The whole TV business hasn’t been focused on streaming for a long time, but 2021 seemed like the year it finally did. Traditional broadcast and cable networks were considered content providers for series’ ultimate streaming homes. In the year 2021, the small screen has seen some incredible work. These were some of the best music movies and TV Shows of 2021.
1. The Velvet Underground
Why did the Velvet Underground exist? It’s always been impossible to fathom the Velvets rising during the same decade as Beatlemania and trippy artists in San Francisco. Todd Haynes’ debut feature documentary is set amid a gritty and glamorous Manhattan demimonde where rock meets avant-garde music, experimental film, LGBT subcultures, and drug users’ spiral lives. The Velvet Underground’s crucible becomes obvious as Reed’s rock-star ambitions and John Cale’s drone influences merge.
2. Biggie: I Got a Story to Tell
The late Notorious B.I.G.’s genius and mystique have been explored in countless films. The best way to light a star is to go back to when they were firstborn. A year after Biggie’s murder, Biggie: I Got a Story to Tell gives something new: a localized image of how the legend spread beyond his community and even his own imagination. The film mixes historical footage, family interviews, and maps of Biggie Smalls’ now gentrified Bed Stuy, Brooklyn neighborhood to highlight how community shapes a child’s outlook. In a film shot in Trelawny, Jamaica, Biggie’s musician uncle Dave Wallace tells how Biggie’s father abandoned them. By concentrating on the slightest aspects, the film humanizes the young rap superstar.
3. Without Getting Killed or Caught
Country music’s heritage is rich with mythology, folklore, and tall tales. It’s difficult to think about Hank Williams without recalling his tragic death, or David Allan Coe without recalling his odd (and maybe exaggerated) past. Unlike other genres of filmmaking, documentary filmmaking allows artists to tell their own stories. That’s why James Szalapski’s Heartworn Highways is so vital. In the film, Townes Van Zandt’s sympathetic lyrics are paired with boisterous jam sessions with Guy Clark and a post-adolescent Steve Earle. Heartworn Highways, a cult favorite among outlaw country fans, was restored and released on Blu-ray earlier this year.
In this classic HBO documentary, Tina Turner’s legacy is unmatched. Tina Turner takes viewers on a journey through her career, from her early days as a trailblazing member of the Ike & Tina Turner Revue in her twenties to the time when she was able to break free from Ike’s abusive grip and reclaim her stardom in her forties. Tina’s old footage of Turner at various periods in her life is abysmal. Tina thinks he’s the most fascinating and accomplished rock star in the room.
5. We Are Lady Parts
This year’s greatest short-run female-led comedies were HBO Max’s Starstruck and Netflix’s Feel Good. A London punk band made up solely of females and Muslims attempt to be taken seriously while trying to persuade a hilarious guitarist (Anjana Vasan) to help them take their sound to the next level. The presentation was brilliant and humorous, and once you hear the band improvise “Bashir with the Good Beard,” you’ll never forget it.
6. Hip Hop Uncovered
No matter how far the genre has come in the last decade, it will always be associated with the streets. A&R reps and managers that work relentlessly behind the scenes sometimes go unrecognized. Hip Hop Uncovered follows “Big U” Henley, Debra “Deb” and James “Bimmy” Antney, Detroit’s Christian Anthony “Trick Trick” Mathis, and Haitian-born Jacques “Haitian Jack” Agnant. Their side hustles become full-time employment in music.
There are interviews with artists, journalists, family members, and friends in this well-paced docuseries. The memories of Deb pushing for space as a black woman in the music industry or Trick Trick stopping Rick Ross from performing in Detroit cause tension. Uncovered commitment to chronicle hip-hop from its roots to the present, including Nipsey Hussle and Pop Smoke’s deaths, is what makes it exceptional. Hip-Hop Uncovered reveals the story of rap’s roughness and glitter as told by those who lived it.
Respect is a biographical musical drama film based on the life of American singer Aretha Franklin, directed by Liesl Tommy (in her feature directorial debut), written by Tracey Scott Wilson and Callie Khouri, and released in 2021. The film follows Franklin’s life for the first two decades, from her birth as a musical prodigy in an affluent African-American family to the ramifications of losing her mother at the age of ten, to her arduous rise to international musical stardom while enduring an abusive marriage, culminating with the recording of her influential live album Amazing Grace.
