Thursday, 31 May 2012

ARTICLE: If Aaliyah Was Still Alive, Would Beyoncé Be As Successful?

It is a question that has circulated the web for over half a decade. With the loss of one of R&B's most promising stars and the subsequent undeniably stratospheric rise of Beyoncé's solo star, many have often wondered whether the latter came as a consequence of a former and whether the now titled 'Queen B' would be as successful if Aaliyah had not passed away in 2001. 

While it is fair to consider it a question with merit, one must also wonder as to the motivations behind it. Indeed, one often finds that the 'stan' allegiance of those posing it is somewhat... expected. However, this article has no intention of exploring this issue as a means of criticising them or 'calling them out', so to speak. In fact, it shall attempt to put forward an argument that lacks as much stan bias as possible, with only the use of facts, statistics, as well as media and public opinion.

First, in order to hypothesise as to where Aaliyah would be career-wise in 2012, allow us to discuss just how successful both Aaliyah and Beyoncé were at the time of the former's passing. It is undeniable that Aaliyah's One In A Million performed better than Destiny's Child's eponymous debut; with the former being certified double platinum within a few months and being ranked by Rolling Stone as one of the best albums of the decade, while the latter had only one hit and took far longer to ship just one million copies.

However, Destiny's Child's luck soon changed with the release of their second record, The Writings on the Wall. It was home to the group's first #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, spent most of 1999 in the top 40, and by November 2001, had been certified eight times platinum. It has since gone on to sell over 17 million copies worldwide. Additionally, DC's third record, Survivor (which was released in the same year as Aaliyah's self titled third offering), had two #1 hits and sold almost eight million copies worldwide by the end of the year. To date, it has been certified four times platinum in the states and has shipped fifteen million copies worldwide.

Comparatively, Aaliyah (released shortly before the star's premature passing), while being better received by critics (it scored 76 on metacritic, higher than Survivor's 63), sold only one million copies in five weeks. However, upon Aaliyah's death, the record saw a still unmatched 800% increase in US sales, with over 300,000 copies sold in a week. It spent over 68 weeks on the Billboard 200 and went on to sell almost three million in the states. 

What these sales demonstrate, more than anything, is that, prior to her death, Aaliyah's reach only truly extended as far as US shores. Her sales were heavily weighted in her home nation's favour, with One In A Million taking over twelve years to sell eight million copies worldwide and Aaliyah (the star's final album) taking ten years (and the sales-boosting effect of her tragic death) to sell thirteen million worldwide. Additionally, while she had numerous hits states-side, Aaliyah scored only two top ten hits outside of the US before her death. 

In comparison, Destiny's Child saw considerable worldwide success. While their self titled debut album may not have performed well, its first single, No, No No, was a top five hit in several countries in Europe. Similar success followed songs like Bills, Bills, Bills; Bug a Boo; Say My Name and Jumpin' Jumpin'. This is in addition to the worldwide smash hits Independent Woman, Survivor and Bootylicious. When you also take into consideration the considerable worldwide sales of The Writings on the Wall and Survivor, it is quite clear that, in terms of worldwide success, Destiny's Child (and, therefore, Beyoncé) trumped Aaliyah. 

Indeed, how could one argue Beyoncé's considerable success came as a result of Aaliyah's death, when, clearly, the former was arguably more successful at the time? Wouldn't it be more logical to argue that, in fact, their careers would have continued on in a similar trajectory?

When the question of whether Beyoncé would be as successful if Aaliyah were still alive is discussed, another issue often pops us: that of how talented the two ladies were at the time. Indeed, it is often argued that the latter was considerably more talented than the former and would, therefore, be considerably 'bigger' if she were still alive. What these people often forget, however, is that, Aaliyah's live performances rarely received the critical acclaim that Beyoncé's did at the same age.

