Thoughts On 'Aaliyah: The Princess of R&B' Biopic

Photo Credit: Lifetime

By now, I'm sure you're well aware the biopic Aaliyah: The Princess of R&B premiered on Lifetime last night. And if you're friends with anyone born after say, 1980, who has a Facebook, Twitter and/or Instagram account, you're also more than aware that folks were NOT here for it.

I considered doing a long-form review, but since this egregious mess robbed me of two hours of my life I don't see the need to give it any undue keyboard space. So here a few thoughts:

--Who in the hell worked as casting agent on this film? I'll give them credit for coming close with Alexandra Shipp, the actress who played Aaliyah, (who no doubt is hiding out somewhere far away from electronic devices and wi-fi connections), but what were they thinking with R.Kelly? And why was a Big Sean impersonator hired to play Damon Dash? And let's not even get started on Missy and Timbaland. Really Lifetime? Did someone forget about Google Images? All it took was a quick search for "Missy Eliott and Timbaland 1997" and you could have seen the pre-Under Construction weight, S-curls and finger waves in all their late-90's glory.

--The dialogue on this movie was terrible. Almost every conversation, save for the ones between Aaliyah and her mother, felt stilted and clunky. And no shade against Aaliyah--by all accounts and every interview I've seen, she was an intelligent, thoughtful and articulate individual--but I highly doubt that at 16 or 17, she would have spoken about her music or desire to be an actress in those terms to record executives or agents. Artistic self-confidence aside, she was still a teenager, and the dialogue just didn't feel natural. And, as fellow blogger Toddy English pointed out, the actress' accent was more Southern Cali than native Detroit.

--The absence of Aaliyah's music, beyond a few songs she did covers of, severely hurt this flick, which could've used all the help it could get. I understand the movie's producers had to make due, given the family was not on board. But in the end, biopics about singers and musicians are about well, the music, and the moments when those indelible tunes came to life. While her career was tragically short, baby girl created some memorable cuts. "Age Ain't Nuthin' But A Number," "Back and Forth," "Four Page Letter" and of course, "One In A Million," are all certified R&B classics. Without Aaliyah's signature songs, this could have been a film about anybody.

--No original music meant we couldn't spend time in the studio with Bizarro Tim and Missy and Aaliyah as they created One In A Million, an album which helped set the template for much of late 90's/early 00's R&B. It would have certainly helped strengthen the idea of Aaliyah trying to get out from under the shadow of R.Kelly, professionally and personally. Instead, more attention had to be given to Aaliyah's acting career, which while promising, was not the main reason people loved her. At least in my opinion.

All in all, this was a Grade A, USDA primed piece of flaming hot mess. While I'll give the producers credit for not shying away from the marriage to R.Kelly, Aaliyah deserved a lot better than this garbage. I'm hoping Lifetime does right by Whitney where her biopic airs in January. But even with Angela Bassett directing and the film incorporating her songs (though they're being sung by Deborah Cox) that's a long shot.


Kevin T said…
It was just awful and better suited for a 6 second Vine.