If Britney Spears
is the next Madonna
, then Aaliyah is evolving into her generation's Janet Jackson
. Like Jackson, Aaliyah, 22, is a wispy-voiced singer who wouldn't have won many Star Search
contests. But as Jackson has done since her 1986 breakthrough Control
, Aaliyah (full name: Aaliyah Haughton) has developed into a pop diva for which trend-setting styling, intricate choreography and innovative production matter at least as much as her voice.
Aaliyah—which comes five years after her last album, the double-platinum One in a Million
—delves deeper into her signature sound, a melange of trippy hip hop and retro-'70s R&B. While the new disc does not feature anything as maddeningly catchy as Aaliyah's hit singles "Are You That Somebody?" and "Try Again" (from the Dr. Dolittle and Romeo Must Die
soundtracks, respectively), ultrafunky tracks like "Rock the Boat," "More Than a Woman" and "Extra Smooth" have no shortage of sumptuous grooves punctuated with subtle, sexy vocals.
When the beat slows down, though, Aaliyah lacks the necessary vocal firepower to put across such ballads as "Never No More" and "I Refuse." But the Latin-tinged "Read Between the Lines" shows that she definitely knows how to ride the rhythm.
Bottom Line: Smooth groovin'