This week sees the conclusion of our Black History Month programming with an incredible one-two punch - the documentary Devil’s Pie: D’Angelo, chronicling D’Angelo’ shocking return to the music world after a nearly decade-and-a-half sabbatical (this Thursday night at 6:30 p.m. - tickets still on sale!), followed by Saturday night’s musical celebration Groove Theory and the Band Bazaar Present the D’Angelo Experience. It’s going to be a one-of-a-kind celebration of a one-of-a-kind musician, and we can’t wait to see you there. But before you join us then, hang out with us now as we present a special Top Five Tuesday (on a Monday) countdown of…
THE TOP FIVE D’ANGELO NEEDLEDROPS IN CINEMA!
1. Scream 2 - She’s Always in My Hair
Scream 2 Opening from Adam Fletcher on Vimeo.
Let’s embrace our inner Julie Andrews and start at the very beginning with our first selection, as D’Angelo’s cover of Prince’s “She’s Always In My Hair” is the very first thing you hear as Scream 2 kicks off. It’s a nice table-setter for the raucous energy of the Stab sneak preview screening and the horrific violence that ensues in its midst (horrific violence demanded by Jada Pinkett Smith, as a matter of fact), and is exactly what you’d both expect and want from D’Angelo covering His Royal Badness.
2. Space Jam - "I Found My Smile Again"
Let’s flip the script and hop all the way to the end for our next selection, with “I Found My Smile Again” in Space Jam. You won’t find this needle drop in the body of the film (gotta make room for the four or five “I Believe I Can Fly” drops sprinkled throughout, after all) - it plays during the end credit soundtrack medley accompanied by truly strange film still selections. Despite it’s ignoble placement in the film, “I Found My Smile Again” is a key piece in one of the foundational movie soundtracks of my childhood. I mean, come on - Monica’s “For You I Will”, B Real/Coolio/Method Man/LL Cool J/Busta Rhymes’ “Hit ‘Em High”, Quad City DJ’s “Space Jam”? We will have to wait and see if the upcoming Space Jam 2 manages to reach the rarefied air of the original’s soundtrack - a humble suggestion: bring back D’Angelo for a new track?
3. The Best Man - "Sh*t, Damn, Motherf**ka"
Speaking of Space Jam 2, our next D’Angelo drop comes from a film helmed by the director of that upcoming release, Malcolm D. Lee! (Sidebar: Lee is one of my favorite most underrated directors - between Undercover Brother, Roll Bounce, and Girls Trip, he has a constellation of wonderful movies to his name.) And The Best Man’s use of D’Angelo is unique in that it underlies a scene of extreme violence. I’m also a big fan of Terrence Howard’s extremely low-energy intervention, here.
4. Magic Mike XXL - "Untitled (How Does It Feel)"
“Untitled (How Does It Feel)” is probably the D’Angelo single that has persisted the most in popular culture over the years (although I guess an argument could be made for “Lady”, too) - a sort of quick-fix signifier that tells you “Caution: Horny Stuff Ahead” in your film/television program. I think its function in Magic Mike XXL is perfect, however - emboldened by a conversation with Donald Glover’s Andre about the restorative properties of combining one’s creative passions with dancing, Matt Bomer’s Ken performs “Untitled” to an entirely rapturous reception in the film’s finale. A song whose music video was a landmark course correction after years of female objectification is part of a movie that is also a celebration of female pleasure! It just feels right.
5. Red Dead Redemption 2 - “Unshaken”
Our last needledrop is also my most unexpected. After the gift of Black Messiah in 2014, following a fourteen year period of silence, I had no expectations of receiving any new D’Angelo on a regular basis. But lo and behold, in the midst of playing through the video game Red Dead Redemption 2 on my Playstation 4, there’s a D’Angelo track accompanying an emotional high point in the game! How did this come to be? Apparently, he’s a man who just really loves Red Dead Redemption! ““When D’Angelo comes through, he shows up at midnight, and he’s playing the game until four in the morning. Each time he was just like, ‘it’s incredible.’ It just blows his mind. He’s such a fan. I have never seen someone that excited.” Same, D’Angelo, same.
HONORABLE MENTIONS: Baby Boy - “Talk Sh*t 2 Ya”, Belly - “Devil’s Pie”