Rock the Boat (Aaliyah song)

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"Rock the Boat"
Aaliyah - Rock the Boat.jpg
Single by Aaliyah
from the album Aaliyah
ReleasedJanuary 15, 2002
RecordedManhattan Center
(New York City, New York)
Aaliyah singles chronology
"More Than a Woman"
"Rock the Boat"
"Miss You"

"Rock the Boat" is a song by American recording artist Aaliyah. It was written by Static Major, Eric Seats and Rapture Stewart for her 2001 self-titled album. "Rock the Boat" was posthumously released as a single in January 2002 in the United States and May 2002 in the United Kingdom.[1] Prior to its release as a single, "Rock the Boat" charted as an "album cut" and peaked at number 14 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the week of January 5.[2] The song stayed on the chart for twenty-five weeks.[3]

Aaliyah initially started promotion for the expected second single "More Than a Woman". "Rock the Boat" was nominated for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance at the 44th Annual Grammy Awards.

Background and production[edit]

"Rock the Boat" came into fruition almost by accident, because producer Eric Seats almost deleted the song's file.[4] The song's file almost got deleted because Seats didn't like what he heard right away. Seats explained "I almost deleted "Rock The Boat" because I'm the kind of guy that once I start producing a track and I don't feel it right away sometimes, I would delete it and just start something over fresh".[5] The song was saved when songwriter Static Major heard the instrumental of the song through headphones and quickly wrote the hook for the song.[4] According to Eric Seats "Static heard it through my headphones. I took a break and went to the rest room, and by the time I got back he had already written a hook."[4] When discussing the fate of the song he then proceeded to say "I wouldn't say it was an accident, but we weren't vibing with it as much. It was one of those things like if he had came 10 minutes later, he probably would've never heard it."[4] During the early stages of the song "it was very raw" and since Static Major showed strong interest in the song Seats continued to develop the song.[5] Seats mentioned "Since he had an interest in it, I said, 'Let me go and continue building on it, let me embellish it, make something happen since you're feeling it.' We didn't know it was going to end up being "Rock The Boat."[5] Seats "beefed" up the development process of the track by calling Dave Foreman and Rapture Stewart to add a guitar and strings to the songs instrumental.[5]

Originally "More than A Woman" was chosen as the second single from Aaliyah's self titled album but due to heavy radio airplay "Rock the Boat" became the second single.[4] According to producer Rapture Stewart "The only reason they shot 'Rock the Boat' was because the radio was already playing it, so that kind of forced it to be the second single [instead of 'More Than a Woman'],".[4] Although "Rock the Boat" received heavy radio airplay Aaliyah's label didn't want that song to be released as a single. Instead the label felt that songs produced by Timbaland should be released singles because "that was her sound at the time", according to Stewart.[4] Aaliyah who loved "Rock the Boat" fought with her label and pushed for the song to become the album's second single.[4] Seats recalled hearing Aaliyah say "No, it's this one. I don't care who did what. This one is the next one" during an argument.[5]

Composition and lyrical interpretation[edit]

"Rock the Boat" is described as being a Caribbean-flavored sensual and smooth mid-tempo song.[6] [7] The song features an atmospheric groove, hypnotic rhythms, and fluctuating instrumentation such as synthesizer effects.[8] Michael Odell from the British publication The Guardian felt that "Rock the Boat" pays tribute to synth-driven 1980s soul".[9] On the song "Aaliyah's tentative vocal finds its way around a menu of high-octane sexual requests".[9] Lyrically, its female narrator instructs a lover on how to please her sexually and equates her erotic high to a drug high: "Work the middle / Change positions / Now stroke it for me / ... I feel like I'm on dope / Explore my body / ".[10] On the song "she is captain of her physical needs in the bedroom and confidently directs the voyage. She knew what she wanted and knew how to get it".[7] According to Producer Bud'da Aaliyah debated about if the song should include the line "Feels like I'm on dope." because she didn't want to send the wrong message to her fans about drugs.[5]

Critical reception[edit]

