Are You That Somebody?

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"Are You That Somebody?"
Aaliyah-areyouthatsomebody.jpg
Single by Aaliyah
from the album Dr. Dolittle
ReleasedJune 16, 1998
FormatCD single, maxi single, vinyl record
Recorded1998
StudioThe Village Recorder
(Los Angeles, California)
Genre
Length4:26
Label
Songwriter(s)Static Major, Tim "Timbaland" Mosley
Producer(s)Timbaland
Aaliyah singles chronology
"Journey to the Past"
(1998)
"Are You That Somebody?"
(1998)
"I Don't Wanna"
(2000)
Timbaland singles chronology
"Hot Like Fire"
(1997)
"Are You That Somebody?"
(1998)
"Get on the Bus"
(1998)
Audio sample

"Are You That Somebody?" is a Grammy nominated single performed by American singer Aaliyah, recorded for the Dr. Dolittle soundtrack. The song was written and composed by Static Major, who also sang backing vocals, and Timbaland, who, in addition to writing the song, produced and performed a guest rap for it. The song was sent to U.S. pop radio stations on September 29, 1998 (see 1998 in music). The song samples the sound of a baby cooing from producer Jac Holzman's 1964 track "Happy Baby" from Authentic Sound Effects Volume 8 (later used in Perrey and Kingsley's 1966 hit "Countdown at 6" off The In Sound from Way Out!)[4] and also samples The Meters' 1974 single "People Say".[5]

"Are You That Somebody?" was a commercial success, reaching number 21 on the US Billboard Hot 100, number 11 in the United Kingdom, number three in the Netherlands and number one in New Zealand. The song was listed 387th on The 500 Greatest Songs Since You Were Born, a list of songs compiled by Blender magazine.[6] Rolling Stone ranked the song at number 24 on its "50 Best songs of the nineties list".[2] It was also ranked 18th on Spin magazine's Top 20 Singles of the 1990s, and 5th on The Village Voice's 1998 Pazz & Jop critics' poll. Pitchfork Media included the song at number 8 on their Top 200 Tracks of the 1990s.[7] Slant Magazine ranked the song at number 19 on their 100 best singles of the 1990s list.[8] This song earned Aaliyah a Grammy Award nomination for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance.

Background[edit]

According to a Static Major article in Vibe magazine, when Timbaland first presented the song to Aaliyah, she initially showed disdain for it.[9] However, she eventually agreed to record it. In a behind the scenes video featuring Timbaland, he reveals that the record was recorded in a couple of hours after a show and that the record almost didn't happen.[10] Are You That Somebody? was recorded at Capital Records Studio In Los Angeles and according to engineer Jimmy Douglass the recording session for the song was "a soup-to-nuts session" ; which means the entire song was recorded and mixed in one session. [11] The group worked on the song from 11:00 p.m to 9:00 a.m. and the last things that was added to the song were the baby noises and Timbaland's ad lib's such as "Dirty South". [11]

Composition and lyrical interpretation[edit]

Are you that Somebody? is an R&B and pop song with the avant-funk genre incorporated within the song's sound.[1][2][3] The song also features a variety of sounds such as frenetic staccato guitars, beat-boxing, drum-and-bass from the drum programming and a sample of a baby crying.[12] Lyrically the song is about "a late-night rendezvous with a special someone that needed to be kept on the hush".[13] On the song Aaliyah's "sweet but street" persona is in full effect, as she declares, "Sometimes I'm goody-goody / Right now I'm naughty naughty." There's a sense of longing in the appearance of the song's title ("'Cause I really need somebody / Tell me are you that somebody") and also in the way she sings it, stretching out the syllables to the point of desperation and then keeping up with the beat with hurried, jumbled phrasings." [14]

Critical reception[edit]

Larry Flick from Billboard felt that Aaliyah was on her way to becoming "the New Queen of soundtrack hits" because of this song. Flick also praised the song for its smooth melody and clever lyrics saying "At the same time it has a smooth melody and clever lyrics that will connect with folks who require traditional structure in their pop music."[15] In its album guide, Rolling Stone commented that the song "remains one of '90s' R&B's most astounding moments."[1] In 1999 Spin included the song on their Top 20 singles list and they felt that Aaliyah's vocals and timbalands production on the song was like "an R&B singin in the rain".[16] Damien Scott from Complex felt that Are You That Somebody perfectly captured multiple traits found on Aaliyah's first two albums. According to Scott "Aaliyah's oeuvre was an exercise in self-awareness. Her first two albums carefully toed the line between adolescence and adulthood, displaying a woman exploring the terrain of love, trust, and lust; one who exuded a playful innocence while hinting at a more sultry side. Her crowning achievement, a collaboration between her, Timbaland, and Static Major, "Are You That Somebody," would capture all of that perfectly".[17] Quentin B. Huff from PopMatters feels that the song " is just too good to be relegated to soundtrack status". He continued praising the song saying,"It's a fantastic track, with a stomping rhythm alternatingly accented by the strangest bundle of noise. It sounds like someone shaking dice or cracking their knuckles or twisting a Rubik's Cube really fast -- I can never decide which".[14]

Accolades[edit]