At 21, Beyoncé was the better vocalist and, arguably, the better dancer. One has only to compare Aaliyah's final performance on Jay Leno of More Than A Woman and Beyoncé's Crazy In Love showing at Star Search in 2003. While Aaliyah's choreography was perhaps more intricate and complex, Beyoncé's 'fire' was undeniable, lending the performance a certain energy that set her apart from most of the female artists of the time.

Allow us to also use the example of Beyoncé's now famed 2004 Grammy showing with the legendary Prince (when she was only 22, the same age as Aaliyah at the time of her passing). Since cited by many as being one of the 'greatest Grammy performances of all time', some even argue that it is B's best showing to date and that it might even be just one of the best performances in history. 

We have yet to find a performance of Aaliyah's that was so recognised by both the media and the general public. Yes, she was one of the better performers of her considerably talented generation, but it is arguable that Aaliyah was not, as some claim, the better performer. And, if we are going by where they stood talent-wise at the same age, and the rate at which Beyoncé has since improved over the last nine years of her solo career (with almost every performance after that time being lauded by the public and critics alike), it is possible to claim that Beyoncé would have still been the better performer in 2012. 

What must also not be ignored is the fact that, during the nineties (the peak of Aaliyah's career), she was consistently being outsold by similar artists like Brandy and Monica. As well as having won over 100 awards throughout her lengthy career, the former is currently ranked by the RIAA as being one of the best-selling female artists in history. Brandy's sophomore effort, the critically acclaimed Never Say Never, sold 14 million copies worldwide, with over nine million of that being sold worldwide. 

The current state of her career, however, is very different. Brandy's latest record, Human, saw her lowest sales to date, with less than 200,000 copies having been sold, total. And, it must be pointed out once again, that this is an artist who was one of the biggest of the nineties, and one whose star shone a light brighter than Aaliyah's. Why would Aaliyah's situation be any different in 2012? If anything, wouldn't it be more logical to argue that Aaliyah would, in fact, be worse off than Brandy (and Monica) in terms of her music career?

It is entirely possible that Aaliyah, judging by the avenues she was taking at the time of her death, would be one of the best known black actresses of today. Indeed, her role as Trish in the box office success Romeo Must Die garnered her critical acclaim. In fact, we'd go so far as to argue that she was a far better actress than Beyoncé, and would have continued on in a similar fashion.

Perhaps Aaliyah would have pursued that acting career; a wiser option in a post-Beyoncé world, and one that many an artist should have considered after Dangerously in Love was released. We have little doubt that she would have proved successful, being more talented in that area and having garnered the acclaim necessary to score notable roles. In fact, the role of the eponymous character in Honey (the film that saw Jessica Alba reach the career highs she enjoyed post-2005) was initially intended for Aaliyah. 

However, if we are only discussing a career in music, claiming that Beyoncé's success would have been hindered by Aaliyah's continued presence is one foundered in hypothesis; and one without any factual basis. At the time of the latter's death, Beyoncé was more successful worldwide and, at 22, was also arguably more talented. Additionally, the subsequent downfall of Aaliyah's more successful peers, Brandy and Monica, lends credence to the claim that her music career would have followed a similar trajectory. 

Allow us to add one further point; one mired in personal opinion. It appears that Aaliyah's name is mentioned after each significant milestone Beyoncé passes. Whenever she wins an award or is recognised by a noteworthy organisation or committee, certain 'stanbases' ask the same question, knowing that it is one based in theory, and is, therefore, more difficult to disprove. It is arguable that, knowing that very few female artists can stand up to Beyoncé (and it is suspicious that those that support those artists never seem to ask this question), they use Aaliyah as a symbol of all the hopes they have for their favourite (whom, they are well are, will never actualise those hopes). This is far from fair as it leads to the star's memory being insulted by those who see fit to do it. Would it not be more just to allow Aaliyah's legacy stand alone, to not be denigrated in favour of arguing a moot point?

After all, over ten years later, Beyoncé is still one of the biggest stars in recent history. And, if there is anything the princess of R&B deserves after all this time, it is to be allowed to rest in peace.


