Saturday, 6 August 2011

Aaliyah - Back & Forth (1994/ No. 16/ 5 weeks/ Jive)

"It's Friday (wooh!)
and I'm ready to swing
Pick up my girls
and hit the party scene"

It's the real blankness in this record that makes it so compelling to me. I'm not sure where the emotional heart of it is, or even if it has one. Ostensibly a song about going out and partying, Aaliyah doesn't sound very excited by the prospect, even though she was only 16 when she recorded it.

Part of this void is the peripatetic nature of going back and forth as a metaphor. It doesn't sound very sexual, which you might imagine. Crucial to how the listener understands this record, is where one places the omnipresent R Kelly in the narrative. He's all over it, issuing instructions and advice - but really low in the mix. Is he a desired other on the other side of the club? Or is he the internal voice of the singing girl, making sense of the environment, working out how to appear cool?

It doesn't make going out dancing sound fun or affectionate…

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