Two homages to the Queen
When I watched Respect featuring Jennifer Hudson, for me it paled in comparison to Genius: Aretha with Cynthia Erivo in the titular role. Respect had a distinct lack of dynamism in its presentation and storytelling, that even heavy hitters like Forest Whittaker and Audra McDonald couldn’t salvage. By contrast, despite an admitted clunkiness in its back and forthing through time, Genius made much better use of its format (8 episodes) to tell an engaging story that pulled me in. As an ensemble, the cast of Genius answered the call of their director with much stronger performances than their counterparts in Respect. It’s Cynthia’s portrayal of Aretha for me. Jennifer never quite got there.
Musically, Genius is also superior to me. I felt, experienced the music in a powerful and visceral way. It also far surpassed Respect in honouring the sound and importance of gospel music/choirs in Aretha’s life and development.
I love me some JHud, but vocally Cynthia also gets the prize for me. She gifted us with rich and authentic renditions from Aretha’s vast repertoire: whereas (for the most part) Jennifer just went through the motions.
All told, Genius: Aretha had sparkle and nuance that Respect lacked, but I’m glad new audiences have two chances to learn about Aretha Franklin…the Queen of…everything