  1. smurffette112431 May 2012 at 17:47

    Great article....factual and stratightforward. Save this one...mark my word, Beyonce will be hailed as the second MJ universally. I loved Aaliyah's music and would never take anything from her BUT dancing and performing...Beyonce remains untouched and had Aaliyah been still living...she would still be untouched....I LOVED THIS....

  2. I agree, with this article. I get tired of the comparisons.

  3. The promotional pics at the beginning of the article say it all. BeySUS has more ferocity and intensity than Aaliyah did. Aaliyah is an extremely talented singer, performer & actress but just doesn't compare to Bey. That's all.


  4. Aaliyah's music is timeless. Some of her late songs could be released today and be a hit with R&B fans.

    But would Beyonce be as successful if Aaliyah were still alive today... that I don't know. Aaliyah was transitioning herself from a R&B artist to a movie star. She was suppose to star in the Matrix and Honey movie but passed away before finished taping.

    And while I LOVE her music, she wasn't exactly tearing up the charts like Destiny's Child. Plus most R&B female artist from the late 90s/early 00s are no longer around. She may have been one of them to go if she were still alive.

    But ONE THING I DO KNOW is that Aaliyah would have blocked Ashanti from success. Ashanti helped fill in the void that was missing and so did Ciara. But none can replace Baby Girl.

  5. You be beating up your keyboard. Good read but too wordy.

  6. This article is complete bullshit, you tend to fail to REALIZE, monica and brandy had fell off in, in 2000 era Aaliyah was the ONLY relevant female artist out of them three who was RELEVANT and still selling records Y'all make it seem like Aaliyah has no SUCCESS at all, which she does... her achievements are overlooked because y'all are to BIAS and it's sad Aaliyah music is TIMELESS and way more relevant than most music out TODAY... Aaliyah had her own SOUND own STYLE, and OWN LOOK when beyonce DOES NOT, shes no different from Rihanna , Lady Gaga, and the rest of the bunch Beyonce is VERY talented but y'all actlike ADELES and Rihanna's is not surpassing her and BEYONCE has been slayed by alicia keys, Let's not leave that out..

  7. This blog obviously was written by a Beyonce stan because it's so biased and one sided it is ridiculous.

    First of all, you can't compare a group to a solo act. it's totally apples and oranges. Was Destiny's Child bigger than Aaliyah? Yes. But was Beyonce big as a "one name" brand during the time Aaliyah was alive? No, she wasnt. When Aaliyah was alive, she had three multiplatinum albums, movie deals, endorsments, and movies. These are the foundations of Beyonce's career TODAY. Beyonce's first movie was some BET flop disaster while Aaliyah was getting rave reviews for Romeo Must Die at the box office. Also, in that same year, Beyonce was the one that had to give Aaliyah an interview on the red carper, and Beyonce herself even noted Aaliyah's rising popularity. During this time, Beyonce was trying to make a name for herself as a solo act, but all of her attempts failed until Aaliyah died and she finally caught luck with "Crazy in love".

    I'm laughing at how you are trying to discredit Aaliyah overseas. On her first album alone, she toured in Europe, Africa, and Japan. Not to mention songs like Are you that somebody, Try Again, One In A Million and the like were all big hits in other countries. Are you that somebody was the 5th most played music video in japan the in the year of 1998. One In A million sold 8 million copies in 1997, not 10 years later. As a matter of fact, despite "we need a resolution" flopping in the US, it did alot better overseas.

    Also, you bring up Brandy and Monica for what reasons I dont know why. For one, Monica never outsold Aaliyah, Only Brandy did. and so what? I can say the same about Alicia Keys outselling Beyonce.

