An up-to-date selection of music documentaries on Netflix (UK and Ireland) to delve into.
The 2016 documentary by Mat Whitecross about Oasis and the sibling rivalry between Liam and Noel is a great watch, even for those who have had their fill of the Gallagher brothers. That’s because it effectively captures an unlikely band’s rise to worldwide stardom while exploring that infamous relationship at the centre of the band. It’s not an exhaustive document of their career as it ignores everything that came after their crowning glory of the Knebworth concerts in 2016. What it lacks in addressing their entire discography, it makes up for in intimate footage and hugely engaging insight into their early years.
Gaga: Five Foot Two
A documentary that takes an in-depth look into the life of singer Stefani Germanotta or Lady Gaga during the production and release of her fifth album Joanne. In the documentary shes speaks openly about her struggles with pain and mental health following a diagnosis with fibromyalgia. It effectively shows how Gaga puts herself completely into her music, to the detriment of her own health.
Beyoncé – Homecoming
A masterclass of stage craft and ambition, Homecoming is the best live music concert film of our times, showing how the wildly popular star turned 2018’s Coachella Festival (the first black female headliner since 1999) into Beychella with a huge stage show centred around black college marching bands, civil rights activists and a set list that all makes for a career-defining high. Bow down.
20 Feet From Stardom
20 Feet From Stardom‘s subjects are the women backing singers who lifted up the big names in live music over the last 40 years like the Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen, Sting, Bowie, Ray Charles and many more.
In recognising the contribution of bit players of singers like Darlene Love, Merry Clayton and Judith Hill, the documentary also highlights the bittersweet outcome of playing second fiddle to the main star, but 20 Feet From Stardom is ultimately a tribute to those women and their immense talent.
Lil Peep: Everybody’s Everything
A cautionary tale of the life of the emo-trap rapper Lil Peep who died of an overdose at the age of 21 in 2017. The film explores the artist’s public persona and contrasts it with his sweet private insecure demeanour, rounded out by members of his family including his grandfather, a role model in his life who was a Harvard Gustav Åhr. Those attempts to guide the artist through his life make Peep’s death, and this film’s recency to the fact, a very tragic and harrowing take on the all-too-familiar rock-star death narrative.
Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened
Simply one of the most entertaining, excruciating and unbelievable documents of how wrong a music festival can go when people in charge haven’t a clue what they are doing. We did a podcast about it.
The Other One: The Long Strange Trip of Bob Weir
This film is the story of Weir, the second guitarist with the Grateful Dead. It tells the story of the band and Weir’s relationship with Jerry Garcia, his eventful life and his unique guitar technique. The Grateful Dead are an American curio, not as celebrated on this side of the Atlantic, so if you want to know what the fuss is about, this is a good place to start.
Daft Punk Unchained
The enigmatic stylish French dance duo explored in style via their closest friends and collaborators including Pharrell Williams, Nile Rodgers, Paul Williams, Giorgio Moroder, Kanye, Michel Gondry and Todd Edwards.
Paris Is Burning
Jennie Livingston’s documentary captures the vibrant voguing subculture of New York in the eighties. It’s a must-see film about minorities and ballroom battles that has even more relevance now thanks to the influence its still has on LGBTQ+ culture and communities.
What Happened, Miss Simone?
A documentary exploring one of the best singers of all time Nina Simone. It takes in her life on stage, her involvement in activism (she was closely allied with Martin Luther King), her troubled marriage, her volatile personality and addictions. She was a rare talent and the film leaves you with a mixture of sadness and beauty. Crucial to the documentary is her involvement in the civil movement.
Whitney: Can I Be Me?
A documentary that by filmmaker Nick Broomfield filmed four years after Whitney Houston’s tragic death that explores the life of the singer, the heartbreaking tale of what lead to her demise and the destructive warning signs of fame that shone through during her career. The film also shares interviews with her bodyguard and discusses her relationship with Bobby Brown and best friend and assistant Robyn Crawford that lead to the media questioning her sexuality.
Miss Americana: Taylor Swift
The newest film on this list, Miss Americana is the closest you’ll get to the private life of Taylor Swift, with her approval. It won’t change your mind if you already love or have no time for the singer but it will offer new insights to the all-American girl as she self-deprecates, struggles with whether to wade into commenting on politics or not and talks about her eating disorder.
I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead
It’s easy to dismiss dance DJs dunderhead like Steve Aoki right? Huge amounts of money amassed playing dumb stadium EDM shows and throwing cake. Dumb. This documentary gives some genuine insight (though it does feel at times, like Aoki commissioned it) into how a man like Aoki got to where he did. The short-hand: a lot of hard work, and a gruelling tour schedule that means 240 gigs a year or thereabouts. Aoki started the label Dim Mak off the back off a Tuesday night club night where the likes of Bloc Party and Justice played for free. Aoki was in the right place at the right time – the start of electro-influenced indie-rock, or blog house and he went all in. It worked out pretty well for him and it’s hard to begrudge him after watching this documentary. His relationship with his distant father, a famous wrestler and founder of restaurant Benihana, is explored as a main reason for all this and whether that’s true or not it does humanise Aoki as more than a cake-throwing partystarter. The tunes are still shit though.
Strike A Pose
This doc catches up with the backing dancers who performed with Madonna on her 1990 Blonde Ambition tour 25 years later.