Fans of the late singer Aaliyah trended #FreeAaliyahMusic on Twitter for the past couple of weeks, once again bringing attention to her buried discography. Aaliyah had released three studio albums during her music career, yet only her debut album and a few LPs are available for digital streaming.
Aaliyah was a talented singer, actress, and model who was popular throughout the 90s and early 2000s. She released hit after hit starting at the unbelievably young age of 14, selling millions of copies of her albums. In 2001, Aaliyah finished recording the music video for “Rock the Boat’’, the third single off her last studio album, and boarded a plane that crashed shortly after take-off, instantly taking her life and the lives of many others on board. The music video footage miraculously survived and was released posthumously. She would have been 41 years old this year.
Even though Aaliyah released so much music—not to mention a number of unreleased tracks meant for future albums—it is difficult for the younger generation to be able to enjoy and appreciate the late singer’s hard work when it is largely unavailable to them.
Fans of Aaliyah are using the hashtag #FreeAaliyahMusic in the hopes that their demands will finally be answered after almost 20 years. @Lonelybelles tweeted out this: “So, we’re having this conversation again? Awesome. We should talk about the fact how it’s a huge disservice to Aaliyah’s career and legacy to not have her full discography available to the world. She was an artist and she would’ve wanted her art to live on. #FreeAaliyahMusic”
And the fans are completely right and justified in their protests. Although one may argue that releasing unreleased, often meaning unfinished, music may pose some issues, there is no reason that already released music cannot be made available on major streaming services.
The rights to Aaliyah’s music currently belong to Barry Hankerson, the founder of Blackground Records and Aaliyah’s uncle, after complications that arose from business deals during the shift in distribution rights from Jive Records to Atlantic. Essentially, Hankerson is holding the music, along with unmixed vocals, locked in a kind of vault and refusing to open it.
Imagine if the music of Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain, Selena, or other important musical figures was buried from public digital consumption after their tragic deaths. Why, then, is Hankerson refusing to allow Aaliyah to be heard?
Releasing the entirety of Aaliyah’s discography as her fans demand would not only be a service to Aaliyah’s artistry and legacy, but it would also allow future generations to appreciate her work and be enriched by it.
Fans have also put together a petition in order for Aaliyah’s music to be released.