Khal from Complex felt that the video for the song matched the laid-back vibe of the instrumental. According to Khal, "The end result was a thing of beauty, with tropical visuals properly matching the laid back vibe of the instrumental. Perfect percussive accents dwell around the chilled melodies ".[11] James Poletti from dotmusic felt that Aaliyah's "breathy vocals become stutteringly suggestive as the track squelches and pops its way to a rather lovely place".[12] Connie Johnson from the Los Angeles Times described "Rock The boat" as being "sexily assertive" ; she also felt that this song along with "We need a resolution" were stand out songs compared to other artist material.[13] Russell Baillie from The New Zealand Herald described the song as "boudoir-instructional" and he felt that "Aaliyah's voice weaves through the sparse but punchy arrangements with a mix of sultriness" on the song[14] Brad Cawn from the Chicago Tribune felt that Aaliyah had matured and that she was "Growing into seductive escapades" on "Rock the Boat".[15] Sal Cinquemani from Slant Magazine compared the song to the work of Janet Jackson and Marvin Gaye ; he ultimately[felt that Aaliyah does "80's retro" songs better than other artist.[16]


In 2002 "Rock the Boat" was nominated for Video of the year and Viewer's choice at the 2002 BET Awards.[17] At the 2002 Billboard-AURN R&B/Hip-Hop Awards the song was nominated for Top R&B/Hip-Hop Single and Top R&B/Hip-Hop Single – Airplay.[18] At the 44th Annual Grammy Awards the song was nominated for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance.[19] At the 19th annual MTV Video Music Awards the video was nominated for Best R&B Video.[20] At the 2002 NAACP Image Awards the video was nominated for Outstanding Music Video.[21] The song won Best R&B/Soul Single, Female at the 2002 Soul Train Music Awards[22] Meanwhile, at the 2002 Soul Train Lady of Soul Awards the song won Best R&B/Soul Single and Best R&B/Soul or Rap Song of the Year.[23] The song was also nominated for Best R&B/Soul or Rap Music Video at the 2002 ceremony as well.[24]

Chart performance[edit]

On the Billboard Hot 100, the song entered the chart on September 8, 2001, at number 57 it reached peak at number 14 in its twelfth week on the chart.[25][26] The song stayed on the hot 100 chart for a total of twenty-five weeks.[3] 16 weeks later On the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart the song peaked within the top 5 at number 2 on November 24, 2001.[27] On the Rhythmic chart the song peaked within the top 20 at number 13 on January 12, 2002, eighteen weeks after its debut on the chart.[28] Internationally the song was just as successful peaking within the top 20 at number 12 On the UK official charts on May 12, 2002.[29] Also on May 12, 2002, the song peaked within the top five at number 4 on the UK official R&B chart.[30] In Scotland the song peaked within the top 40 at number 32 on the official Scotland Charts on May 12, 2002.[31] According to the Official Charts Company "Rock the Boat" is Aaliyah's fourth best selling single in the UK.[32] Elsewhere in Europe in Belgium the song peaked within the top 10 at number 9 on the Wallonia Ultra-Tip chart on April 4, 2002.[33] In the Netherlands the song peaked within the top 10 at number 9 on the Dutch Top 40 on the week ending on March 16, 2002.[34] Also in The Netherlands the song peaked within the top 20 at number 12 on the Single Top 100 chart on March 16, 2002; it spent a total of two weeks at number 12 on the chart.[35]

Music video[edit]


Appearing on BET's 106 & Park on August 21, 2001, Aaliyah announced that shooting of the video for "Rock the Boat" was to be directed by Hype Williams and that filming would begin the following day.[36] Nearly sixty people worked on the video in the Bahamas.[37] On August 22, she filmed underwater shots for the video in Miami, Florida.[38] On August 23, Aaliyah and employees of Virgin Records America flew to the Bahamas on two flights using a Fairchild Metro III, chartered through Sky Limo.[37] She was scheduled to leave the Bahamas on August 26, but chose to leave the day before since she had finished early. Williams recalled: "Aaliyah left mid-production, so we were still shooting when she left".[39] When discussing working with Aaliyah on the video Williams stated, "Those four days were very beautiful for everyone. We all worked together as a family," Williams said Monday, adding that the camaraderie on the set was a refreshing change from the usual shoot. "The last day, Saturday, was one of the best I've had in this business. Everyone felt part of something special, part of her song."[40] Due to the tragedy surrounding Aaliyah's death there was an uncertainty about the release date for the video. In a press release a spokesperson from Aaliyah's label, Blackground Records, "said it was too soon to say what would become of the footage".[40] The music video made its world premiere on BET's Access Granted on Tuesday October 9, 2001 it was a half-hour documentary on the making of the video.[41] BET producer Kevin Taylor, who was in the Bahamas filming the shoot, described the clip as "gorgeous and sensual".[41]