In 1999 "Are You That Somebody?" was nominated at the 41st Annual Grammy Awards for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance; this was Aaliyah's first Grammy nomination.[18] The video for the song was nominated for Best R&B Video and Best Video from a Film at the 16th annual MTV Video Music Awards.[19] At the 8th annual MTV Movie Awards the song was nominated for Best Song from a Movie. [20] At the 1999 NAACP Image Awards the video was nominated for Outstanding Music Video.[21] At the 1999 Nickelodeon Kids Choice Awards the song was nominated for Favorite Song.[22] At the 1999 Soul Train Lady of Soul Awards the song was nominated for Best R&B/Soul Song and Best R&B/Soul or Rap Music Video.[23]

Charts performance[edit]

"Are You That Somebody?" wasn't released commercially to retail stores as a single, so the song's chart success depended on only radio airplay. During its chart run Billboard changed its policy to allow airplay-only singles to chart on the Hot 100.[24] On December 5, 1998 the song reached its peak within the top 40 at number 21 on the hot 100 chart.[25] In August 1998 the song peaked at number 1 on both the R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay and Rhythmic charts.[26] [27] Three months later in November 1998 the song peaked within the top 10 of the Mainstream Top 40 chart at number 6.[28] Elsewhere in North America, the song peaked within the top 20 in Canada at number 11 on the singles chart.[29] Also in Canada the song peaked at number 2 on the urban charts on August 31, 1998. [30]

In Europe "Are You That Somebody?" peaked within the top 40 at number 40 on the Ultratop 50 Wallonia charts in Belgium. [31] In Germany the song entered the Official German Charts at number 91 on November 9, 1998. The song reached its peak eleven weeks later on January 25, 1999 at number 31. [32] In the Netherlands the song entered the Single Top 100 chart at number 65 on October 17, 1998. Eventually the song reached its peak at number 3 on November 14, 1998 and it remained at number three for a total of three weeks.[33] Also in The Netherlands the song peaked at number 3 on the Dutch top 40 charts for a total of 3 weeks as well. [34] In the UK the song peaked within the top 20 at number 11 on the official charts on September 12, 1998.[35] Also the song peaked within the top 5 of the UK R&B and Dance chart at number 2 and 4 respectively. [36] [37] According to the official charts company "Are You That Somebody?" is Aaliyah's third best selling single in that region.[38] In the Oceania region the song entered the New Zealand charts at number 43 on October 4, 1998, a week later the song peaked at number 1 on October 11, 1998. [39]

Music video[edit]

Synopsis[edit]

The music video for "Are You That Somebody?" was directed by Mark Gerard, and with choreography by Fatima Robinson.[40] It begins with Timbaland and a crew of men riding motorcycles to a cave where Aaliyah and other women are waiting. As Timbaland and the crew arrive, a hologram of a metal door seals the opening of the cave. The men notice that the seal is a hologram and drive through it. Inside the cave clips of Dr. Dolittle are projected on several walls in the background. As Aaliyah's first verse starts she holds a large bird on her arm and everyone begins to perform the choreography. There are scenes with just the women dancing, just the men dancing, both the women and men dancing, and Aaliyah performing alone. There are no scenes with just the men and Aaliyah dancing. Also shown is Timbaland rapping with the group Playa in the background. The video ends with Aaliyah and the dancers performing a flamenco dance.

Critical Reception[edit]

During its chart run the music video for "Are You That Somebody?" received heavy TV airplay on multiple music video count down shows. For the week ending on July 5, 1998 the video was the second most played video on BET.[41] For the week ending on July 12, 1998 the video was America's number one most played video on The Box.[42] Meanwhile between September 20 through September 27, 1998 the music video was the number one most played video on MTV.[43][44] The video was featured on Complex's "The Best R&B Videos of the '90s list" and writer Ernest Baker praised the video.[45] He also felt that her clothes, and choreography in the video was revolutionary and groundbreaking.[45]

Legacy[edit]

In March 2007, American Indie rock band, Gossip, covered the song on BBC's music program 6music.[46] A full studio version was leaked in 2009 and later released on the Ministry of Sound Volume 2 compilation in 2010. In 2009, Canadian rapper Drake interpolated a portion of the song's chorus in his verse on Young Money Entertainment's "BedRock"; "Girl I gotta watch my back, 'cause I'm not just anybody."[47] In 2011, a cover with a rap verse by Wax was recorded by The Red Ribbon Army.[48]

Samples from the song have been used in numerous electronic, and, most recently, dubstep tracks. One prominent use of the sample was by James Blake on the track "CMYK" from his 2010 EP of the same name.[49]

In 2012, rapper Watsky sampled "Are You That Somebody" for "Gummy Bear Hundrednaire" off his mix-tape Nothing Like the First Time.[50] In 2013, American rapper Lil Wayne interpolated a part of the song into the chorus for his song "Love Me" singing the lines "cause I really need somebody, tell me you're that somebody".[51]

In 2014, singer Banks performed an acoustic version of this song on a BBC radio 1 Live Lounge.[52] In 2018, U.S. a cappella group Pentatonix recorded the song as a medley combined with New Rules, by Dua Lipa, for their new album PTX Presents: Top Pop, Vol. I.[53]

Charts[edit]

Certifications[edit]

Region Certification Certified units/sales
Netherlands (NVPI)[77] Gold 50,000^
New Zealand (RMNZ)[78] Gold 15,000*

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone

References[edit]

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External links[edit]