Our favorite musicians live in our ears. We hang on to their most personal notes and lyrics, playing them over and over and memorize them. They become the soundtrack in the background of our lives. But seldom do we truly know what really goes on behind the scenes, between the songwriting process and worldwide tours of our idols. With fame, there’s a lot more struggle and hardship than fans realize. Until an artist such as Taylor Swift opens their life up to us in music documentaries such as Miss Americana.
Since Taylor Swift’s new documentary has just hit Netflix – fresh off its highly-praised premiere at Sundance, here’s a great selection of music documentaries available to stream on your favorite platforms. Check these out:
Taylor Swift: Miss Americana (Netflix)
Taylor Swift’s unapologetic documentary, Miss Americana just came out last week. This music documentary allows fans and even the most casual of onlookers on the country-turned-pop star to really get a grasp of what the female artist has gone through in recent years. The Lover hitmaker examines herself in the past as a “good girl” who thrived off doing the right thing and her troubling history with her body image.
Miss Americana is an impassioned ride through Taylor Swift’s life and mind as she writes some of her famous tracks, navigates her incredible fame and finds her voice after years being cookie cutter. This movie isn’t only a must-see for fans of the pop star, it’s the best way for those that aren't to really understand who she is. So often is the star’s narrative about one thing. Miss Americana is completely her: for all her flaws and graces. Stream it here.
Janis: Little Girl Blue (Hulu)
There simply could not have been a Taylor Swift without Janis Joplin. And back in 2015, Little Girl Blue told the story of the fabled soul singer of the ‘60s. This music documentary celebrates Janis’ talent through incredible footage, both on stage and off, and about her unique life through her many family and friends. Joplin pushed the limits of who a female artist was and could be through her genuine and rough-around-the-edges persona.
The singer certainly dealt with her share of pressures and personal struggles such as her alcohol and heroin use and sexuality. Little Girl Blue paints a well-rounded portrait of the artist, her “uncompromising” appeal and winningly grisly vocals. Stream it here.
Gaga: Five Foot Two (Netflix)
Lady Gaga recently found success in Hollywood with her role in Bradley Cooper’s A Star is Born. But, she’s been a pop phenomenon for almost a decade. Five Foot Two is a personal documentary that gives fans a much closer look at the artist through the more day to day. One of the first lines she says in is in the movie is about how her “threshold for bullshit with men” is no longer there as she fries up her lunch in a leotard. So… it’s personal.
Throughout, Five Foot Two is very much a no nonsense documentary revolving on Lady Gaga’s life without the glitz, glamour and energetic music of many other docs. She's even casually topless for one scene where she’s sitting with her creative directors about changing up her fashion for Joanne, her 2016 record. It’s a refreshing and honest look at Gaga. Stream it here.
Jonas Brothers: Chasing Happiness (Amazon Prime)
After almost six years apart, the Jonas Brothers finally reformed their band in 2019 to release the album Happiness Begins. Coinciding with their return to their roots, Kevin, Joe and Nick revisit the demons that lead them to drift apart as bandmates and go after their own ventures. This documentary gives fans an insight into the three brothers' upbringing into their Disney record deal and fame as teenagers.
Chasing Happiness allows the brothers to be open about why their band split up and how it created a rift in their personal relationships as family. The movie is a moving documentary about how they salvaged their connection and made their recent comeback as a boy band. Stream it here.
One of the particularly heartbreaking events in the world of music was the day Amy Winehouse died of alcohol poisoning – at just 27 years old. The world mourned the loss of her talent and booming voice, but this documentary is the perfect tribute to her. Amy uses archival footage and testimonials to paint a solid picture of her life in the spotlight and deep struggles behind her songs such as “Back To Black” and “Rehab”.
Amy investigates quite deep into Winehouse’s life and is another intimate portrayal of who she was. It leaves audiences in a sad place about her spiral into addiction, her relationships and how she dealt with her life as a celebrity. Stream it here.
