It’s unlikely that many pop albums would have a chance to be staged in an even off-off-off Broadway context. The audience overlap just isn’t there for most albums, and the closest thing we have right now is a nebulous Tupac musical somewhere on the horizon. But that doesn’t mean that a narrative interpretation of an album doesn’t have a chance in another medium. Until now, films associated with albums and artists have mostly stuck to the concert or documentary varieties. Think Katy Perry or Justin Bieber. It’s been a long time since Pink Floyd’s The Wall.
However there have been several artists in recent memory who have expressed the desire to have their albums given a more narrative treatment. Chief among these was the album many consider to be 2012’s best: Kendrick Lamar’s good kid m.A.A.d city. The album was billed as “a short film by Kendrick Lamar,” and there have been rumors floating around that Kendrick might be partnering with Shia LaBeouf to actually make that a reality. The move from "extended" music video (which has become an increasingly common form) to actual film is a daunting one, and it's no wonder that Kendrick has waited so long to begin this project. What Here Lies Love suggests is that a potential blueprint for success for good kid m.A.A.d city the film could rest in dynamism. Kendrick used the overlay of voicemails to anchor the narrative of his album and create an incredibly personal feel. This type of innovation could be a key to maintaining audience interest in the absence of overt dialogue.
At a time when some musicians—Odd Future for example—have begun turn their music careers into multi-faceted art businesses, is narrative film or theater a viable option to bolster an album's resonance?
At a time when some musicians—Odd Future for example—have begun turn their music careers into multi-faceted art businesses, is narrative film or theater a viable option to bolster an album's resonance? I came away from the theatrical production of Here Lies Love with a much-heightened sense of appreciation for the album itself, and the staged images have grounded my recent listening. Because of this, though I already have a strong sense of the story hardwired into good kid m.A.A.d city, I have high hopes for a possible film. But rumors are rumors, and Shia LaBeouf isn’t necessarily the most reliable collaboration partner, so until the cameras start to roll, it seems we'll have to be content with Kanye’s bizarre Yeezus short film starring Scott Disick. Your move, Kendrick.