    As far as talent goes, You can't compare performance "reviews". Yes, Beyonce's performances are more talked about because she performed at bigger venues (award shows for example), while Aaliyah never performed at any major award shows due to poor management. As far as vocals are concerned, Aaliyah was just as good as Beyonce (i'm speaking on them at the same age, of course). Aaliyah's rendition of Giving Up can compete with any Beyonce vocal at the age, period. Aaliyah's performance at the oscars had recieved critical praise, also noting that she's the youngest black performer to be invited there. and while you compared Aaliyah's MTAW performance ( i consider that one of her worst performances) Aaliyah performed on a small stage while Beyonce performed on a huge stage with stage lights and props, giving her performance a "boost".

    and dancing, lets not get on that subject at all. Beyonce's first dance video "crazy in love" by no means can compete with Aaliyah's first dance video (are you that somebody" on any scale. Aaliyah had a smooth, fluid style filled with technical skill and precision, while Beyonce dances like a typical black women with rytyhm. No comparison in that aspect.

    At the end of the day, Aaliyah was as just as good as Beyonce. as a solo act she was more sucessful when she was alive, a more respected actress, a much better dancer and vocals can be argued. Beyonce herself cites Aaliyah as an influence so this post fails lol

    1. First, visiting several countries to promote a record is not the same as touring.

      Second, One In A Million has sold 8 million copies as of 2008. Not in 1997, 2008.

      Third, I brought up Monica because she had several worldwide hits including 'First Night' and 'The Boy is Mine'. Alicia Keys, also, has not outsold B worldwide, as the latter has certified record sales of over 120 million - far more than Alicia.

      Fourth, you CAN compare performance 'reviews'. To argue otherwise is foolish and belittles Aaliyah, if anything. Aaliyah had a beautiful tone but her upper register was restricted, as one can clearly hear in 'The One I Gave My Heart To'. 'Speechless' from 'Dangerously In Love' demonstrated the flexibility of B's upper range.

      Fifth, I did not mention 'Crazy In Love' (video) once.

      Aaliyah was NOT more successful as a solo act when she was alive. She did not grace the magazine covers or perform at the award shows that B did. She did not win as many awards, she did not sell out world tours, she did not make millions a year in endorsements, she did not garner the critical acclaim that B has in terms of music or performance.

      THOSE are statements all rooted in fact, unlike your opinion-based argument.

      Thank you and good day.

    2. Aaliyah was touring worldwide. It's even clips of her on youtube of her performing lol.

      They stopped selling OIAM years ago, so a majority of it's sales came from when she was alive.

      Monicas "the boy is mine" was a hit because it's a duet with Brandy. Even then, she still didn't sell more albums, had no big movies, nor did she even have any awards or endorsments in her entire career.

      Beyonce did not sell 120 million SOLO. maybe with DC, which is unfair. If we are speaking SOLO albums, Alicia outsold Beyonce.

      Critics review award show performances like the vmas or bet awards or grammy awards.. They hardly if ever review performances from talk shows like "jay leno" or "wendy williams" lol. Aaliyah's only performance at an award show sadly was the oscars, and that performance had overall good reception .

      Aaliyah was an alto while Beyonce was a soprano. Of course by nature, Beyonce could hit higher notes. However, As Aaliyah being an alto, she could hit notes lower than Beyonce. Besides, Aaliyah gave an amazing vocal on "the one I gave my heart to" and she showed flexibility. Beyonce's voice was more powerful, but Aaliyah had a better falsetto (head voice) and had a much better lower register. Beyonce also had some pretty good runs, but Aaliyah wasn't slacking in that department neither.

      I know you didnt mention cil, but to say Bey was arguably a better dancer is ridiculous. I made the comparison because clearly judging by both of their first dance music videos, Aaliyah clearly was ahead of Beyonce in the dancing department, and would have definetly surpassed her even today if she was still here to master her craft.

      Aaliyah has several magazine covers. And she didn't perform at award shows because of poor management (blackground wasnt the best label obviously with their limited resources). Again, when Aaliyah was alive, Beyonce did not make "millions in endorsments or garner critical acclaim neither lol. I am speaking on the era 2000-2001. Aaliyah was clealy a bigger star as a one name brand. Aaliyah made teen peoples "hottest stars under 21" two years in a row while Beyonce was nowhere to be found lol.

