The ultimate guide of music shows to watch on Netflix
Pump up the volume and get ready to jam it out to some heavy beats, because we’re turning our focus to all the best music-related content on Netflix. From musicals, to drama shows, to biopics on your fave singer-songwriters, we’ve put together the ultimate guide to the music-themed Netflix Originals you should either watch or avoid.
A Very Murray Christmas (2015)
And a Murray Christmas to you! Even in the height of summer you’d find joy in turning up the AC, cracking out the fake snow, pouring yourself a glass of eggnog, and enjoying some Yuletide cackles to Sofia Coppola’s musical comedy. Along with a turkey stuffed full of A-listers including Paul Shaffer, George Clooney, Amy Poehler, Jason Schwartzman, and Chris Rock, ya boy Bill Murray stars as himself as he worries no one will show up to his performance due to a terrible snowstorm in New York City.
Instead he hangs out with the other snowed-in guests and performs a series of festive tunes with his buddies. Murray and Jenny Lewis sing “Baby It’s Cold Outside”, Clooney joins Murray to give a rendition of Albert King’s “Santa Claus Wants Some Lovin’”, and Miley Cyrus joins the Ghostbusters star to sing “Silent Night” to near perfection. It’s a joyful, oddball musical that takes delight in its ridiculousness and will spark a festive fever in even the most cynical of Scrooge’s and the grouchiest of Grinches.
Barbra: The Music, The Mem’ries, The Magic
Even in her early years, iconic songstress Barbra Streisand was a call back to the old razzle dazzle of showbiz. In this Netflix Originals documentary, she recreates some of that pizazz with this live recording of her 2016 end-of-tour concert in Miami where the musical legend performs a series of dazzling ballards up to Broadway’s standards, belting out fan faves such as 1974’s “The Way We Were” and her 1978 duet with Neil Diamond, “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers”.
We’re not going to lie – if you’re not into Babs and her show tune style, this film will probably annoy you. But if you are, you can enjoy the intimate performance from the comfort of your own home, meaning you don’t have to endure getting elbowed in the face at one of her live shows. It’s a win, win!
Gaga: Five Foot Two
Whack on that steak dress and pull out the meat purse (minds out of the gutter, thank you very much) – Lady Gaga’s taking center stage in this documentary that focuses on the pint-size singer behind the glitz and glam of her on-stage persona. A candid look into the life behind the artist, filmmaker Chris Moukarbel follows Stefani Germanotta to find out why her and ex-fiance Taylor Kinney broke up, her true feelings towards Madonna, and her life dealing with fibromyalgia.
It’s a little self-indulgent and you could argue it’s got the feel of a longform advert for the singer’s next transformation, but if you’re Gaga about Gaga it’s worth a watch. If you’re not, there are far better music docs on Netflix to indulge in.
I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead (2016)
Like Gaga: Five Foot Two, this documentary is only really good if you’re into the work of DJ Steve Aoki. If you’re not, there’s still something to be found in its story, which chronicles the musical superstar’s rise to fame, but more essentially the driving force behind his passion.
A heart-pumping yet heart-wrenching documentary, in the lead-up to Aoki’s biggest show of his career, viewers are shown the pressure he feels from his desire to carry the weight of the family name. And if find EDM as insufferable as we do, perhaps bring those earplugs along for the ride (or be prepared for some serious audio abuse).
Keith Richards: Under the Influence (2015)
In director Morgan Neville’s biographical documentary, we’re given insight into the Rolling Stones guitarist who continues to shock the world by simply being alive – a talent all in itself.
More of a snapshot of the musician in his current, exceedingly positive headspace than a chronological order through the various highs and lows of his career, Keith Richards: Under the Influence throws in insightful commentary from the likes of Tom Waits, Buddy Guy, Steve Jordan, Waddy Wachtel, and Richards’s long-serving guitar tech Pierre de Beauport. A sentimental watch and one that’s best enjoyed with a whiskey bottle in one hand and a bowl in the other – the key to long life . . . if you’re Keith Richards, apparently.
