Unsung (TV series)
Unsung logo from TV One
|Country of origin||United States|
|Running time||60 minutes|
|Original channel||TV One|
|Original release||November 27, 2008|
Unsung is an hour-long music documentary program that airs on TV One. The series, which premiered November 27, 2008, uncovers the stories behind once well-known R&B and soul music artists, bands, or groups who exploded onto the Billboard music charts with a string of hits, only to have their career derailed by a major crisis that caused them to be essentially unappreciated by later generations of contemporary R&B and soul music listeners. Subjects profiled also include acts who were major and influential in the prime of their career, but a change in the interest of the music industry towards the act caused a steep decline in success.
Episodes are packed with testimonies from music industry insiders, friends, and family, as well as artists who were contemporaries but whose careers continued to flourish through later decades.
- Each episode usually begins with an artist's upbringing and family, painting a picture of the issues driving them in their music career. Themes of "escaping the hard life of the streets" and "experiencing physical abuse", as well as "signs of musical genius", can be found in many of the lives of Unsung's subjects. Those interviewed in this segment of the show typically are relatives and friends, although some celebrities may be interviewed if the episode's subject is a group.
- The story then progresses into the trials and triumphs of the artist's early days in the music business, as the artist chases their "big break" which propels them into the limelight on the way to stardom. Fellow artists, music producers, and managers of that time pepper this section of the show with anecdotes of the artist's musical prowess and potential, and possible hints to what may have led to the subject's downfall.
- The next stage highlights the pinnacle of the artist's fame with the perqs and perils that come with it.
- The final part of the show details the "turning point", in which a major incident, typically of a tragic or health-related nature, occurred that caused the artist to put their music career on hold for an indefinite period, if not permanently.
Unsung has tailored this formula, depending on the show's subject, to portray artists whose "turning point" occurred for more business or personal reasons, and who may have recovered from it to continue a far less famous, but rewarding, career. An example includes The Spinners, a legendary R&B group with 17 Billboard Top-40 hits (7 of which were in the top 10) between 1961 and 1980, yet they have never received a Grammy award and nor been inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. These facts qualify the group for an episode of Unsung.
Public & Critical Reception
As of 2010, Unsung has enjoyed steady growth, particularly in African-American households, as each season has aired.
After four seasons, Unsung won an NAACP Image Award in the "Outstanding Information Series or Special" category. Others nominated in this category for 2011 were Anderson Cooper 360° and Washington Watch with Roland Martin.
One aspect of note to the Unsung series is the sense of closure given to both the series' fans and the families of the artists who have died, as in the case of Roger Troutman of Zapp. Troutman's brother stated that the public was finally on the same page as the family with regard to realizing that no one really knows what happened between Roger and Larry Troutman the fatal morning of the incident (in 1999).
Recording artist Stephanie Mills has gone on record as not being a fan of the show. She admits that she has been approached by producers of the series to either be a commentator or the star of an episode, and has denied them access of her personal life; she does not believe she is "unsung".
On October 2013, TV One announced Unsung would receive a spin-off titled Unsung Hollywood, to premiere on February 26, 2014. Unsung Hollywood focuses on actors and comedians, as well as prominent films and TV shows influential in the African American community. The second season of Unsung Hollywood premiered on February 11, 2015. Subjects of Unsung Hollywood have included episodes on: Pam Grier, Robin Harris, What's Happening!!, Dick Gregory, Redd Foxx, A Different World, Sheryl Underwood, Vivica A. Fox, Richard Roundtree and others.
List of artists, bands and groups profiled on Unsung
- "TV One's 'Unsung' hits the right note for Black music lovers". theloop21.com. Retrieved 2010-10-08.
- "TV series puts 'Unsung' black music stars back in the spotlight". popmatters.com. Retrieved 2011-06-06.
- "TV One's 2009-10 season the highest in network's six-year history". Target Market News. October 21, 2010.
- "'Unsung Gets First NAACY Image Award Nomination; New Season Scoop". Black Voices Newswire. January 13, 2011.
- Serwer, Jesse (2010-03-29). "On TV One's 'Unsung,' singer Stacy Lattisaw gets a second life". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2010-03-29.
- Obenson, Tambay A (May 29, 2012). "Don't Expect To See Stephanie Mills On TV One's Popular "Unsung" Series Anytime Soon...". IndieWire.
- Daniels, Karu F. (October 24, 2013). "'Unsung': Behind the (Black) Music". Ebony.
- "Season 4/Episode 31- 'The Story of The Ohio Players'". Unsung. July 4, 2011.