That's the Way of the World (also released as Shining Star) is a 1975 drama, produced and directed by Sig Shore (the producer of Super Fly).
Coleman Buckmaster (Harvey Keitel), the star Record Producer at A-Kord Records, is busy with his passion project: an album by an eclectic Funk band called The Group (Earth, Wind & Fire), who he thinks has the potential to hit it big. But he's forced to put it on the back-burner when the label asks him to produce the act they think is the next big thing: a middle-of-the-road family group called The Pages, who they signed more for their clean-cut image than their actual talent.
Coleman makes it clear that he thinks The Pages—lead singer Velour (Cynthia Bostick), her brother Gary (Jimmy Boyd)note and their father Franklyn (Bert Parks)—are a waste of time, but he has no choice in the matter. Smarmy label president Carlton James (Ed Nelson) and his Mafioso backers have invested tons of money in The Pages. So Coleman swallows his pride and uses every studio trick in the book the turn their hokey song "Joy, Joy, Joy" into something listenable.
Meanwhile, The Group is growing impatient with Coleman, and even leak a copy of their song "Shining Star" to a radio station. Coleman tries hard to balance the project he wants to do (The Group) with the one he has to do (The Pages), but things get incredibly messy when Velour Page entices him into a romantic relationship. However, he starts to realize that for once he can use sleazy music industry politics to his advantage.
Notable as one of the more extreme examples of Breakaway Pop Hit ever. The film itself got hit with bad reviews and quickly disappeared, but the soundtrack album was the Growing the Beard moment for Earth, Wind & Fire. The album was their Breakthrough Hit, with "Shining Star" and the title track becoming classics of The '70s.
"Tropes of fire creates love desire":
- Arc Words: "That's the way of the world."
- Awesome Mccoolname: Coleman Buckmaster for sure. Velour Page and Mike Lemongello might also count.
- Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Velour seems innocent but proves to be quite the self-centered manipulator.
- Blaxploitation: Sort of skirts the edge of the genre. It was made by the producer of Super Fly and features a soundtrack by a prominent R&B act, but none of the main characters apart from The Group are black. Still, the theme of the lone rebel trying to beat The System has some commonality with the typical Blaxploitation plot.
- Celebrity Paradox: There's an Earth, Wind & Fire billboard visible in one scene.
- Creator Cameo: Sig Shore (credited as "Mike Richards") plays Norman Shulman, Coleman's chess-loving mentor and former head of the record company.
- A Dog Named "Dog": A group called The Group. When Coleman and the record company actually discuss them, it amusingly sounds like a case of You Know the One.
- Fourth Date Marriage: Happens to Coleman and Velour, except Coleman staged the wedding and she wasn't aware the marriage wasn't valid.
- Fun T-Shirt: Gary Page wears an "Enjoy Cocaine" shirt to a recording session, which is meaningful since we've already seen that, contrary to the family's squeaky-clean image, he's an avid drug user.
- Jive Turkey: Early (played by Maurice White), the leader of The Group, actually calls Coleman this during an argument.
- Large Ham Radio: Two of the Real Life Trope Makers, New York radio legends Murray the K and Frankie Crocker, both appear.
- Lesser Star: Coleman quickly realizes that Velour should be the focus of The Pages, because Gary and Franklyn don't have much to contribute in terms of talent or charm.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: The Pages are meant to just be a generic bland family pop group, but since there's a wholesome, pretty brunette with a hidden dark side and her drug-addled brother, it's hard not to think of them as Carpenters stand-ins. The presence of the father in the group seems like a nod to The Cowsills, who had their mother in the band (and of course The Partridge Family was based on them too).
- One Film Actress: Surprisingly, this was Cynthia Bostick's only film (she did some television work too). Almost all the reviews seemed to agree that her portrayal of Velour was one of the film's highlights.
- Out of Focus: The Group largely disappears in the second half of the film.
- Title Drop: The Group sings the title song in the opening scene, but the phrase later gets spoken by several characters, and becomes the film's Arc Words.