On Saturday evening Lifetime showed their controversial biographical movie “Aaliyah: Pricess of R&B”, which was marred with issues during production including the original actress to portray Aaliyah (Disney’s Zendaya Coleman), leaving in mid production and the family and estate of the late R&B singer not allowing the use of her music and image.
TV and radio host Wendy Williams was executive producer for this film and at one point among the heavy negative Twitter response Wendy tweeted herself that the song “Let Me Know” was one of her favorites. Problem is the song (which like the rest of Aaliyah’s catalog was not allowed in the production), is named “At Your Best You Are Love” and its a Isley Brothers song.
This film was filled with actors that didn’t look like the people they were portraying (Missy Elliott was very thin for how she was in 1997 and Damon Dash was very tall), and the story was told very fast. It felt like listening to a Aaliyah’s records on 45 speed when it should have been on 33 1/3.
Now I was a huge Aaliyah fan, I remember first hearing WGCI play her first hit “Back & Forth” in May of 1994 while I was driving eastbound on Lawrence Avenue one Saturday and thinking, “Wow, who is that” and it was an immediate hit and she quickly grew from there even at the tender age of 15 years old. I think there was a definite resonance with her here in Chicago because her debut album was produced by local R&B star R. Kelly.
The movie portrayed their initial meeting, album work and eventual romance just on this side of creepy. Yes there were rumors of a romance between them and supposed marriage but the movie spent some time on this and though that was her controversial beginning, she became so much more than that. Plus haven’t most of us had a bad early romance?
This movie spent an incredible amount of time on Aaliyah’s love life but without the music rights, interviews and other essentials to her estate, I guess that’s all else there is. Also so much was focused on her mom and her living at home in Detroit (though she was born in New York), at one point she is portrayed as an million selling artist still living in her childhood bedroom, it seemed inauthentic.
The movie also had wobbly if not incorrect timeline. Aaliyah released her debut album “Age Aint Nothing But a Number” (with R Kelly), in the summer of 1994 but then due to the split with him and a record label change (from Jive to Atlantic), her next album “One In a Million” wasn’t released until the summer of 1996. But the movie portrays this time awkwardly with her being indecisive about her career when actually she was part of other projects including the rap group Junior Mafia’s gold selling album “Conspiracy” and she was on a hit song called “I Need You Tonight” in 1995.
I admit to watching this movie and keeping an eye on Twitter for Lifetime posted on the bottom of the screen #Aaliyahmovie and man did the listeners light up twitterspehere with ongoing criticism of the production. At times the twitter comments rivaled the entertainment of the movie and with several topics of the movie trending on Twitter, Lifetime actually removed the posted hashtag around halfway through the movie.
But Aaliyah had such a dedicated following, so many of people my age grooved to her music, watched her mature from a young artist to a great singer, actress with ever growing roles and a beautiful, positive role model.
So when this movie had flat roles, even had vehicles that weren’t time correct (twice General Motors SUVs that weren’t made yet were shown), and could only show the actress portraying Aaliyah sing remakes of songs some of us had never heard, hence the criticism.
There is word that a major motion picture that will be shown nationwide will be in full release next summer, lets hope it has Aaliyah’s great music and tells her full story.
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