolation from the song "Lean On Me" performed by Bill Withers.
On "I Gotcha' Back" Aaliyah is promising devotion to her potential boyfriend, promising: "When no one else is there, with me you can chill."
The twelfth track "Never Givin' Up" is a duet with singer Tavarius Polk and Aaliyah "plays reassuring lover" on the song while the jungle inspired thirteenth track "Heartbroken" has been described as a "beautifully composed ballad".
On "Heartbroken," Aaliyah is "tired of being the more loving one in a lousy relationship and she's tired of having her heart broken".
The fourteenth track "Never Comin' Back" features "Timbaland aping the sound of a live band vamping on a laid back groove, while Aaliyah does a call-and-response harmony routine with an imaginary concert audience over canned crowd noise". On the song, Aaliyah is "feeling used in a relationship, she stands up for herself and dumps the bum."
The fifteenth track "Ladies in da House" features guest appearances from both Missy Elliot and Timbaland.
While the sixteenth track "The One I Gave My Heart To" is a power ballad with strong R&B and pop influences, where Aaliyah is "highlighting a broken heart and sense of betrayal."
In a review by Billboard the producution of the song was described as having a "careful balance of straight ahead pop and R&B sensibilities in producer Guy Roche's instrumental arrangement".
The final track on the album is "Came to Give Love (Outro)" and it features Timbaland.
The artwork and overall packaging for "One in a Million" was shot by Marc Baptiste. Prior to shooting the album packaging, Baptiste photographed Aaliyah's cover shoot for "Seventeen" magazine.
After shooting the cover shoot for "Seventeen," Aaliyah & Baptiste crossed paths again through Kidada Jones. During that encounter, she mentioned to Baptiste that she was working on her album and suggested that they should meet at another time.
According to Baptiste: "I ran into my friend Kidada Jones who is Quincy Jones’ daughter. They were really good friends back then. She introduced us at the Mercer Hotel. We got along great and the next thing I know, ‘I’m going to put my album out. Let’s meet."
A month after their encounter, Aaliyah and Baptiste met for a meeting to discuss possible concepts for the album artwork. After hearing possible concepts for the album's artwork, Aaliyah decided that she wanted to work with Baptiste.
Baptiste said: "We talked about some concepts and she loved it. After the meeting, I got the call that she really wanted me to shoot the album cover for One in a Million."
The photoshoot for "One in a Million" lasted from 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. and was shot at various locations with the actual album cover being shot between 10:30 and 11:00 p.m. The shooting locations were at a studio and at a train station on Canal St. in New York.
When it came to the concept for the album's artwork, Baptiste wanted to keep it as real as possible. According to him: "I wanted to keep her real. The fact that she grew up in Detroit and born in Brooklyn, I wanted to give the album cover a street chic vibe so that she's more approachable to an audience. I didn't want to bring her in a Bentley or anything like that. That wasn't her. She was a down-to-earth person. I wanted to keep it street chic and play off her beauty."
For the photoshoot, motorcycles were rented and according to Baptiste: "It almost looked like a music video shoot."
"One in a Million" debuted at #20 on the Billboard 200 chart, selling 40,500 copies in its first week. During the Christmas week of 1996, it reached its peak at #18, selling 71,000 copies during that week.
On October 23, 1996, it was certified gold, then certified platinum on February 5, 1997 and finally certified 2x platinum by the RIAA on June 16, 1997 with copies/shipments of more than two million copies. It sold an additional 1.1 million copies in 1997.
After Aaliyah's death in 2001, "One in a Million" returned to the Billboard 200, and US. Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums. During this time, it also topped Billboard's Top Catalog Albums for 12 weeks.
In Canada, the album debuted at #35 on the Canadian RPM Albums chart on September 9, 1996; it reached its peak at #33 the following week. It was certified gold by Music Canada for 50,000 copies sold.
On September 7, 1996, "One in a Million" entered the UK Albums Chart and the UK R&B Chart, peaking at #33 and #3 respectively. It was eventually certified Gold by the BPI for 100,000 copies sold.
In Japan, the album peaked at #36 on the Oricon Albums chart and was certified gold by the RIAJ. It also charted in other countries such as Australia, the Netherlands and Sweden where it peaked at #93, #62 and #41 respectively.
Overall, "One in a Million" had sold 3 million copies in the United States and 8 million copies worldwide. The album has sold an additional 756,000 units through the BMG Music Club.
In her review for Vibe magazine, music critic Dream Hampton said that Aaliyah's "deliciously feline" voice has the same "pop appeal" as Janet Jackson's and is complemented by the producers' funky, coherent tracks.
Connie Johnson of the Los Angeles Times found the album's material exceptional, including the "teasingly witchy" "If Your Girl Only Knew".
The Source magazine felt that the album "resides on a different plane than the legion of sophomore attempts that produce only one or two gold singles, Aaliyah is ready to showcase her mature side , Her best songs are about relationship woes".
