Reviews > Culture

In the music spotlight: Aaliyah

Culture | The real tragedy of Aaliyah's life

Issue: "Lord of the box office," Jan. 11, 2003

Before her death in a plane crash 25 years ago, the 22-year-old R&B singer Aaliyah seldom showed up on conservative radar. Then Rod Dreher (now of National Review), writing in the New York Post, cited the spectacle of the Brooklyn-born singer's funeral as an example of contemporary overemotionalism, the Rev. Al Sharpton called for his head, Mr. Dreher began receiving death threats, and-well, then airplanes hit the World Trade Center. The "Aaliyah incident" was forgotten.

I Care 4 U (Blackground/Universal), a CD and DVD package, should have conservatives remembering Aaliyah again-not so much for her music as for her videos. In them the singer, whose brief marriage at 15 to the R&B superstar R. Kelly made her an underaged sex symbol, appears disturbingly at ease with a lasciviousness that until recently was a big deal. Perhaps the real tragedy of her life was not its brevity but the unnaturally diminished role that innocence played in it.

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