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Aaliyah: Immortalized on Vinyl

One in a Million was released on streaming services late last August, days before the 20th anniversary of Aaliyah’s tragic death at just 22 years old. Grasping for anything Aaliyah, fans everywhere were excited when her music became more accessible.

One In A Million debuted on Apple Music, Spotify, TIDAL, and YouTube around the sophomore album’s 25th release anniversary. The move came from Aaliyah’s old label Blackground Records — founded by her uncle, Barry Hankerson — and coincided with Blackground partnering with EMPIRE.

Aaliyah posthumously reappeared at the top of the charts last year, getting over five million plays on Spotify in under two hours of re-release and returning to No. 1 on U.S. iTunes. The album re-entered the Billboard 200 at No. 10 after selling 26,000 equivalent album units, according to MRC Data.

Now, Aaliyah’s third and final self-titled studio LP will receive its first vinyl pressing ever via Vinyl Me, Please’s Essentials Record of the Month subscription program, half-speed mastered by Barry Grint of Alchemy Mastering at AIR. The project originally released in July 2001 — a little over a month before the plane crash that took her life.

The vinyl will come along as a two-LP set pressed on red and gold galaxy-colored vinyl as an exclusive offering to VMP Essentials subscribers, along with linear notes booklet and an art print.

Vinyl Me, Please Head of Editorial Amileah Sutliff will complete the linear notes.

“It’s long been a dream for VMP to bring this remarkable record to our members,” Sutliff said. “Aaliyah is a true masterpiece from an artist who was unimaginably influential in her too-short time on earth, so it means the world to us to be able to honor her legacy and finally present a definitive vinyl reissue, created with the level of care this record deserves.”

Following the tragic death of the R&B and pop icon, the LP immediately topped the charts and gained Aaliyah posthumous Grammy nominations for best R&B album and best female R&B vocal performance for the eternal single “Rock the Boat.”

Now with the release of her first-ever vinyl, Aaliyah’s digital — and physical footprint— continues to grow after largely being absent online for the last 15 years. It’s surprisingly the first time the album has cracked the Billboard 200 top 10 too, previously peaking at No. 18 on the chart upon its release — albeit with the higher first-week proper physical sales of 40,500.

Once One In A Million hit streaming services, Hankerson began to roll out the other albums, including the aforementioned Aaliyah and the 2002 posthumous compilation album I Care 4 U.

All this comes after a long-running legal and personal dispute between her label and her estate:

It’s not an easy situation. Logistically, it’s been more than a decade since her Hankerson and Blackground had a deal with a major distribution company. And it’s clear that there’s also been some sort of strain, and or lack of communication, in the relationship between Hankerson and his sister, Aaliyah’s mother Diane Haughton. She’s previously asked that Aaliyah’s music no longer be released (h/t USA Today).

Aaliyah’s estate responded to the streaming deal in 2021 with a statement through attorney Paul LiCalsi, saying it was “not made aware” of the streaming release of the late singer’s catalog:

“For almost 20 years, Blackground has failed to account to the Estate with any regularity in accordance with her recording contracts. In addition, the Estate was not made aware of the impending release of the catalog until after the deal was complete and plans were in place. The Estate has demanded that Blackground provide a full account of its past earnings, and full disclosure of the terms of its new deal to distribute Aaliyah’s long embargoed music.”

It’s a tricky to reconcile the complicated behind-the-scenes complication with the optimism felt by fans. There is palpable excitement around Aaliyah’s legendary discography finally being available for consumption online— and that continues in real life, too, with this vinyl.

Aaliyah‘s vinyl pressing may be the final push necessary for the R&B singer’s entire catalog to finally be properly worked out between all parties and finally properly released— in all existing formats.

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