Music documentaries have been among the hottest and most lauded programming throughout the pandemic, from Peter Jackson’s epic dissection of the making of The Beatles’ “Let It Be” in “Get Back,” to Questlove’s Oscar-winning revisitation of the star-packed 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival in “Summer of Soul.”
And the hits just keep on coming. Among the performers getting the video-retrospective treatment this year are backup-singer-turned-star Sheryl Crow, revered rappers Lizzo and XXXTentacion, multi-talented Latin titan Jennifer Lopez, metal icon Ronnie James Dio and country rebel Tanya Tucker.
Here’s a look at 16 new music docs vying for your eyes and ears in 2022:
Sheryl Crow’s career has been a winding road, from her early days as a back up singer on Michael Jackson’s “Bad” tour and Don Henley’s early solo efforts to her own chart-topping career and even a much-scrutinized relationship with disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong.
Anchored to both contemporary interviews and archival footage, “Sheryl” promises a look back at how the talented singer-songwriter navigated those often rough waters, which includes her “hard-fought musical career battling sexism, depression, perfectionism, cancer, and the price of fame.”
Director: Amy Scott
Where to watch: On demand, Showtime
‘Machine Gun Kelly’s Life in Pink’
This doc promises a look at the highs and lows of an artist chasing music’s top spot while tackling the demands of stardom and fatherhood. While the triumphs include MGK’s platinum-selling album “Tickets to My Downfall” and his most recent studio album “Mainstream Sellout,” the challenges, as “Life in Pink” shows, include a fractious relationship with the media, peers and even fans, who sometimes threw cups and branches at him in concert.
The Houston-born musician shares his joys (his daughter) and torments (many) in the film, including the revelation that in 2020, while on the phone with his now-fiancée Megan Fox, he was so suicidal that he put a shotgun in his mouth.
Director: Sam Cahill
Where to watch: Hulu
‘Jazz Fest: A New Orleans Story’
Jazz Fest arguably isn’t just a music festival. It’s a reason for being. For a half century, musicians and fans from around the cultural spectrum have descended on the Crescent City to pile onto more than a dozen stages for multiple days of unfettered musical bacchanalia. If you’ve been, you know. If you haven’t, there’s now a documentary.
Using the 50th anniversary show in 2019 as a springboard, the filmmakers weave between rapturous testimonials from the likes of Bruce Springsteen, Katy Perry and Jimmy Buffett and profound pronouncements from giants of the zydeco, jazz and world music arenas. Together, these voices conjure a global melting pot of tunes, foods and ideas that is wholly unique to this annual New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.
Directors: Frank Marshall and Ryan Suffern
Where to watch: Vudu, Google Play
‘Look at Me: XXXTentacion’
Born Jahseh Dwayne Ricardo Onfroy in 1998, the rapper known as XXXTentacion lived a short life filled with both misery and promise. His early years saw him in and out of juvenile detention centers as a result of thefts and other crimes, but later the musical muse summoned from him powerful raps that often explored alienation and depression.
“Look at Me” started production shortly before the rapper was killed in 2018, gunned down by assailants at a motorcycle dealership who stole a bag from him containing $50,000. While two years before he was charged with the battery of a pregnant woman, many saw redemptive changes in the rapper in the final months of his life. XXXTentacion’s legacy lives on in emotive tracks such as “Sad!” and “Look at Me.”
Director: Sabaah Folayan
Where to watch: Hulu
In 2020, nearly three decades after a Latin performer last took over the Super Bowl halftime show spotlight – that being Gloria Estefan, who did the honors in 1992 – a host of Latin music superstars stormed the stage halfway through Super Bowl LIV. Leading the way: singer/model/actor Jennifer Lopez, who set the pace for fellow performers Shakira, Bad Bunny, J Balvin and even Lopez’s daughter, Emme Muniz.
“Halftime” uses that event as a touchstone for a documentary that widens the lens on Lopez’s career, which includes both a look back at her successes as well as her ongoing evolution as a Latin star determined to leverage her fame for more than just financial success.
