Once again, Lifetime tried to conquer the biopic. Unlike the Brittany Murphy disaster, they avoided wigs and their casting department at least got someone who looked similar to Aaliyah.
When I found out that there was an Aaliyah movie in the works, I was really excited. Like most women in my generation, I grew up listening to her. Her music reflected our everyday problems, from a crush that could be more to the pain of a first heartbreak. When we lost her, it was a huge blow to not only the hip hop industry, but to music as a whole. Aaliyah truly changed the game, creating her own sound and style. Because of her, we now have artists like BANKS and FKA twigs. I can only imagine what Aaliyah would be doing now.
Lifetime failed again, though. As soon as they lost Zendaya as the lead, they scrambled to find another actress to play Aaliyah. Alexandra Shipp bore a striking resemblance to the late singer, but Lifetime’s rush to get the movie done botched any success this biopic could have had. The acting often felt forced. The storyline frequently skipped ahead, excluding important details (like Aaliyah landing a major role in Queen of the Damned). Although there were no bad wigs in this movie, Lifetime’s recorded versions of the few Aaliyah songs that they could get the rights to were mediocre at best and awful at worst.
Shipp probably has a beautiful voice, but the final products were overly mastered. Every lyric was enunciated excruciatingly slowly. Shipp could easily hit the same notes as Aaliyah, but the effect was lost because of the horrible production in studio. Whoever was in charge of the music really did not understand Aaliyah’s style.
I might be biased, because I compare every biopic to Jennifer Lopez as Selena—one of my all-time favorite movies. Aaliyah: Princess of R&B felt slapdash, as if Lifetime’s producers didn’t care as much about honoring Aaliyah as they did about just getting the damned thing done. After doing some research, I discovered that Aaliyah’s family was strongly against Lifetime doing it—and for good reason. Lifetime destroyed the Brittany Murphy movie, which was shocking to me because I grew up watching Lifetime movies. They can be cheesy, but they at least look better produced than that mess.
Lifetime also screwed up by exposing the rumored marriage between a fifteen-year-old Aaliyah and her producer R. Kelly. They softened the blow by portraying it as puppy love, but from what I understand, the family did not want that included in the film, and has never publicly confirmed the relationship.
Supposedly, the Haughton family has their own biopic in the works. I’m sure that whatever they were planning will now have to wait because of Lifetime’s disrespectful race to be first.