(Radio.com) "Made In America is a bigger idea than just a concert." Jay Z isn't short on ambition, but in a landscape that also includes Coachella, Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza, can another "destination festival" even one curated by Jay really be more than "just a concert?" Ron Howard's Made In America documentary, about the Philadelphia festival's first year (2012) doesn't quite answer the question, but it does look at the event from a number of angles. Starting with Jay Z's own.
Howard earnestly asks, "So how did you go from the Marcy Projects to where you are today?" The answer is, as all Jay's fans know: "Hip-hop!" Jay takes Howard back to the Marcy Projects, in full view of his 40/40 club at Brooklyn's Barclays Center. They visit his old apartment (it doesn't seem quite so "hood" anymore), and the legendary MC even plays with the resident family's infant.
A few other artists tell their stories: Janelle Monae explains that her black and white stage attire is a tribute to her parents: her janitor mother, her post office step-father and her father, a garbage man. They wore uniforms to work, and so does she. Rita Ora describes performing at the age of six for an audience that included Prince Charles, and deciding that singing was her life's mission. Santigold talks about her ex-gang member father who later started his own law firm, and her mother who grew up picking cotton in the south and became a psychologist.
There's a few other story lines: that of Nicole Zalewski, a food vendor who needs to gross a lot of money at Made In America to put into her new business: a taco truck. If she isn't successful, the single mother faces tough consequences: she won't be able to pay her rent. Stagehand Jesse Duer also gets a good amount of screen time, but doesn't have as compelling of a story, his hard-working ethic is admirable and he's likable. There's also the local artists who are told that they can perform on a small stage, which later gets deleted from the festival's plan, and the promoter has to give them the bad news.
And then there's local elderly resident Lilian Fowler, who lives in the apartment complex right near the event; she can see and hear it from her window. "Jay Z: he just got married, didn't he? I know what's going on!"
"Yeah, you do!" the man who once played Opie Taylor on The Andy Griffith Show responds sweetly. She adds "I don't always like it, but I know what's going on." Uh-oh.
Howard follows up with: "I'm finding people really excited about this Made In America festival. How about you? Is it particularly
"Particularly annoying!" she barks, making references to what she calls "bang bang" music. Howard doesn't ask what, exactly, this means. "I know this is a new generation, new music, (but) you should have a variety of music, not just the 'bang bang.'" more on this story