Director: Amanda Micheli
Where to watch: Netflix
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‘George Michael Freedom Uncut’
George Michael wanted the world to hear his shy-chubby-kid-to-handsome-pop-idol story firsthand, and was the driving force behind the 2017 documentary, “George Michael Freedom.” The movie featured interviews with other superstars – ranging from Elton John to Linda Evangelista – as well as a narration by the British-born Georgios Panayiotou. It became his final statement, as Michael died in 2016, before its release.
The producers behind this new “Uncut” version of the doc say it will feature some never-seen-before footage and upgraded video quality. Otherwise, it will retell the tale, focused on many ’90s highs and lows, including the making of Michael’s best-selling 1990 album “Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1,” and the death of his partner, Anselmo Feleppa, of AIDS in 1993.
Directors: George Michael and David Austin
Where to watch: In theaters now
‘Hallelujah: Leonard Cohen, A Journey, A Song’
Leonard Cohen arguably was more poet than musician, perhaps in the same way that Bob Dylan meets that description. The Canadian was adored not just by devoted fans, but also by fellow performers who considered him a songwriter’s songwriter.
No Cohen song has been more widely covered, not to mention scrutinized and debated, than the soaring hymn “Hallelujah,” an incantation that manages to both captivate and mesmerize. This documentary attempts to deconstruct Cohen through the creation of his greatest composition and features not just previously unseen personal notes and videos, but also interviews with musicians who have attempted to do the song justice by covering it, ranging from Judy Collins to Rufus Wainwright.
Directors: Dan Geller and Dayna Goldfine
Where and when to see it: In theaters in New York and Los Angeles, July 1
‘My Life as a Rolling Stone
The Rolling Stones have been under the video microscope almost since their founding back in the early 1960s, from early black-and-white interviews to Martin Scorsese’s dazzling 2008 concert documentary “Shine a Light.”
Now each surviving Stone, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood – plus the band’s recently departed anchor, drummer Charlie Watts – gets a personal spotlight in this four-part documentary series. Given that the directors have worked with the Stones on past projects, this series promises to offer new insights into musicians who have been rocking hard going on 60 years.
Directors: Oliver Murray and Clare Travenor
Where and when to see it: Epix, Aug. 7
‘Untrapped: The Story of Lil Baby’
While most of the 90-minute screen time of “Untrapped” is dedicated to Lil Baby (née Dominique Armani Jones), his two young sons open the film, roaming around a mansion-sized home. Footage of the boys acts as comedic relief to a film that catalogs the dark poverty, incarceration and death surrounding Lil Baby’s rise to success, as retold in interviews with Young Thug, Gunna, Drake and more hip-hop pillars.
Before becoming an international star, Lil Baby served a two-year prison sentence on drug and weapons charges. Following his release in 2016, fellow Atlanta music makers encouraged the rapper to pursue music as a safeguard from the trappings of street crime. He took it to heart, using his chart-topping raps to make statements about police brutality.
Director: Karam Gill
Where and when to see it: Amazon Prime, Aug. 26
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Sinead O’Connor has courted attention her entire life, ranging from her early years as an innovative voice on pop scene to more recent struggles with physical and mental illness. The intense five-year period between 1987 and 1992 are the focus of “Nothing Compares.”
From the scene rattling debut of “The Lion and the Cobra” to O’Connor’s definitive rendition of the Prince song “Nothing Compares 2 U” in 1990, to the shocking moment she ripped up a picture of the Pope on Saturday Night Live in 1992, there is more here to unpack than in most people’s entire careers.
Director: Kathryn Ferguson
Where and when to watch: Showtime, fall
New Lizzo documentary
Lizzo’s rise to fame was as meteoric as they come, landing on the charts on the wings of hits such as “Truth Hurts,” “Good as Hell” and the impossibly catchy “Juice.” But her seemingly instant success was paved with years of hard work.