Q magazine said that, with "her smooth, sweetly seductive vocal firmly to the fore, [Aaliyah] works through a set of predominantly slow and steamy swingbeat numbers, all clipped beats, luxurious melodies and dreamy harmonies".
Robert Christgau, writing in The Village Voice, was less enthusiastic and cited only "Got to Give It Up" as a "choice cut", indicating "a good song on an album that isn't worth your time or money".
Sputnikmusic's Nick Butler deemed it a "strange" record with an overemphasis on "unusually good" and "occasionally brilliant" ballads but plagued by upbeat tracks that were not on-par, except "Hot Like Fire".
People felt that the album offered more variety in content as opposed to Aaliyah's debut album, saying: "At least she's keeping good company. While R. Kelly produced Aaliyah's debut with a one-dimensional musical vision, One in a Million's production posse (which includes Jermaine Dupri and Timbaland) dips into a languid and seductive trip hop on the title track; then stutters jungle rhythm on 'Beats 4 da Streets' and 'Heartbroken.'"
Bob Waliszewski from Plugged In gave the album a mixed review, he felt that on the album, Aaliyah had positive things to say but the message got lost in certain songs that are suggestive, in his opinion: the "sexually suggestive lyrics spoil whatever good this disc has going for it."
In a retrospective review, Slant Magazine said "One in a Million" was "undoubtedly one of the most influential R&B albums of the '90s" and credited it for establishing "Aaliyah and the Timbo family as undeniable hip-hop forces."
Allmusic viewed the album as a significant improvement over her debut album with "greater variety of material" and producers, and called Aaliyah's voice "smoother, more seductive, and stronger than before".
According to Jon Caramanica from Spin wrote that: "One In A Million found Aaliyah at the nexus of street savvy R&B and elegant pop."
In an effort to generate visual awareness for the album, Aaliyah's record label began to run advertisements on June 24-July 8 on cable channels such as BET and The Box.
The music video for the lead single, "If Your Girl Only Knew" was serviced to both local and national video shows on July 8, 1996.
Immediately after the lead single and its accompanying video was released, the label went on a heavy print ad campaign featuring Aaliyah in publications such as Seventeen, The Source and other media publications.
Due to Aaliyah's outstanding academic performance in school the label planned to run ads in the magazine "React" an educational teen publication inserted in various daily and weekly papers across the country.
Since Aaliyah was an advocate for breast cancer screenings and champions the plight of Alzheimer's disease the label planned for her to do a series of PSA's on those issues.
In support of the album, an international promotional tour was planned in which she would tour late in the summer/early fall in the United States. Towards the end of September, Aaliyah would tour internationally in places such as the UK, Germany, South Africa and Japan.
In September 1996, Aaliyah made an appearance at MTV's sixth annual Rock N' Jock event which aired on MTV on October 26, 1996, During the event, she participated in the celebrity basketball game and performed her song "If Your Girl Only Knew" during the half time show.
On November 16, 1996 Aaliyah performed on Soul Train.
At the beginning of 1997, she made an appearance on the FOX television show New York Undercover as a musical guest; during her appearance on the show she performed "Choosey Lover" and the episode that she taped aired on January 16, 1997.
On February 17, 1997 Aaliyah performed One In A Million on Live with Regis and Kathie Lee. On February 18, 1997, she performed "One In A Million" on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.
In March of 1997, Aaliyah made an appearance at MTV's annual spring break celebration in Panama City, Florida.
During MTV Spring Break, she performed her song One in a Million and hosted a segment from the concert special called The Grind where she interviewed the Spice Girls before they performed. Also in Spring 1997 Aaliyah was planning a tour with Az Yet and Foxy Brown but no further news on that tour was ever mentioned.
In August of 1997, MTV News reported that Aaliyah was going on a nationwide tour with Dru Hill, Ginuwine, Bone Thugs-n-Harmony and Mary J. Blige. The tour started on August 28, 1996 in Buffalo, New York and ended on October 5, 1996 in Phoenix, Arizona.
During the month of August, Aaliyah made a televised appearance on the short lived Vibe (talk show) where she performed "Hot Like Fire" and gave the show's host a gift basket full of promo items. During that same month, she performed at KKBT's annual Summer Jam concert in Irvine, California at the Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre.
In the midst of touring in September 1997, Aaliyah performed her song "One in a Million" on the Nickelodeon sketch comedy show All That.
In October 1997, Aaliyah performed "The One I Gave My Heart To" at Nickelodeon's fourth annual The big help event in Santa Monica, California.
On December 10, 1997, she performed "The One I Gave My Heart To" at the UNICEF Gift of Song benefit gala which aired live on TNT. Also in December, she performed on the annual Christmas in Washington television special.
She also co headlined the B-96 B-Bash hosted by the Chicago radio station B96. During the concert, she performed multiple songs including "The One I Gave My Heart To."