Aaliyah: The Princess of R&B

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Aaliyah The Princess of R&B poster.jpg
Promotional poster
Based onAaliyah: More than a Woman
by Christopher John Farley
Written byMichael Elliot
Directed byBradley Walsh
StarringAlexandra Shipp
Clé Bennett
Elise Neal
Country of originUnited States
Original language(s)English
Producer(s)Debra Martin Chase
Howard Braunstein
Wendy Williams
CinematographyAndré Pienaar
Editor(s)David B. Thompson
Running time90 minutes[1]
DistributorLifetime Television
Original release
  • November 15, 2014 (2014-11-15)

Aaliyah: The Princess of R&B is a 2014 made for television biographical film that was directed by Bradley Walsh and based on the biography Aaliyah: More than a Woman by Christopher John Farley.[2][3] The film premiered on the Lifetime Channel on November 15, 2014 and was met with criticism in its early stages of production due to Aaliyah's family's disapproval of Lifetime's choice to create the film. The film drew 3.2 million viewers upon its premiere, making it the second highest rated television film of 2014, despite overwhelmingly negative reviews.[2]


The film details the life of musician Aaliyah and her rise to fame in her early teens until her life was cut short in a 2001 plane crash in the Bahamas.



In June 2014 Lifetime announced their intent to film a biopic that would focus on the life of Aaliyah.[4] This decision was met with criticism by the singer's family, who did not believe that Lifetime was the best venue for the film and that they did not approve of the production as a whole.[2][5] As the family held control over the masters to Aaliyah's recordings, they did not allow Lifetime access to that material,[4] resulting in the company having to record covers for the songs used in the film.[6] Four of her songs (two covers) were used in the film: the Isley Brothers' "At Your Best (You Are Love)," Marvin Gaye's "Got to Give It Up," "Journey to the Past" and "The One I Gave My Heart To."

The decision to bring on actress and singer Zendaya to perform as Aaliyah was also met with criticism, as people felt that Zendaya was too light skinned and did not greatly resemble Aaliyah.[7] She later dropped out of the project and the role of Aaliyah was recast with Alexandra Shipp.[8] Zendaya explained her reasons for leaving the production, stating that "The main reason is that the production value wasn't there, there were complications with the music rights, and I just felt like it wasn't being handled delicately considering the situation", also adding she tried contacting the singer's family to no avail.[9] In order to prepare for her role, Alexandra Shipp watched archive footage of Aaliyah and listened to her songs in order to try to mimic her mannerisms and singing voice.[10]


Critical reception to Aaliyah: The Princess of R&B has been predominantly negative.[11][12][13][14] Jon Caramanica of The New York Times panned the film, criticizing it as "ham-handed" and "underwhelming" and writing "Condensing the singer's life into such a short space requires a cruel knife and, in this case, a wildly imprecise one. A good film doesn't show its seams. This one — based on Aaliyah: More Than a Woman, a biography by Christopher John Farley — is mostly seams. Much of the acting has dull edges, and the screenplay is aggravatingly stilted."[15] The Wall Street Journal also criticized the film, commenting that the "overuse of the three and four-way split screen montages only enhanced the lack of material."[16]

Viewer reaction for the film has been extremely negative and fans mocked the film on social media websites,[2][17] using the hashtags #LifetimeBiopics and #LifetimeBeLike.[18][19][20] Viewers felt that Shipp was miscast as Aaliyah, that the late singer's controversial relationship with R. Kelly was overly romanticized, and that the music covers did not do justice to the original songs.[21][22] Fans further commented on the film's casting as a whole and many created pictures that overly exaggerated what they felt was extreme miscasting of many of the celebrities depicted in the film.[23][24][25]


