Jay-Z: Fade to Black
WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
It's about Jay-Z's "last" CD, his "final" tour performance, a few
backstage glimpses, and a boat-load of rockin' guest stars.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
It would be easy to say that "Fade to Black" is a must-own DVD for all the Jay-Z fans out there. Just for the concert footage alone, it absolutely is. But even the most passionate fan of the talented Mr. Z will have to admit....there's not a whole lot of meat on these bones. First off, much of the movie's built-in hype is predicated on the fact that we're witnessing Jay-Z's last big blowout, his final hurrah from the touring scene. The concert took place in November of '03 at the Madison Square Garden - and it looks like it was one seriously killer party. But since then, Jay has already hit the touring circuits yet again, and the casual viewer is left thinking "Yeah...who 'retires' from music at such a young age and high stature? Nobody, expect someone with
smart enough to sell tickets to a 'farewell' concert to end all
concerts." And while it's clear that Jay-Z and his musicians are
seriously talented people (I knew next to nothing about Jay-Z before I saw this documentary), there's a sense of self-important hubris that runs through much of the film. Is Jay-Z the Elvis Presley of the rap scene? Already?
While fans of Jay-Z will undoubtedly revel in the concert material (it takes up at least 80% of the movie), they may also be disappointed in the relatively skimpy glimpses behind the curtain. We're offered a handful of scenes in which Jay collaborates on some new tracks, but there's nothing here that gives us any startling insights. We meet a dozen folks and have no real idea who they are. And the hardcore fans out there are probably quite familiar with the sort of stuff that's presented here. (Worthy of fair note is the impressive roster of guest stars who show up to support Jay, most notably R. Kelly, Mary J. Blige, and Missy Elliott.) FADE TO BLACK is a solid concert flick and a surface-deep peek at how the music gets made, but ultimately the final product feels like a well-polished, half-hearted piece of marketing machinery. Still, it worked well enough to turn me on to some of Jay's tunes, plus it features a great onstage duet between the main man and his main squeeze, Beyonce Knowles. Fans will have a good time while quietly wishing the movie offered just a little bit more meat along with the music.
The Story Behind 'Fade to Black': Here's a 20-minute EPK-style love-fest in which producers, writers and various guest stars congregate to discuss how monumental an event this truly is. (Jay-Z's cousin Beehigh says "It's Jay's last stand at the Garden!" Jay-Z's biographer says "It's always to exciting to see Jay..." You get the picture.) It's certainly cool enough to warrant a first-time visit, but the overall vibe is that of an extended movie trailer. One with a lot of brown-nosing!
Deleted Scene: This clip, entitled "Mastering," sees Jay trying to get some work done while a pair of employees scream at each other in the lobby, followed by a brief trip to the CD mastering studio. The screaming match is pretty funny. More material like this (inserted back into the film) might have helped immensely.
Music Video: Compiled from footage culled from the movie you just watched, this music video for "Encore" seems fairly unimpressive. Still, it's a full-length track of the song, so fans may appreciate its inclusion.
Theatrical Trailer: The original theatrical trailer for Fade to Black.
Concert movies are kinda tough to review. While I'm not a big fan of Jay-Z's stuff, this movie showed me a creative side of the artist that I quite enjoyed. Unfortunately there's not nearly enough of that stuff to keep me interested throughout the lengthy concert segments and "isn't he great?!" sections. But the Jay-Z fans will be able to look past the non-stop back-patting and just enjoy the show. While it's certainly not among the worst concert flicks I've ever seen, it's absolutely one of the most self-congratulatory.