It was the empowering motivator known as Lizzo who ordered us to “kick off your shoes, take a deep breath, time to focus on you.” No chance she was referring to self-isolation amid a frightening health pandemic in “Feelin’ Good,” but you know what? Times are tough. Let’s just go with it. Yup, just because the live music industry is a casualty of the Coronavirus doesn’t mean you must miss out on the experience of seeing your favorite artists. Sit back — you’re home anyway because of the quarantine, no? — mentally escape the madness, and bask in all the fascinating and hopelessly watchable music documentaries currently available at your (sanitized) fingertips. This is your opportunity to glimpse at unobstructed and unfiltered views of your music royalty — and for the concert docs, you get the added bonuses of clean bathrooms with functional soap dispensers along with water that doesn’t cost $8. I’ll keep adding to this list as I see fit. Starting to feel good now? A little? Maybe? Work with me here, people!!!!!
Justin Bieber: Seasons (2020): Justin Bieber may just be the oldest 26-year-old alive. In this introspective 10-episode series, he details everything from his drug-use history (he started smoking weed around age 12) to his marriage with Hailey Baldwin to his battle with Lyme disease . . . all as he gears up for his fifth album. Binge this baby. (YouTube)
Miss Americana (2020): Wholesome people-pleasing Taylor Swift can’t come to the phone right now. Or ever again. The biggest pop star on the planet let director Lana Wilson behind the curtain to capture her recording her Lover album. In between, she sounds off on Kanye West, politics and her 2019 Grammys snub. Pair this Sundance fave with the 2018 concert film, Taylor Swift: Reputation Stadium Tour. (Netflix)
David Crosby: Remember My Name (2019): I’ve seen this documentary multiple times and I still can’t shake it. In the twilight of his life, the counter-culture icon traverses through Laurel Canyon while reflecting on his life and loves. He has thoughts on Jim Morrison, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young and more. (Starz)
Hitsville: The Making of Motown (2019): Take a good look at this retrospective, in which Motown legends from Stevie Wonder to Smokey Robinson wax on the Detroit music label. The music sounds just as crisp now as it did 50 years ago. Plus, Smokey sings at the piano in front of legend Berry Gordy. (Showtime)
BTS: World Tour ‘Love Yourself’ (2019) Hey, look, it’s BTS without the shrieking! Here’s your first-row seat at the K-pop group’s sold-out summer-of-2019 concert from New York City’s Citi Field. Featuring 32 minutes of behind-the-scenes bonus footage. (Amazon)
Everybody’s Everything (2019) In 2017, the emo-rapper known as Lil Peep was found dead on his tour bus right. He had just turned 21. Using interviews from loved ones, this is a heartbreaking look at how an impressive trajectory to fame proved impossible to sustain. FWIW: Pop music nerd that I am, I’d never heard of this man — and I still found this doc riveting. (Netflix)
Beyonce Homecoming (2019) Coachella is postponed but Beychella lives on! Written and co-directed by Mrs. Knowles-Carter herself, this is an in-depth look at her epic pair of concert sets in 2018 — a deeply symbolic production that required an eight-month rehearsal process. (Netflix)
Ariana Grande: Dangerous Woman Diaries (2018) Ariana Grande filmed this extended “love letter” to her fans during her 2017 tour and recording of her album, Sweetener. The docu-series features footage of her in the studio with Pharrell; on the set of the “God Is a Woman” video and rehearsing for her MTV VMA performance. Then-boyfriend Pete Davidson appears in the background of the first episode. (YouTube)
Simply Complicated (2018) Demi Lovato’s authenticity is on full display here. In Part 1, she details her rise to stardom and struggles with addiction, and her bipolar and eating disorders. The second half incorporates performances, as she touches on her love life and her newfound martial arts passion. (YouTube)
Gaga: Five Foot Two (2017) Entertaining things come in diminutive packages. Also, how many more times are you going to watch A Star Is Born? Revolving the recording of her album, Joanne, and her Super Bowl halftime performance (“I want to do the opposite of what everyone thinks I’m going to do,” she declares), this project highlights Lady Gaga‘s creative process, her health issues and relentless work ethic. (Netflix)
Katy Perry: Will You Be Witness? (2017) Five years after her Part of Me, Perry gave fans a behind-the-scenes look at her live-stream event during which she talked to fans, performed songs from Witness and talked to celebrity pals such as RuPaul and Mario Lopez. (YouTube)
The Defiant Ones (2017): Respect your roots with this four-part series that tracks the individual successes of N.W.A. co-founder Dr. Dre and producer Jimmy Iovine, who ultimately teamed up to create Beats Electronics and make gazillions. Emimen, Stevie Nicks and Bono are among the talking heads. (HBO)
Justin Timberlake and the Tennessee Kids (2016): JT enlisted the late, great Academy Award winning-director Jonathan Demme (The Silence of the Lambs) to chronicle his 20/20 Experience World Tour. Recorded in Las Vegas during the final stop on his world tour, the name is in reference to his 25-piece live band that performed alongside him. (Netflix)
One Direction: This Is Us (2013): Once upon a time, Harry Styles, Liam Payne, Zayn Malik, Niall Horan and Louis Tomlinson were a boy-band known as One Direction who performed sold-out shows and yukked it up together around a campfire. Here’s the visual proof. (Amazon)
Also published on Medium.