  1. ^ "Aaliyah: The Princess of R&B Common Sense Media Listing". Common Sense Media. Retrieved May 22, 2017.
  2. ^ a b c d Bacle, Ariana. "Twitter was not happy with Lifetime's Aaliyah biopic". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 17 November 2014.
  3. ^ Kennedy, Gerrick D. "Storm over TV film on Aaliyah shows she's still beloved, influential". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 17 November 2014.
  4. ^ a b Nededog, Jethro. "Aaliyah's Family Speaks Out on Biopic: Lifetime Is the 'Wrong Forum'". The Wrap. Retrieved 17 November 2014.
  5. ^ Stedman, Alex. "Zendaya Leaves Lifetime's Aaliyah Biopic". Variety. Retrieved 17 November 2014.
  6. ^ Yahr, Emily. "'Aaliyah: The Princess of R&B' producers defend, explain controversial Lifetime biopic". The Washington Post. Retrieved 17 November 2014.
  7. ^ Ge, Linda. "Zendaya Fires Back at Critics Over Aaliyah Casting Backlash". The Wrap. Retrieved 17 November 2014.
  8. ^ Agard, Chancellor. "Alexandra Shipp will replace Zendaya in Lifetime's Aaliyah biopic". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 17 November 2014.
  9. ^ "Zendaya Coleman Explains Why She Exited Aaliyah Biopic". The Hollywood Reporter. July 20, 2014. Retrieved January 21, 2016.
  10. ^ Zemler, Emily (15 November 2014). "Alexandra Shipp on Making Lifetime's Aaliyah Biopic: The Backlash Is "Ridiculous"". Time. Retrieved 17 November 2014.
  11. ^ Tigget, Jai. "Review: Five Things Missing from 'Aaliyah: The Princess of R&B'". IndieWire. Archived from the original on 18 November 2014. Retrieved 17 November 2014.
  12. ^ Rosa, Christopher. "Lifetime's Aaliyah Biopic: The Film That Should Never Have Been Made". VH1. Retrieved 17 November 2014.
  13. ^ Keene, Allison. "'Aaliyah: The Princess of R&B': TV Review". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 17 November 2014.
  14. ^ Madden Toby, Mekeisha. "'Aaliyah: The Princess of R&B' Review: Lifetime Movie Fails to Rock the Boat". The Wrap. Retrieved 17 November 2014.
  15. ^ Caramanica, Jon. "Resinging the Song of a Life Cut Short". The New York Times. Retrieved 17 November 2014.
  16. ^ Leeds, Sarene. "The Five Things We Took Away from 'Aaliyah: The Princess of R&B'". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 17 November 2014.
  17. ^ Heller, Corrine. "Aaliyah: The Princess of R&B Lifetime Movie: 5 Key Moments, Plus Alexandra Shipp, Missy Elliott, Timbaland & Viewers React". E!. Retrieved 17 November 2014.
  18. ^ Robertson, Iyana. "#LifetimeBiopics: Of Course Twitter Went In On The Aaliyah Biopic". VIBE. Retrieved 17 November 2014.
  19. ^ Coleman, C. Vernon. "Twitter Reacts To Aaliyah Bio With Hilarious #LifeTimeBiopics". XXL Mag. Retrieved 17 November 2014.
  20. ^ Hough, Cassandra. "The 9 Best Suggestions From #LifetimeBiopics Are Guaranteed To Make You Laugh Out Loud". Crushable. Retrieved 17 November 2014.
  21. ^ Bailie, Katie. "Aaliyah The Princess of R&B: The internet and Timbaland are seriously annoyed with Lifetime's biopic". Metro. Retrieved 17 November 2014.
  22. ^ Herrera, Paulina. "'Aaliyah: The Princess of R&B' fans rompen Twitter con críticas a la película". Variety Latino. Retrieved 17 November 2014.
  23. ^ Thompson, Avery. "'Aaliyah: The Princess Of R&B': Fans Mock Biopic In Funny Memes". Hollywood Life. Retrieved 17 November 2014.
  24. ^ Tardio, Andres. "Here's What Timbaland and Audiences Thought of Lifetime's Aaliyah Biopic". MTV. Retrieved 17 November 2014.
  25. ^ "The 15 Best Twitter Memes From Lifetime's 'Aaliyah: The Princess Of R&B' Biopic". Fashion & Style. Retrieved 17 November 2014.

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