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A Coasting Aaliyah Steers Clear of Depth

** 1/2 AALIYAH, "Aaliyah," \o7 Blackground/Virgin\f7

July 29, 2001|CONNIE JOHNSON

At 22, Aaliyah belongs to that echelon of recording stars whose projects generate a high level of expectation. You know she's going to be working with ahead-of-the-curve writer-producers such as Timbaland and Missy Elliott, so it's reasonable to expect a greater degree of freshness than you'd get from lesser light But Aaliyah has more than one professional iron in the fire. As a rising actress with projects such as the sequel to "The Matrix" on the front burner, she may have been too busy to give this record the attention it merited. Cuts such as "We Need a Resolution" and the sexily assertive "Rock the Boat" stand out, but compared with recent efforts by such peers as India.Arie and even Destiny's Child's Beyonce Knowles, Aaliyah is coasting a bit.

Unlike those two artists, Aaliyah doesn't write any of her own material here, so everything is light, pleasing and image-conscious, but lacking the personal revelation that gives music some immediacy. Aaliyah's always interesting--her "Are You That Somebody" was one of the best singles of 1998--but with three albums under her belt, a little depth is in order.

*

Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two (fair), three (good) and four (excellent). The albums are already released unless otherwise noted.

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