Don’t watch the Aaliyah biopic; read about her instead

There are clips floating around out there of the made-for-Lifetime (by now, it’s in a different league than made-for-TV) biopic of Aaliyah, the latest in the channel’s assembly-line output of stars fallen too soon. The Anna Nicole biopic was OK. I didn’t see the Brittany Murphy one. Supposedly a Marilyn Monroe one is on the way.

In theory, the Aaliyah biopic should be lightning in a bottle. It’s a great time for black actors and black stories on TV; not since the peak of UPN and WB have there been so much color on the small screen. And it’s a great time to be nostalgic about 1990s and 2000s R&B. The TLC biopic on VH1 was hot like fire. (Double the references in that pun there, can you catch it?)

The thing about the TLC biopic is that no one wanted to give it a chance. Not only did it feel too soon (I mean, neither of the two surviving members are close to the retirement ages of biopic subjects in the past), but the standards were so high for the actors that we were all skeptical. Fortunately the cast and crew (especially Lil’ Mama as Left-Eye, whew!) proved us wrong. Based on these clips from the Aaliyah movie, I’m not getting that same feeling. Just watch this (clicking the link opens the video in a separate link; click here if that doesn’t work for you. WordPress!).

Aaliyah deserves better. If you’re old enough to have lived in Detroit when “Back & Forth” first hit the radio — I mean, when it first started getting airplay, before the album came out — you remember that everybody claimed to know the girl. Everybody’s cousin used to date her, she used to babysit for everybody, she used to be at all these spots. Keep in mind mid-90s Detroit, where we still had big stars living and still putting out music, we hadn’t had a new star emerge from the city that was correctly positioned on the seismic sound shift that R&B was going through at the time. Several tried before and after; y’all don’t remember Perri or Body or — let’s take it way back — Fabu, do you? But there’s a reason why Aaliyah, Monica and Brandy hit like they did.

History has painted Aaliyah as a private, mysterious person, but in truth she really told you everything you needed to know while she was here. Just prior to her death, she gave a wide-ranging interview to VIBE answering things you should not be asking about today: No, she never was with Jay-Z. Yes, the “Sparkle” remake was originally made for her. There’s a reason why she wore her hair with the single bang. Read it all.

The clip above deals with Aaliyah’s marriage to R. Kelly. (The dude playing him looks nothing like him.) Again, why watch, when you can read all those details here — again in VIBE? But if you read this one and the other article, there’s something Aaliyah does in both situations that tells you everything you need to know. See if you can figure it out.


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