HBO Max is tackling the three-time Grammy winner’s life in a film that will track Lizzo (born Melissa Viviane Jefferson) and her ride from classically trained flautist to hit-making rapper. The doc will explore her creative influences as well as the challenges of being in the spotlight. As Lizzo once lamented in an Instagram post, “I’m seeing negativity directed towards me in the most weirdest way, people saying (stuff) about me that just doesn’t even make sense. It’s fat-phobic and it’s racist and it’s hurtful.”
Director: Doug Pray
Where and when to watch: HBO Max, fall
‘Dio: Dreamers Never Die’
For true metalheads, Ronnie James Dio needs no introduction. For the rest of the world, consider Dio a progenitor of metal whose soaring voice and fiery guitar solos (not to mention early use of the devil-horns hand salute) helped cement the genre’s unsentimental approach to music. After all, this was a man known to battle fake dragons on stage while wielding a huge prop sword.
He was summoned by Black Sabbath to be a steady antidote to their wild singer, Ozzy Osbourne, and could be counted on to play the role of onstage madman while preferring quiet days at home when off the road. Dio’s theatricality flirted with the kind of metal parody exemplified by “Spinal Tap,” and no surprise, Jack Black played homage to Dio by featuring him in the Tenacious D movie, “Tenacious D In The Pick of Destiny.”
Directors: Don Argott and Demian Fenton
Where and when to watch: Theatrical release late summer/streaming in fall
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‘The Return of Tanya Tucker – Featuring Brandi Carlile’
Tanya Tucker burst onto the charts at 13 with the hit song, “Delta Dawn.” Her life and career became a bit of a personal and professional roller coaster ride, but the country singer has endured not only as a female exemplar of so-called outlaw country, but also as proof that you can strike gold as a teen and still have success – notably with two Grammys in 2020 – as an adult.
This doc is centered on Grammy-winner Brandi Carlile, a longtime Tucker fan, who takes it upon herself to write an entire album for her idol about Tucker’s raucous and rebel life. The movie dwells less on the drama of her big life, and focuses more on the majesty of an impossibly big voice.
Director: Kathlyn Horan
Where and when to watch: Theatrical release this fall
‘In the Court of the Crimson King’
Taking its title from one of King Crimson’s more well-known songs and their debut album, this documentary explores the travails of one of progressive rock’s less well-known bands. Unlike Yes and Genesis, who went on to monster fame, King Crimson blended jazz, folk, metal, electronic and other genres to create a surreal blend unto itself.
Founded by guitarist Robert Fripp, who later collaborated with producer and composer Brian Eno, Crimson also featured a young Greg Lake on keyboards. (Lake would go on to find mainstream success with Emerson, Lake and Palmer.) The movie tracks more than 50 years of Crimson lineup changes that somehow did not disrupt the band’s quest to push the boundaries of rock.
Director: Toby Amies
Where and when to watch: Fall/winter
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David Bowie was the ultimate iconoclast, a man who took his unique vocal instrument and used it to reinvent rock music almost album to album. From otherworldly Ziggy Stardust to the ethereal Thin White Duke, Bowie played fast and loose with style, musicality and sexuality throughout an unrelenting five-decade career.
The filmmaker was given unprecedented access to Bowie’s personal archives, which include performances shot on both 35mm and 16mm that have never been seen before. Making the doc even more personal is narration provided by the late musician himself, gathered from a range of interviews. All the music was remixed for the documentary and is given Dolby Atmos surround sound treatment.
Director: Brett Morgen
Where and when to watch: Theatrical release this fall
‘Jerry Lee Lewis: Trouble in Mind’
It’s about time The Killer slayed with a documentary worthy of his seismic impact on rock ‘n’ roll. Director Ethan Coen (of the fabled Coen Brothers) is tackling this tribute that promises to dissect not only the man’s graces but also his demons.
Using a trove of archival footage, Coen and his team. which includes Lewis collaborator T Bone Burnett, are avoiding the standard music doc trope – one where talking heads blab on – to instead capture Lewis in all of his “Great Balls of Fire” glory. Expect to also learn about the less glorious parts of the piano player’s career, anchored to his infamous marriage to a 13-year-old cousin.