So the verdict is in on the highly anticipated Queen biopic Bohemian Rhapsody: a bit of a letdown. None of the critical huff surrounding the film, which opens in theaters today, has anything to do with Rami Malek’s brilliant, riveting portrayal of Queen’s late, larger-than-life frontman, Freddie Mercury. And the genre-hopping British band’s rich musical catalog (when you can go from this to this, you pretty much live up to the hype) is as grandiose as ever. No, the universal reaction to Bohemian Rhapsody is that it plays it much too safe with Mercury’s bisexuality and his untimely 1991 watershed death from AIDS.
Indeed, for every triumphant theatrical biopic like Tina Turner’s What’s Love Got to Do With It (1993), Ray Charles’ Ray (2004), Johnny Cash’s Walk the Line (2005), and N.W.A.’s Straight Outta Compton (2015), there’s the uninspiring works like Tupac Shakur drama All Eyez On Me (2017). So, fair warning to Hollywood suits looking for the next artist to immortalize. Ranging from the absurd to the serious, here are eight musical acts that would NOT translate well in biopic form.
Contrary to popular belief, Rob Van Winkle’s universally panned, comically awful, early ‘90s cinematic train crash Cool as Ice was not a biopic. It is, however, more emphatic proof that rap’s ultimate great-white-dope grifter, whose 1991 debut album To the Extreme currently stands at an unfathomable seven million copies in the U.S. alone, should be left in the dustbin of shameful pop culture moments, laughable running man and all.
Boyz II Men
Let’s be clear. Philadelphia’s native sons Boyz II Men are not only the best-selling R&B group of all time, they rank amongst the most commercially acclaimed music acts of the ‘90s with 60 million albums sold worldwide and five no. 1 Billboard Hot 100 singles. And it’s certainly not a matter of talent. At their foursome peak, the “End of the Road” multi-platinum superstars, who today still deliver crisp harmonies as a trio, sang most serious vocalists under the table. No, the reason Boyz II Men made our list is there’s not much New Edition-like drama to their perpetually sedated story.
The unlikely fairytale of a bold, two-fisted 16-year-old Australian girl moving to the United States to pursue a rap career certainly sounds intriguing. Then you realize that the plucky Aussie is Iggy Azalea, who, since garnering an initial HUGE co-sign from Trap Music godfather T.I. and a no. 1 hit (2014’s “Fancy”), has taken a dramatic tumble. A canceled tour here and a curious plastic surgery debate there, these days Iggy resembles the cheeky answer to a trivia question.
On paper, Charles Hamilton’s pioneering, cautionary tale as arguably hip-hop’s first “internet rapper” would be perfect for the big screen. In the late ’00s, the Harlem rapper made noise as the new age emcee that sidestepped traditional recording industry waves and dropped the self-produced, independent 2008 statement The Pink Lavalamp. Unfortunately, Hamilton became known more for his bizarre behavior and embarrassingly getting punched in the face by manager and ex girlfriend Briana Latrise than his deeply introspective, personal lyrics detailing substance abuse and mental illness.
The list of R. Kelly’s alleged victims grows as the self-proclaimed Pied Piper of R&B continues to face fierce protests while on tour. Indeed, when accusations of having a five-year affair with another’s man wife and giving her an STI is the least of your worries, you know your career is on life support. By now, the singer-songwriter’s long history of alleged sexual and physical abuse and accusations of pedophilia have dwarfed his once celebrated musical career. It’s a sobering story that’s so disturbing that a biopic would largely trivialize R. Kelly’s monstrous behavior.
Low-key mediocrity aside, T-Swizzle’s otherworldly cultural impact is legit. Her record-breaking Reputation stadium tour is now the highest grossing concert trek by a female music artist, pulling in an astounding $289.2 million through the end of the third quarter. And “Woke Taylor” has shown more level-headed, political awareness than Mr. Kardashian (), using her mammoth popularity to weigh in on her home state Tennessee’s senate race. But like the aforementioned Boyz II Men, Swift’s real life come-up is about as exciting as watching milk spoil.
Kiss’ resident mouthpiece Gene Simmons is easily music’s most prolific A-hole, a distinction that’s pretty impressive considering that the prolific list of A-holes in the recording biz is pretty vast. The clown band’s cantankerous demon, who once bristled at N.W.A.’s and hip-hop’s overall inclusion in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and found himself apologizing for highly offensive remarks he made over Prince’s tragic 2016 death, is the biggest reason why few, outside the diehards, would take a Kiss flick seriously.
How far has the beloved Beyoncé evolved? The at times artistically-safe, Houston debutante of Destiny’s Child now stands as arguably the most important talent of her generation; a force so vast that she transcends mere pop star constrictions. Which is why a Destiny’s Child biopic makes little sense in the big scheme of things. Yes, B, Kelly Rowland, Michelle Williams, and past contributing DC members should be praised for breathing much-needed life into the somewhat stagnant girl group genre. But it’s hard imagining the Knowles clan signing off on any film detailing Destiny’s Child’s behind-the-scenes juicy, backstabbing messiness.
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