    3. They didn't stop selling OIAM until late 2006 - five years after she passed. Also, Aaliyah has been described as having also been a soprano and it clear that her higher register, as I said, was a lot weaker than B's at the age of 22.

      Yes, Aaliyah might have had a better falsetto, but B had more control of her higher register as well as her chest voice.

      Aaliyah had several magazine covers while B had numerous covers at 21/22. She covered Rolling Stone at 22 (solo) and RS in 2001 with DC (at 19). The RS cover, as you know, is the unofficial accolade given for when a star/actor/show is considered to have 'made it'.

      And it is more than fair to use B's group sales. Even disregarding the fact that B is the only truly memorable member of the group, people often try to claim that Aaliyah was a more successful act worldwide than DC, which I have logically argued is far from true.

      Once again, when I addressed dance, I didn't use music videos. I used tv show performances as examples.

      Also, as this article discusses only B and Aaliyah, I see no need to introduce Alicia Keys into the argument (though Alicia's first record debuted in 2001, and she has therefore had 11 years to sell 30 million albums worldwide, while B has only had 9). Additionally, B's tours and other ventures have been more successful than Alicia's, but that's a completely different argument for another day.

      However, I will say that I appreciate your willingness to argue logically and in a respectful manner. It is something I rarely see.

    4. No, OIAM stopped selling around 2003 (or 2004, can't remember) when Blackground inked that deal with universal and her posthumous cd came out. The only Aaliyah album that can be purchased in stores is her first album, and that one went from 1x plat to 2x plat because of her death.

      I agree. Bey has the better chest voice while Aaliyah had a better falsetto and lower register. Both of them could do things better than the other.

      I was talking about Bey's popularity as a SOLO act when Aaliyah was ALIVE was not bigger than Aaliyah. I remember when she was alive Bey was trying to make moves as a solo act but she didn't really get that much luck until "CIL". DC was always bigger than Aaliyah, but Bey as a lone wolf wasn't really checked for until After Aaliyah passed.

      It's not fair either way. Comparing a group to a solo act simply just isn't fair. DC even outsold Beyonce lol. Groups were hugely more popular than solo acts in the 90's anyway. Some of the biggest selling teen acts of the 90's were from bands.

      Even in her performances, Aaliyah displayed better dancing skills, at least to me. As far as dancing goes Nothing Beyonce did until single ladies was as complex as or intricate as Try Again.

      You brought up Brandy and Monica against Aaliyah, why can't I do the same for Alicia agaisnt Bey? lol

      and no problem. i can be civil. lol

    5. OIAM didn't stop selling over here in Europe until 2006 (and was even re-released in Germany in that year).

      When Aaliyah was alive, B was still in the middle of the Survivor era (the album was released in May 2001), so her solo career was obviously on the back-burner at the time of her death.

      And your allegation that groups were more popular than solo acts is not true. Janet, Mariah, Britney Spears and many others were all HUGELY popular during the 90s - arguably, more popular than groups on occasion (with the exception of BSB and the Spice Girls). Also, DC was an R&B group. R&B groups were far less popular than pop groups, whereas R&B female saw more success (Brandy, Mariah etc).

      We addressed the intricacy of their respective dance moves. As I've said before, anyone can be taught choreography. It is the way a dancer interprets that choreography that makes them great. In that sense, B was better because of the energy, spirit and 'life' she put behind the moves.

      I brought up Brandy only to argue the point that several female artists (more successful than Aaliyah at the time) fell off in the noughties. Therefore, wouldn't it be more logical to argue that Aaliyah would have been no different and following that, if anything, her career would have suffered more severely?

    6. In fact, if anything the only artists whose success Aaliyah would have prevented are Ciara and Ashanti. She has more in common with them (and they were marketed in such a way as to replace her. For example, Ashanti was dubbed the 'Princess of Hip Hop and R&B), than B.