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Urban Soul: The Making of Modern R&B (2004)

TV Movie  |   |  Documentary  |  4 January 2004 (UK)
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Title: Urban Soul: The Making of Modern R&B (TV Movie 2004)

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Credited cast:
Themselves (as Boyz II Men)
Edward George ...
Mark Anthony Neal ...
Teddy Riley ...
Greg Tate ...
Armond White ...


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Release Date:

4 January 2004 (UK)  »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.78 : 1
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Interesting and quite enjoyable for casual fans but fails to explore or question anything and is a bit dull as a result
6 May 2007 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

A history of the growth of r&b music from being a race-specific genre to being the single biggest musical force in modern popular culture. Starting with artists Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston, the film takes the development in bite-sized chunks between the early 1980's and present day, encompassing acts like Boys II Men, Jodeci, TLC, Mary J Blige, Usher and others.

With R&B and hip hop being the dominant musical styles in popular music today (like it or not rock fans) this documentary appealed to me because I am a fan of some types of this music. As such the film did interest me despite the mostly superficial coverage. The problem is perhaps understandable because it does cover a big period in musical history and a lot of artists. This gives us a sweeping history that will be interesting for anyone who has a passing interesting in the music and the artists because it has lots of relevant contributors, lots of clips from videos and so on.

So far so good I suppose but the film never really takes the subject beyond this level to become more interesting or valuable than a sort of catalogue with some basic opinion thrown in. There are nuggets to be had and here and there we have some nice detail that I didn't know, or some opinion that grabbed my attention. However more notable is what is missing. There is no discussion of the faults with the musical genre such as the strong sexual nature of it (in particular towards the presentation of women). Nor is there any discussion of whether it has as much value in the mainstream as it once did as a factor within the black community. There is talk of aspiration but this isn't ever questioned or examined – only stated.

This is the fault of the film in how it is all put together I suspect because it certainly is not for a want of contributors because here it is deep. They have a lot of the artists to talk about themselves and one another as well as a lot of producers, studio executives and social commentators – all of whom seem happy to talk and make for interesting subjects. It was up to the makers to push and explore with these subjects and unfortunately they don't manage (or try) to do this.

It is still a reasonably interesting affair but like so much of modern R&B it is very slick and easy to get into but is also quite fleeting and superficial.

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