Wednesday, October 9, 2019

REVIEW: 'Wu-Tang: An American Saga' - Bobby Goes on Tour and Films a Music Video to Boost His Profile in 'Labels'

Hulu's Wu-Tang: An American Saga - Episode 1.08 "Labels"

Industry Rule #4,080...

In 2018, there were 495 scripted shows airing amongst the linear channels and streaming services. The way people are consuming content now is so different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, there is less necessity to provide ample coverage of each specific episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site is making the move to shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the next episode of Hulu's Wu-Tang: An American Saga.

"Labels" was written by Gabe Fonseca and directed by Tara Nicole Weyr

This is the most distinctive episode of the season so far. It accomplishes that feat by focusing solely on the musical ambitions of its main characters. It highlights the struggles of being a musician trying to break through in the business. It's a huge ordeal just to get noticed as having the talent and being signed by a label. But it's even more difficult to stay relevant while having one's voice respected. Bobby gets caught up in the moment. He sees this tour as a huge accomplishment that allows him and his cousins to enjoy life on the road. Sure, they may freak out at some of the local animals around the country. But they are also on this journey together. They make quite an effective team. They see the value in rallying together to uplift one another. When they are onstage together, it is absolutely magical. And yet, that's not the primary focus of this hour. Instead, all of the drama occurs behind-the-scenes in which the pressure is continually on Bobby to keep growing his profile. He has released a single. But it's also plagued with problems because the record label didn't get the rights to the underlying song. Dre argues that Bobby shouldn't stress out about all the small details. They are not important in the grand scheme of things. That's why he has a manager now. He has a team of people who want him to succeed in this business. But Bobby does care about the small details. He doesn't want his voice to get lost in all the noice. He is special. He has a unique perspective on the world. Right now, it seems like his label is only able to project that to a small audience. This tour doesn't boost his profile in a significant way. They may have once been eager to have a long and successful relationship with him. But they are also quick to pull the plug before the endeavor even gets fully underway. Bobby isn't allowed to execute his vision. He doesn't even get into the studio to start recording his album. He has one single. It has been re-recorded. A video has been shot. But none of it feels like Bobby. The new version doesn't work as well as the original did. Meanwhile, the label completely misunderstood the types of classic films that he likes. Of course, the show itself has been very confusing when it comes to explaining Bobby's love and understanding for the films of Shaolin as well as the ideology of the Five-Percent Nation. In fact, Bobby just calls himself Prince Rakeem because he believes it sounds cool. It's not because of some deep respect for the history of this belief system. He goes on that journey to better understand. The audience doesn't though. That's a significant problem because it mostly amounts to the characters just saying words to the bafflement of others without feeling the need to explain why this is important and significant. It does a much better job when the actual characters are clashing with one another. Bobby wants to hold firm to his ideals. But he still records this music video as his label wants. He doesn't have any control. He isn't even able to keep Monica in the room to fight for producing his album. He doesn't want someone else to come in and try to deliver his message and sound. He doesn't believe anyone can do it better than him because it is so unique. He has a vision for all of his friends appearing on the same track and absolutely killing it. But he isn't even able to get them in the booth to hit record. The audience knows fully well that there is brilliance in Bobby's mind just waiting to get out. The creation of the Wu-Tang Clan has not occurred just yet though. Sha and Dennis are still feuding over Power taking a shot at Dennis in his home. That was the action that started the whole series but it feels like it hasn't been talked about in a long time. Meanwhile, Divine wants his brother to keep his focus but struggles making sure his own voice is heard. Not everything about this hour works. But the pure craftsmanship on display proves that this is a distinct world just waiting for a creative breakthrough. It shouldn't take eight episodes to get to that understanding. The amount of buildup may be too much with too little emotional payoff. But it does sting when Dre walks in with the news that Bobby has been dropped from his label. That is so devastating. Bobby saw this as his way of making something of his life. And now, it is all taken away from him just as quickly as it was given. It was all determined by sales of his one single. That's disappointing. But it also proves just how vicious the industry can be especially when there isn't a voice in the room that will champion unique sounds and artists with something they clearly need to say in a different and provocative way.