What Happened, Miss Simone? (Netflix)
Back in 2015, it was What Happened, Miss Simone? that debuted at Sundance before hitting Netflix, much like Swift’s new film. It’s about the “High Priestess of Soul”, Nina Simone who became an icon in the ‘60s for “Feeling Good," “I Put A Spell On You” and so forth. Her fame gave rise during the Civil Rights era.
Nina Simone had a heavenly voice and a particularly interesting life throughout her 70 years on Earth. Her daughter talks through the story, going through her mother’s life in the spotlight and as an activist of the time. Simone was diagnosed with bipolar disorder later in her life. It’s a masterful look at a famous figure. Stream it here.
Bad Reputation (Hulu)
Following Kristen Stewart’s portrayal of Joan Jett in 2010’s The Runaways, the rock n’ roll badass tells her own story in Bad Reputation. This is a nice change of pace from the typical somber storylines of fame illustrated in music documentaries. The way Jett tells it, it’s as if she’s showing off her battle wounds with honor.
At the time when Joan Jett first formed her punk rock band, being a woman on the scene was unheard of. The star goes back through these sexist double standards of the music industry. Bad Reputation is super inspirational and will make you love and appreciate Joan Jett if you don’t already. Stream it here.
Demi Lovato: Simply Complicated (YouTube)
Demi Lovato gained fame on Disney Channel, most notably with her role in Camp Rock with the Jonas Brothers back in 2008. Her angelic voice gave way to mega stardom as a pop singer and idol to young fans around the world. In her 2017 documentary Simply Complicated, Lovato doesn’t hold back. She was a cocaine addict.
Throughout the years, fans have certainly seen all sorts of headlines about her personal struggles whether it be through her rehab stints or heartbreaking songs. Simply Complicated has the now 27-year-old singer tell her story from the beginning in a brutally honest fashion. You’ll never look at her the same again, but you’ll admire her more than ever. Stream it here.
Amazing Grace (Hulu)
Before Jennifer Hudson portrays this icon later this year in Respect, peer into Aretha Franklin’s life circa 1972. Unlike many documentaries going back and forth in an artist's life, Amazing Grace settles on the time the Queen of Soul recorded her name of the same title at the Bethel Baptist Church in South Los Angeles.
This is a particularly interesting showcase of an artist’s talent because you are witnessing the audience of the church experience her voice first-hand. They break down into tears, rise up in celebration and play along with her. Amazing Grace is a genius look at the legend that was Aretha. Stream it here.
Homecoming: A Film By Beyoncé (Netflix)
In 2018, Beyoncé blew the roof off of Coachella when she orchestrated her “Homecoming” set during the festival. Her appeared followed her unexpected cancellation the year before due to her pregnancy. As the first black woman to headline the festival, she wanted to give the crowd something special, and wow, did she.
Homecoming not only gives fans a look at the genius of the concert itself, but the incredible vision and heart of Beyoncé. The show was an extremely personal and visionary journey for the performer. She was bouncing back from having twins and training for the Coachella set. Beyoncé wanted to give herself the college experience she never had with its school spirit theme. Stream it here.
Taylor Swift Reputation Stadium Tour (Netflix)
And why not end with one final dose of Taylor Swift? Miss Americana isn’t the first time the pop star has collaborated with Netflix. Back in 2018, she released another film in the form of a full concert from the tour for her most polarizing album to date: Reputation. While Miss Americana is very much a study of Taylor as a person, in Reputation she’s putting on her performer game face.
Taylor Swift Reputation Stadium Tour allows fans to experience the euphoria that comes with going to one of her concerts. And feeling like you’re in the front row too! This film has the artist doing all the dance moves, high notes and inspirational stage speeches that make her the famed star we learn more about in Miss Americana. It’s a great companion piece to the new Netflix movie! Stream it here.
What are you waiting for? Get binging!
YA genre tribute. Horror May Queen. Word webslinger. All her writing should be read in Sarah Connor’s Terminator 2 voice over.
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