8. Keyboard Fantasies
An inspiring musical story of a songwriter and synthesizer pioneer who started making music in the 1960s, came out as trans in the 2000s, and found a new audience of youthful listeners in the 2010s, is Beverly Glenn-Copeland. Keyboard Fantasies: The Beverly Glenn-Copeland Story is a delightful film about a woman who has always strived to transcend trends, time, and places. Posy Dixon’s hour-long documentary depicts him as an artist who is constantly open to new ideas, new ways of thinking, and new ways of experiencing. Glenn-Copeland, 77, still possesses vibrant energy and a delightful sense of humor. In the video, he promotes the next generation of innovative musicians via song and dialogue.
Leos Carax makes his debut as an English-language director with Annette, released in 2021. They wrote the plot, as well as the music, with lyrics penned by Carax, who also co-wrote the song’s lyrical content. As a rock opera, the film follows Adam Driver and Marion Cotillard, a stand-up comic, and his opera singer wife, as their lives alter when they become parents for the first time. Also starring Simon Helberg and Devyn McDowell.
That said, if Jesse Armstrong and co. fumble in the end zone on Sunday, this rating may be too low. There is a sense of closure for a season that has seemed repetitive on a macro storyline level, but has delivered some of the funniest and most amazing emotional work ever on a micro character level. Logan’s response to the errant SMS was pure comedic gold this week. The Roys may reach a point of diminishing returns.
11. Nowhere Inn
The pitch is as follows: Featuring tour footage from the Masseduction era and references to Mulholland Drive, the singer stars in a Lynchian black comedy. Brownstein, played by Sleater-Carrie Kinney, is an adult grappling with adolescent pressures and familial expectations. After getting into a white stretch limo and traveling into the desert together, they both wonder if it was all a dream.
With a Sundance 2020 debut and a fall theatrical release, The Nowhere Inn served no clear purpose. To make sense of all that’s going on, the rockumentary works best as a chronicle of Clark’s nerdy, reserved self and the ice-queen provocateur press believes she is. She performs “Year of the Tiger” for a fake family in the Texas wilderness, and makes sex recordings with Dakota Johnson, her on-screen girlfriend. This film is worth seeing if you like rock mythology, strange imagery, and zany humor.
12. The Other Two
Brooke and Cary Dubek are two mid-millennials whose younger brother has unexpectedly become a viral music sensation. ChaseDreams, a stand-in for TikTok stars Cary and Brooke fighting to protect their little sibling while clinging on during the journey. Patriarch Pat, the Dubek family matriarch, is both passionate and uneducated about the creative community. As Chase’s manager, Ken Marino pulls off amazing movements even as he fumbles through the VMAs and a Hillsong spoof, and Wanda Sykes as a record label executive unfazed by Chase’s apparent lack of competence, the cast is complete.
The Other Two is a sincere exploration of the hazards and temptations of celebrity. While Cary and Brooke struggled to celebrate their victories in season two, Shannon achieves new heights of sly showbiz wit and outright silliness The Other Two portrays the stupidity of corporate intrigues and the anguish of disastrous failures through insignificant individuals (like Lance!). A second season was released in September, bringing more catastrophic disasters to the Dubeks.
A TRL-era girl quartet is revived after a young rapper steals their biggest hit. The earworm “Gonna be famed five-ever/As four-ever is too brief” hasn’t been delivered. The ditzy Housewives want tobe Summer, the divorced lesbian doctor Gloria, and Wickie, the attractive broke girl. As they patch up the music industry’s frequently erroneous attempts at female empowerment, they aim to replicate the spirit of the late 1990s/early 2000s pop culture era. It’s in the tracks that Meredith Scardino, executive producer Jeff Richmond, and a writers’ room shine the brightest. Ultimately, Girls5eva is as contagious as Max Martin’s record label’s parodies.
Cinderella, featuring Camila Cabello, will be released in 2021. Traditional Cinderella is reimagined in a musically-driven way in Cinderella. To make her aspirations a reality, our protagonist Camila Cabello (Camila Cabello) relies on her Fab G to help her endure and achieve her goals.
15. West Side Story
An American musical romantic musical film based on Tony Kushner’s screenplay, West Side Story will premiere in 2021, directed and co-produced by Steven Spielberg. To say that Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story is a worthy successor to the original music would be an understatement. The story of the conflict between the Jets and the Sharks, two opposing juvenile street gangs from different ethnic backgrounds, is told in West Side Story.