Aaliyah’s I Care 4 U

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There was a time when I’d watch snippets of MTV. Sometimes I left in less than a couple of seconds. It rarely led to a purchase. I discovered Terrence d’Arby Trent though his hit video. It would be some years after watching the Pet Shop Boys that I became a fan.

Every Aaliyah video that I ran into I enjoyed. But Age Ain't Nothing But a Number wasn’t any more satisfying than the title is true. Aaliyah has a pleasing enough voice but anything below the standards of Aretha Franklin or Michelle Ndegeocello has to have a strong dose of interesting syncopation. For me the softer cuts didn’t work.

I haven’t heard Aaliyah yet. I’ve enjoyed most all of Timbaland’s work so I have hopes. R&B is often said to be about great voices. It often has been, say, Sam Cooke. More often it has been about the songwriter and producer: much of Motown.

I liked listening to Aaliyah’s videos. Equally I delighted looking at her. In her videos Aaliyah’s face held me rapt. In Romeo Must Die and still photographs she’s unquestionably lovely. But I never get the special frisson.

No sane woman would complain if she had Aaliyah’s body but it was her face that fascinated me. Watching the hair briefly hide and reveal an eye. It was wholly her face. I never wondered what Aaliyah would look like naked.

Symmetries, alignment of planes, color, clarity of her eyes - ? – I don’t know. Among the many silly mysteries of sexual beauty I suspect there’s a hidden geometric logic, idiosyncratic and personal to each perceiver. I’ll admit that I wondered if she was a woman whose surface splendor I enjoyed because in the back of my mind I re-imagined her as boy.

When she perished in the plane crash it was knowing that I’d never see that face form fresh patterns that I felt a loss. Selfish, sensual – not knowing her my hurt didn’t exist for her sake.

The forgoing was written as I listen to Aaliyah’s I Care 4 U (surprisingly enough Prince didn’t write it).

It is easy to imagine how people who react to contemporary pop music to moan that it isn’t as good as it used to be (oldfogeyism) or as good as their niche taste. Never hurts to point out that way back when Benny Goodman, Frank Sinatra, James Brown, The Beatles were all on the top of the pops.

Non degustibus non est disputandum and all that.

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