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The Power of Music Documentaries in Building Fandoms

The BTS feature provides more than a snapshot of a musician’s artistry and legacy; as seen in documentaries like Justin Bieber’s timely ‘Our World,’ it’s a vital tool forging an enduring connection between artists and fans

Rolling Stone India Oct 08, 2021

A still from 'Justin Bieber: Our World.'

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The music documentary is the illuminatory footnote to the parable that is an artist’s life. Skip a beat, and you might misunderstand them; delve into the details, and you might level with them for who they really are. This feature BTS broadcast of an artist’s career almost forms a parallel lens to that of the media’s — the text between the lines to the headlines that pepper the dailies. Here, an artist is unveiled, they’re revealed. 

Perhaps that’s why fans feel so strongly about music documentaries; it’s an exercise in both validation and fascination as their beliefs about the artist are affirmed and their thirst for once-held secrets is satiated. Ultimately, the music documentary brings the fan closer to the artist and vice versa, by cultivating a culture of constant albeit curated engagement. 

A still from ‘Jonas Brothers: Chasing Happiness.’

The music documentary (there are particularly plenty available to stream on platforms such as Amazon Prime Video) is a vital part of the machine that feeds fandoms. Take the Jonas Brothers’ Chasing Happiness film as an example; following the trio as they reunite the band after a gap of three years, it’s also a confession by the artists about why they called it quits to only ultimately regroup. It’s a diary of a time fans didn’t have access to, proving the point that music documentaries can bring artists and fans closer by bridging the gap that tabloids can only try and fall short of factually articulating. 

A still from J Balvin’s ‘The Boy From Medellín.’

Music documentaries are also pop culture capsules of the politics of a time. Capturing revolution and protest, they can serve as an artistic chronicle of history’s most defining periods, such as in J Balvin’s feature The Boy From Medellín on Prime Video. The 2021 film tracks Balvin’s week in the run-up to his performance in his hometown as people flood the streets to register their dissent against right-wing Colombian President Iván Duque. The Boy From Medellín is then a reflection on the conundrum an artist faces when his country is in crisis and his voice is one of those clarion calls that counts the most.

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A still from ‘Mary J. Blige’s My Life.’

It’s also in music documentaries that we witness the human within the artist; all the layers of their person that make up the larger-than-life personality we see on stage. Prime Video titles such as Mary J. Blige’s My Life, P!nk: All I Know So Far and Balvin’s The Boy From Medellín are searing and touching vignettes of how artists approach the person they see in the mirror. From struggles with substances and violence, to motherhood and mental health, these films shine a light on the darkest and toughest chapters in the artists’ books to speak truth to their realities; their flaws and strengths that make them so vulnerably and triumphantly human.

A still from ‘P!nk: All I Know So Far.’

Fans also get to trace the memory of an artist, from genesis to present, in these features. As the documentary Coldplay: A Head Full of Dreams shows us, fans can further cement their connection with an artist when exposed to a thoughtful construction of the outfit’s inception and rise to fame. Such films, especially those shot over 20 years, can break down all the walls between artists and listeners, as the latter are made to feel like a vital part of the artist’s journey. It’s an exciting gambit to think of how one might’ve contributed to a band’s success or their best memories and vice versa. These documentaries are also ultimately a tribute to and celebration of the synergistic relationship between artists and listeners that define a band’s legacy.

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A still from ‘Coldplay: A Head Full of Dreams.’

Speaking of the connection between fans and artists, it’s eye-opening to see what goes into bringing an artist on stage, what goes into producing that gift of a performance for fans. Justin Bieber’s Prime Video documentary Our World delves into this facet as it traces how the pop sensation prepared for his 2020 New Year’s Eve show, particularly in a world that is experiencing a pandemic. Envisioned as a film that enables people to feel light and have fun, the documentary delves into the details, hardships, joy and goofs that go into forging an unforgettable show for fans; an artist’s ultimate token of love and appreciation. 

A still from ‘Justin Bieber: Our World.’

The music documentary is the quintessential doorway into a musician’s artistry — a show that is riveting because it’s constantly surprising, authentically anecdotal and endlessly endearing; it’s the best story ever written, given that it’s one being penned in real-time as we witness the trajectory, evolution and growth of an artist. The music documentary will continue to be a cornerstone of pop culture and the relationship between artists and fans for years to come as it demystifies an artist in the age of social media — providing an access that perhaps only the power of truth can.

All documentary titles mentioned above are available to stream on Amazon Prime Video.

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