The third season of the Emmy-award winning series concentrates on the rise of one of music's biggest legends.
The National Geographic's 'Genius' series continues to highlight important figures who have defined our lifetimes, bringing us its most contemporary edition yet. 'Genius: Aretha' follows the highs and darkest lows of one of music's most recognisable voices - Aretha Franklin. Crowned the Queen of Soul in Chicago in 1967, the series documents the journey of her musical genius from when she was a young and innocent 12-year-old girl up until she became a household name.
The series flips throughout the troubled star's life, placing us in different time periods of her life. We are first introduced to a young girl who only adores two things in the world: her pastor father (played by Courtney B. Vance), and her passion to sing. Newcomer Shaian Jordan does her best at tackling the role of a young Aretha, and her voice is phenomenal, but its difficult not to notice that, at times, she looks lost in scenes.
Cynthia Erivo, who is a triple threat with an Emmy, a Tony, and a Grammy award all under her belt, plays the title role as expertly as you would expect. She makes her presence known when she's on the screen, showing us all of the different sides to the diva - whether it be her powerful, soulful side while on the piano in the recording studio; showing off her comedic chops while delivering an anecdote; or letting her husband Ted White (Malcolm Barrett) have it after another night of drinking and sexual escapades.
However, unlike the title suggests, it feels like we're only scratching the surface of the Queen of Soul. Aretha's story doesn't flow as smoothly as one would hope, and is told in a rather haphazard way. With time periods intersecting over one another in quick succession, some topics don't get as much attention as you would expect.
Substantial incidents that influenced some of her songs are present, yet the series was unable to obtain the rights to some of Aretha's biggest hits, some merely getting mentions. This might be why 'Genius' focuses on her family ties quite closely, rather than on the music.
It is interesting that the series should be released now, only a matter of months before the movie from Universal Pictures will debut in cinemas. 'Respect' will see Jennifer Hudson take on the powerhouse that is Aretha in a biopic movie, due for release later this year. No doubt comparisons will be placed between these two interpretations in the immediate future.
Although there are some captivating moments throughout 'Genius: Aretha', at times it can be confusing for the audience to decipher. While it doesn't delve as deep as one would hope, the series will strike a chord with music fans and those we want more insight into the Queen of Soul.
'Genius: Aretha' is available via National Geographic on Disney+. The first two episodes are out now, with a new episode releasing each week thereafter.