The music video for "Rock the Boat" was directed by Hype Williams,[42] and it begins with Aaliyah "on the beach, her back to the ocean. Wearing a red top, dangling hoop earrings and shimmering gold eye shadow, she sings "Rock the Boat's slyly suggestive lyrics."[40] The next scene in the video features Aaliyah dancing on a catamaran, on a beach in Marsh Harbour and swimming under water in the ocean. Other scenes include Aaliyah dancing in tide waves that is Computer-generated imagery. The dance routine was choreographed by Aaliyah's close friend Fatima Robinson. Dancers in the video include Carmit Bachar, Denosh Bennett, Nadine Ellis and Electrik Red members Binkie and Lesley.[43] When describing the video's recurring theme BET producer Kevin Taylor mentioned "It's very ethereal and heavenly,".[41] He also stated There are lots of shots of water and clouds, and the video ends with Aaliyah swimming up from the bottom of a pool, almost looking like she's going into the clouds. It's really beautiful."[41] The video was ranked at number 93 on Billboard's 100 Greatest Music Videos of the 21st Century list.[44] Rebecca Milzoff from Billboard praised the video and said "The video for Aaliyah's sinuous "Rock the Boat" might have easily gone down as just one of the many examples of the beloved singer's preternatural cool and low-key sex appeal, featuring Aaliyah leading an all-female ensemble in understatedly sexy moves mirroring the song's hypnotic, undulating melody".[44]

Aaliyah's death[edit]

On Saturday, August 25, 2001, after Aaliyah and the record company employees had completed filming the music video for "Rock the Boat", at 6:50 p.m. (EDT), they boarded a twin-engine Cessna 402B (registration N8097W) at the Marsh Harbour Airport, located on the Abaco Islands, for the return trip back to Opa-locka Airport in Florida.[45] The return flight was originally booked for the following day, but filming had finished early, and Aaliyah and her entourage were eager to return to the U.S. They made the decision to leave immediately. The aircraft designated for the return flight was smaller than the one on which they had originally arrived, but it accommodated the whole party and all of their equipment.[46]

The passengers had grown impatient because the Cessna was supposed to arrive at 4:30 p.m. EDT, but did not arrive until 6:15 p.m. EDT.[37] Charter pilot Lewis Key claimed to have overheard passengers arguing with fellow pilot Luis Morales III prior to take off, adding that Morales warned them that there was too much weight for a "safe flight". Key further stated: "He tried to convince them the plane was overloaded, but they insisted they had chartered the plane and they had to be in Miami Saturday night."[47] Key indicated that Morales gave in to the passengers and that he had trouble starting one of the engines.[48]

The aircraft crashed shortly after takeoff, about 200 feet (60 m) from the runway.[45] Aaliyah and the eight others on board: Morales, hair stylist Eric Foreman, Anthony Dodd, security guard Scott Gallin, family friend Keith Wallace, make-up artist Christopher Maldonado, and Blackground Records employees Douglas Kratz and Gina Smith were all killed.[49] Gallin survived the initial impact and, according to paramedics, spent his last moments worrying about Aaliyah's condition. Kathleen Bergen, spokeswoman for the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in Atlanta, identified the aircraft as being owned by Florida-based company Skystream. Initial crash reports identified Luis Morales as "L Marael".[50]

Key suggested that engine failure, along with overloading of the aircraft, could have caused the crash, recalling that others had seen the plane experience an engine failure on takeoff. One witness believed that no one could have survived the accident because of the crash intensity and the fact that the aircraft had disintegrated upon impact. He also recalled the condition of the bodies: "It was an awful sight. Some bodies were so badly disfigured, you couldn't identify them. And two guys were alive — one screaming and screaming for help. He was horribly burned all over."[47] A 25-year-old charter pilot who witnessed the crash saw the Cessna go down as he was working on some machinery "about half a mile" away. He recalled the aircraft being only "60 to 100 feet" off the ground before it crashed. He went to get a fire truck and was stunned by what he saw upon arriving at the crash site. "I've seen crashes before but that was probably one of the worst ones," he said. "It was pretty devastating. The aircraft was broken into pieces and some of the seats were thrown from the aircraft."[51]



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External links[edit]