Lost & Found Music Studios
Lost & Found Music Studios is a Canadian musical-drama kids show (how many subcategories can you fit into one sentence?) filled with about as many predictable narrative tropes as you could think of, following a group of teen singers-songwriters in an elite music program who go on to form friendships and romances while turning their passion into their profession.
Since it’s a kids show, these tropes can be forgiven. But it does make us wonder when TV shows catering to a younger audience are going to start thinking outside of the box and bringing the home truths about the existential issues we all have to face in the real world. And if that’s too much to ask, at least make the songs & characters less irritating.
Michael Bolton’s Big, Sexy Valentine’s Day Special (2017)
After Santa tells Michael Bolton that he needs 75,000 new babies by Christmas to meet toy supply, Bolton hosts a sexy telethon to get the world to start making love. If that synopsis doesn’t make you want to watch this one-hour special out of sheer intrigue, we don’t know what will.
Jokes aside, the fact that this batshit project even made it past the brainstorming meeting room and into fruition is testament to the sheer give-a-fuck amount of money Netflix throws at its programming team. A romance? A musical? A horrendously weird homage to the legend that is Michael Bolton?
We’re not sure, but what we do know is that Scott Aukerman and Akiva Schaffer’s Michael Bolton’s Big, Sexy Valentine’s Day Special is the ultimate absurdist romantic accompaniment. If you’re spending a night in with the other half and Oysters are for starters, let Bolton’s wackiness be your main, and do the do for your deserts. It’ll be a night to remember (in the weirdest way possible).
Roxanne Roxanne (2018)
Michael Larnell’s critically acclaimed biopic of female emcee Roxanne Shanté hit Netflix back in March, proving to be one of the finest music docs in recent years. Encapsulating 80s era Queens, the movie charts the rise of the real-life teenage rap prodigy (played with a solid performance by Chanté Adams), as she hustles to provide for her family while defending herself on the streets of NYC in a genre that was, at the time, largely dominated by men.
All in all, you don’t want to miss this movie which successfully cements the legacy of one of the fiercest female music artists.
The Get Down (2016-2017)
An ambitious music-themed drama from writer-director Baz Luhrmann, The Get Down is a mythic saga of how 70s New York’s financial struggle led to the birth of hip-hop, punk, and disco. The show is full of the spectacle, style, and energy of a bygone era and while it might be lacking in direction somewhat, it’s still a dizzying love letter to the Big Apple and the musical scenes that emerged within it.
The Get Down is definitely worth a watch, although we should warn you that the show was cancelled – keep this in mind before you start jonesing for a follow up that you know will never arrive. While the premise was ace, unfortunately it ran into a series of financial and production issues, costing Netflix approximately $120 million and thus making it the most expensive show ever made. Another reason to check out The Get Down while you still can.
The Other One: The Long Strange Trip of Bob Weir
Director Mike Fleiss put together this fascinating music-based documentary about musician and songwriter Bob Weir, highlighting his brotherhood with guitarist Jerry Garcia and his success as a member of one of the world’s most influential bands, Grateful Dead.
The great thing about this documentary is you don’t even have to like or even know much about the band to enjoy its story. A winning combo of vintage footage and interviews with band members, friends, and Weir himself, what becomes evident is that these guys aren’t in it for the money or the fame – they’re in it for a drive to perform and because they love what they do.
The lives of six strangers collide during a frenetic night of romance and dream chasing when a young DJ is given a chance to perform at a festival. And if that description doesn’t put you off this Netflix Originals film before you’ve even hit the play button, let us warn you that Christopher Louie’s mess of a movie is about as irritating as they come – a goofy, superficial homage to one of the worst subgenres of “music” out there: EDM.
If we haven’t put you off enough to stay away, there’s not much else we can do other than to be there ready to tell you “we told you so” once you’ve made it through the 90 minutes of pure garbage. Good luck!
Liz Garbus’s (Girlhood) epic documentary on the iconic singer, songwriter, and activist Nina Simone is so powerful, you’ll be sobbing due to the overwhelming range of emotions that are present within her story.
Following the high priestess of soul through the various challenges and successes of her musical career to her participation in the civil rights movement of the 60s and the toll it took on her mental health, What Happened, Miss Simone is at once heart-rending, inspiring, and powerful.