As a longtime Aaliyah fan, I have only just realized what a great coach she was. Yes, that’s right, coach. While there’s no denying that “Rock the Boat” could easily two step you into the bedroom, and even lend a hand when it comes to directions, it is so much more.
There’s no shortage of advice on how to achieve x, y or z behind closed doors in the internet age, but sometimes an explicit example is necessary. ‘Rock the Boat’ is just that, only ironically subtle. Let me explain.
When it comes to sex, it can be a little uncomfortable starting a dialogue about likes, dislikes, needs and the shebang, there’s no denying it. Aaliyah delves right into the conversation with a sultry voice right from the start. Ideally, that’s how things should go. There was no shame in her game and that I can applaud. While this song was released thirteen years ago, I find that it promotes a sex-positive philosophy and comes from a place of empowerment. It’s one thing to take matters into your own hands, it is another to guide. Her approach is so unthreatening that I had no idea she was coaching lovers until today. Throughout the entire song she is giving her partner directions without ever sounding like a drill sergeant, encouraging without being inauthentic all in a safe, comfortable environment of mmm’s and ooh’s that truly allow a person to thrive.
I’m a pretty firm believer in the saying “It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it”. The way Aaliyah asks for what she needs is so graceful. Now, not everyone is a songbird, but that doesn’t mean our wants and needs aren’t just as valid. Sex can be one of the most vulnerable experiences and treating people with care should be written in the rules somewhere. No one wants to be mid-romp getting bossed around, feeling incompetent and like they might get subliminally tweeted about in a post-sex selfie with #fail. No one needs that. Go ahead and be vocal but don’t be insensitive about it. When Aaliyah needs a little more she gives permission. Pretty sure THAT is the secret. “Go ahead and put that thing in overdrive” may be a mouthful but at least it’s not hurtful. And see, no egos were harmed while rocking her boat.
While giving pep talks may not be your cup of tea, using them between the sheets is pretty genius if you ask me. Aaliyah delivers a breathy pep talk that not only gets your engines going but instills confidence and hope. Okay, maybe not hope exactly, but when’s the last time you told someone to reach down deep within themselves and “use [themselves] like [they] never used it before”? That right there speaks to the soul, that untapped potential that people keep talking about. It’s about heart and getting in there like you’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain.
I highly recommend dusting off Aaliyah’s self-titled album and seeing if ‘Rock the Boat’ sounds different now. It was always sexy, but this is pretty much straight out of the sex goddess playbook. And unlike most of the articles you’ll likely stumble upon, you can hear just how it should be done. Not everything should be left to imagination, especially when you’re worried of sounding too harsh, unnatural, or even emasculating. Leave it to Aaliyah, the princess of R&B, and now the coach of all coaches.