Aaliyah’s music forever altered the landscape of R&B, and her music videos — though often overlooked — were equally as impactful. They were where you could watch her fluidly master complex choreography in eye-catching fits that influenced fashion trends for generations. With her catalog finally headed to streaming services, NYLON looks back at her music video journey.
Aaliyah’s debut song and video can’t be divorced from R. Kelly’s involvement, but it would be a crime to let it overshadow her own effortless swagger and star-power: a glimpse of the cultural monolith she would become.
Despite its unsettling backstory and origin, this song and its music video remains iconic, with Aaliyah commanding a squadron of friends at a parking lot kickback that looks something straight out of a West Side Story recreation.
Donning her uniform of sunglasses and a bandana around her head, Aaliyah breaks it down at a grimy-looking club. And if you don’t know where to look, she’s made it easy for you: all irrelevants are greyed out in black-and-white.
Only Aaliyah could rock a silver eye-patch and crystal bikini top simultaneously in this looks-filled visual that leans heavily into the tech-dystopia fantasy that ruled the late ‘90s/Y2K visual era.
Aaliyah embraces nature in this bizarre video that involves her capturing a man in the wild and keeping him in a cage before dancing with him before a raging fire fit for a sacrificial ceremony. Kinda hot, tbh.
Freed of R. Kelly and joined by new collaborator Timbaland, Aaliyah’s sound and visuals got a boost of energy, which you can visually see in this choreography-heavy video that also features a Missy Elliott cameo.
Everything you could want in an R&B ballad music video are checked in this one: Aaliyah desolately sliding down a wall; Aaliyah glumly singing at herself in a mirror; Aaliyah belting her heart out in the pouring rain.
Not only is Aaliyah slaying choreography in a diamond-encrusted bra and choker combo, she also manages to nail some insane gravity-defying stunts with help from none other than martial arts legend Jet Li. Talk about a collab!
Which came first: Aaliyah’s snake moment in “We Need A Resolution” or Britney’s at the 2001 VMAs? Either way, they’re both going down as top moments in reptilian pop culture history.
With the 2000s came the music video industry’s obsession with surreal, sometimes absurd, cyber-future plot points; like this one, which takes place entirely inside a motorcycle’s engine.
Posthumously released, Aaliyah’s final video, which she’d just finished shooting before her tragic death, will forever be how she’s remembered: basking in eternal paradise, almost too perfect to have ever been real.