Aaliyah - Are You That Somebody (The Story Behind The Song)

Timbaland's hyperbole is distracting, but his overall point isn't wrong. In more than eight years of making big-time music, he has lapped the field many times over. A few of his stray songs on soundtracks are better than other producers' entire oeuvres -- like the Lil' Kim song ''Money Talks'' from the 1997 soundtrack of the same name. The box-set format, for once, would be entirely appropriate to represent Timbaland.
He got to this point by working fast and furiously. ''Tim will start work for the day, and when he wraps up, at least two songs are mostly done,'' Douglass says. ''Very few songs take more than two days. 'Are You That Somebody?' was written, recorded and mixed in eight hours. Tim came up with the beat, gave it to Static'' -- the nickname for the collaborator Steve Garrett, who sometimes writes lyrics for Tim -- ''and then Aaliyah came in. And then it was done.''
''Are You That Somebody?'' captured the radio in 1998 and never let go. The song is full of huge stops and an uninvited baby, crying. The melody hugs to the bass line and the whole thing lurches about in a way that suggests some unspoken law of pop music is being broken.

It's also a good case study of who does what in this mode of production. Timbaland created what he'd call ''the beat,'' though it is made of more than rhythmic patterns and drum sounds. Timbaland's bass line and keyboards determine the key and the rhythmic inclinations of the tune, while Static's nimble lyrics and melody hew to Timbaland's grid. Aaliyah's soft-edged voice works within this structure to lighten the load and make it pop music.
The words to describe this process are hard to pin down, even when you're sitting in the studio with the creators. Songs are generally called ''records,'' but ''song'' is also used to mean the vocals and lyrics, and people like Static are often called ''songwriters,'' though they're working inside the parameters of the beat. This is how Timbaland described his process to me: ''I'm a one-man show. When I do a song, half the time I do a song, I write it myself or write the hook. Of course, I'm gonna work with Missy, because that's what we do, we tag-team. I use Static and another guy named Walter Millsap. He's a new writer; he wrote a lot of Brandy's stuff.''
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Rest in Paradise Aaliyah & Static Major 💕
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