Album: Aaliyah (2001)

First thing: Aaliyah is singing her ass off. The drums and piano come in hard, and then she belts: "I gave it all to you." Even if you didn't have the past tense of the verb to tip you off, her voice gives you everything you need to know about how the receiving end of that sentence is a no good motherfucker who will not be getting it all ever again. Or never no more, if you please.

What follows the opening declaration is bracingly real talk about physical abuse in a relationship. "I thought I had lost you, when you twist back my arm/Cause the man I thought I knew wouldn't do me no harm," she sings. The lyrics are nothing but plain and honest when she describes that first time: "I didn't sleep that night/I held my pillow tight/Now trust me when I say, 'You have been told'/I'm telling you never to touch me no more."

The past tense of that first line, though, is deceiving. This isn't a message delivered after having left the abusive relationship. The song's protagonist seems still caught up with the MFer in the final verse: "I just know you better not touch me again or I'll walk away." That simple future tense is the hardest part to hear. —Ross Scarano

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