Review by Sean Boelman
Directed by Brent Wilson, Streetlight Harmonies is a new documentary taking a look at one of the most influential genres of music. Thanks to a wealth of interviews from familiar faces, and excellent use of some iconic tunes, the film is able to be entertaining despite the fact that it offers only a cursory glance at music history.
In the movie, Wilson traces the history of harmony groups in music, from its origins on street corners to the success of Doo-Wop all the way to its most modern occurrences in boy bands and R&B. Anyone who is familiar with this era of music will know how important these singers and producers were, not only to the genre, but the industry as a whole.
That said, the film focuses mostly on the things about which even general audiences will already know. Unfortunately, as is the case with many music documentaries, the movie will appeal mostly to pre-existing fans, many of whom will already be familiar with the origin stories of these groups. The more interesting and important material, like the segment of the film talking about Phil Spector and his innovations, are disappointingly cut short.
It almost feels like Wilson does not trust the audience to care about the more technical aspects of the music industry, and while some viewers will certainly be pleased with hearing these musicians reminisce about their heyday, those wanting to learn something deeper will find themselves disappointed by the movie’s lack of depth.
However, Wayne did a very good job of gathering interviews that tell the story of the film in a compelling way. Of course, a majority of the movie is told via interviews with musicians who actually worked during this time. These interviews lean heavily on the nostalgia factor, but are still a joy to watch because of how iconic these performers are. In addition, Wayne interviews some high-profile musicians influenced by the genre, including Lance Bass (NSYNC), Brian Wilson (The Beach Boys), and Brian McKnight.
Furthermore, the film is worth watching if only for the magical end sequence alone. The credits start rolling about ten minutes before the run time is up, and that is because Wilson has a special tribute for legendary singer Ben E. King (“Stand By Me”) in store. While it would be a disservice to viewers to spoil it, it is exactly the emotional tribute that the movie needed.
Wilson’s film is also very accomplished on a technical level. Wilson blends the well-shot interviews and archive footage in a way that is consistently aesthetically-appealing. As expected, the movie also features a soundtrack composed of some of the most recognizable tunes that are being discussed, and the film will have viewers humming along.
Streetlight Harmonies may not offer a lot of depth of information, but it is saved by great interviews and some solid decision-making on the director’s part. The movie’s finale is honestly worth the price of rental alone.
Streetlight Harmonies hits VOD on March 31.