Despite her massive posthumous following, Aaliyah’s most popular songs were only available online via unofficial channels, such as fanmade YouTube videos. The late singer’s top hits, which include “One in a Million,” “Try Again,” and “Are You That Somebody,” recently surfaced on Apple Music and iTunes. The songs are compiled in the 2005 release Ultimate, a collection of Aaliyah’s greatest hits. The tracks are exclusively available on Apple platforms, for now, with no sign of them on TiDAL or Spotify. Prior to this release, Aaliyah’s 1994 debut Age Ain’t Nothing But a Number was the only album available online.
According to recent Complex article “The Inexplicable Online Absence of Aaliyah’s Best Music,” Aaliyahs uncle, music industry exec Barry Hankerson, owns the majority of her masters — except for the ones for Age Ain’t Nothing But a Number. The reasons behind why her songs haven’t been largely available online, appear to be a mix of personal issues along with the usual business rigors of the music industry.
In 2013, Aaliyah’s albums One in a Million and Aaliyah were illegally uploaded to iTunes by a company called Craze Digital. As Craze Digital did not own the rights to her music, the albums were quickly yanked off of the platform and the company was sued.
Posthumous battles over online availability aren’t new. From the Beatles to most recently (and sadly) Prince, making a deceased artist’s music available for download and streaming can pretty complicated and tumultuous.