Album: One in a Million (1996)

More than any other song she recorded, Aaliyah's "4 Page Letter" rewards patience. The fade in on the beat and Chappelle's Show opening ("Yo, turn my music up") is something of a farce in 2014 (though, with the artist gone, there's something undeniably important about hearing her speaking voice). Her enunciation asks that you linger on individual words she sings, when she finally begins to, thirty-some seconds into the song. The beat plods and shakes a lonely maraca line across the space of "4 Page Letter." Even that title suggests a long unfolding-four pages is time for a lot of reflection and longing. The other vocals, sounding so much like samples-the ooing, the wailing-are like ghosts. Timbaland's production is like a haunted maze you walk. And the final payoff you encounter, that languid synth line at nearly five minutes in, is so sticky and fine, you can't help but hit replay to find it again. —Ross Scarano