Music documentaries to binge-watch on Netflix
Pop, rock and R&B fans will find a decent assortment of top-shelf concert films on Netflix, including Springsteen on Broadway, Beyoncé’s Homecoming and Justin Timberlake + the Tennessee Kids. But performances alone don’t tell the full story of a musical act or a cultural movement. For that, you need a good documentary, combining exciting old footage with probing new interviews, and putting an artist into proper context.
Saxophonist John Coltrane began his career as a sideman to some of the legends of jazz; and then from the late 1950s to his 1967 death, he had a remarkable musical run as the leader of multiple classic combos. From the pop melodicism of his early solo albums to the transcendent abstractions of his later work, Coltrane kept obsessively searching for ways to capture the fragile beauty and spiritual yearning of the human experience.
You’ll need to carve out some time in your schedule to watch all of Hip-Hop Evolution, a 16-part series that’s been spread across four seasons. But this project is worth the effort. Each episode has a theme and purpose: whether it’s describing a subgenre or covering a key moment in the history of rap. A lot of the feature documentaries about hip-hop remain stuck in the ‘80s and ‘90s; but Hip-Hop Evolution presses on into the 2000s, making room for the “Dirty South” sound, the experiments of the Neptunes crew, the controversies surrounding the mixtape revolution and more.
During her short, turbulent career, Amy Winehouse sang phenomenally catchy neo-soul songs, giving classic R&B the sonic oomph of 21st-century pop. She also became a tabloid staple, plagued by drug addiction and persistent personal drama. Asif Kapadia’s documentary isn’t always easy to watch, given that the phenomenally talented Winehouse fell so far and so fast. But the film is remarkably comprehensive, detailing its subject’s rise from a working class background to international superstardom.
During ZZ Top’s rise to chart success in the 1970s and ‘80s, the Texas trio cultivated a certain mystique, taking on larger-than-life stage personas while mostly ignoring a rock press that didn’t seem to understand or respect what they were doing. Because of all that, the documentary That Little Ol’ Band from Texas tells a story that even ZZ Top fans may not fully know: about three gifted mavericks who channelled their shared love of the blues, acid rock and garage bands into weird, witty and danceable songs. — NZ Herald