From now on, it’s quality over category.
-Written by Vinny Guarino
But don’t take it from me — I’m just a dude typing on a laptop — take it from Donald Glover —one of the most successful young artists in music, TV and now film. Yup, if you’re a Star Wars fan then you know he was recently cast as Lando Calrissian in the upcoming Han Solo movie.
In a February interview with BigBoyTV, Glover said, “I think genre is dead. I really do believe in just being — people want quality. People want excellence… there really is no genre anymore, so you just have to make something new.”
Atlanta, his Golden-Globe Award-winning television series is proof of his theory. While the show has obvious comedic elements, it also delves heavily into political and social commentary. One episode of the first season hilariously features a black guy acting as Justin Bieber while another episode deals with transphobia, mental illness, and poor treatment of prisoners. This unpredictability keeps the show fresh and interesting.
So far, in 2017, I can point to three major productions that found great success without adhering to genre standards: Logan, Get Out, and More Life.
Logan is barely a superhero movie. As someone who thinks this category has suffered tremendously from following a certain formula, that’s a good thing. Sure, it’s about Wolverine and X-Men but you really don’t have to know anything about those characters to enjoy the movie. Why? Because it operates on many unique levels — bringing forth something new to the theaters in general — not just to the superhero category.
A review of Logan in The New York Times reads, “It’s part western, part neo-noir, the kind of movie in which a stranger steps from the shadows and shakes off his isolation and existential burden long enough to right whatever wrong needs righting.” Fans love it — it’s a box office success and critical triumph. Comic book movies have never been considered for awards like “Best Picture” but the talk about Logan breaking the mold has already begun.
In my opinion, the only genre that’s more predictable and formulaic than superhero is horror. So many of them rely on quick jolts for scares as well as other cliches. Get Out takes a unique approach and explores horror from the perspective of a young black man traveling to meet the parents of his sweet white girlfriend.
One of the creepiest scenes from Get Out has sparked a funny new Internet craze.
It’s hard to call it a horror movie because there were so many scenes that were flat-out hilarious. Seeing this movie in theaters was truly a fun experience. I went twice this past weekend and both crowds were lively — reacting out loud to a terrifying moment and dying from laughter a minute later. The low budget film has made over $140 million at the box office so far and maintains a rare 99% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The best part? Director Jordan Peele says he has three or four more horror/social commentary flicks in mind for the future.
Finally, we have More Life. It always comes back to Drake, doesn’t it? His newest project is billed as a playlist, not an album. It has 22 songs and runs over 80 minutes long. He explores trap, R&B, dancehall, and his trademark personal reflection raps. He also gives a platform to foreign artists who don’t have big followings in the U.S. like Giggs, Skepta, Sampha, Jorja Smith, Black Coffee, and more.
Jon Caramanica, the brilliant hip-hop writer for The New York Times described the distinction between the playlist and the album in his article on Monday better than I could so here ya go:
“...the playlist also suggests an aesthetic shift from the album, which in its platonic ideal form is narratively structured and contained, a creator’s complete thought expressed in parts. A playlist in the streaming era, by contrast, is a collection of moods, impressions, influences and references; it’s a river that flows in one direction, ending somewhere far from the beginning (if it ends at all).
This format — relaxed, circuitous, able to take in both his own work and also work by others — is particularly well suited to Drake, who’s as definable by his taste as by his sound.”
Essentially, Drake is changing his approach to releasing music with the times. He’s taking risks to bring the world something it hasn’t seen before. That approach earned him 90 million streams in the first day of the playlist’s release so you might say people are kinda into it.
Bottom line: forget genres, throw away your formulas, and make something fresh for the people. It’s 2017 after all.