While living in New York City, I was courted to be a recording artist for a major label. My producer/mentor was adamant regarding arming me with the knowledge and skills to write my own music, become legally savvy regarding my rights and making sure I ran the industry instead of vice-versa. It never panned out. My producer’s deal was null and void when the label changed management, but what I learned was invaluable. It was rare that a fellow artist who had seen women time and time again be hyper-sexualized and not taken seriously when it came to record points, songwriting credits, etc… was taking the upper hand making sure his roster was not about to fall into the trap of hundreds of artists over the decades who were robbed and disrespected regardless of gender.
Grace Davis (Tracee Eliis Ross) knows this all too well. She’s a successfully, iconic recording artists who tours relentlessly with live performances that have become as signature as she has. Icons often times have legions of fans who dream of just being in the same room let alone working for them. Enter Maggie (Dakota Johnson). Maggie is living out her dreams working for her idol as a personl assistant with quiet aspirations of becoming a producer. She idly sits by watching while Grace is slowly discarded and disrespected as a woman in the recording industry. When Grace shares with Maggie that there are “only five women over 40 with number one hits and only one of them was black,” sent shockwaves through my spine as it was being vocalized. Being told to do a Vegas residency and not giving in to her desires to branch out as an artist with brand new music and sound.
Tracee Ellis Ross is in total command of Grace Davis from the first note to the last frame during her first time on screen as a vocalist. Being known for her comedic prowess and improv skills, it was refreshing to see her in this light. Very similar to his role on Epix’s Godfather of Harlem, Kelvin Harrison, Jr. is an up and coming artist with songwriting skills, charisma and a secret. Dakota Johnson is beguiling as Maggie and much like Ross exhibits her surprising vocal skills that are more than appropriate for her role. Ice Cube is pure comedy as the inept manager whose mispronunciations of Hawaii and obsession with diets is simply everything, while showing a snarky, dark side that is totally in line with his character.
Although I wholeheartedly appreciate that the film stars women, is directed by Nisha Ganatra (Late Night), the screenplay by Flora Greeson is a little trite in some moments, but it doesn’t take away from the entertainment value and the shocking twist you literally don’t seem coming. Produced by Focus Features, The High Note hits screens on May 29th.