Jennifer Lopez, Janet Jackson, Shania Twain, Sheryl Crow, Jane Birkin, Diam’s, Sinead O’Connor, Selena Gomez… Musical documentaries focusing on female singers abound. An outbreak attributable to the boom in pop feminism, as well as the desire to correct certain inequalities of the past, say experts.
Posted October 10
This year’s blitz of “female” musical documentaries began in January with the arrival on A&E of Janeta four-episode miniseries in which Michael Jackson’s sister recounted her roller coaster journey, including her performance at 38e Super Bowl, during which her half-naked right breast appeared (for a split second) on full TV. Then came out Jane by Charlottean intimate and modest portrait of Jane Birkin by her daughter Charlotte Gainsbourg, and sheryla feature film from the Showtime network (available on Crave in Canada) that traces the career of Sheryl Crow.
Netflix is also participating in the phenomenon. The platform launched Half-time on Jennifer Lopez, and Not Just a Girl on Shania Twain. We can also raise Helloon the French ex-rapper Diam’s (published in France in July) and Nothing Compareswhich dissects the career of Sinead O’Connor until 1993. And in less than a month, Apple TV+ will serve Selena Gomez: My Mind & Meby Alek Keshishian, the director of the famous Madonna: Truth or Darepublished in 1991.
This explosion began in 2021. Alanis Morissette (jagged), Tina Turner (Tina), Billie Eilish (The World’s a Little Blurry), Demi Lovato (Dancing With the Devil), Angela (Angela), Pink (All I Know so Far) and Britney Spears, three times rather than once (Framing Britney Spears, Britney vs. Spears, Controlling Britney Spears), had all found themselves at the heart of similar productions.
How can this sudden upsurge be explained? Host Mike Gauthier believes it could be some sort of catch-up. Observer of the cultural landscape for 40 years, the journalist and columnist recalls in particular the existence of the famous Behind the Music from the American network VH1, these one-hour mini-documentaries, articulated around a different artist each week, which MusiMax presented in French version (Musicographies) at the turn of the millennium. According to a brief census, female singers and groups were represented in only 25% of the episodes.
“The proportion of guys was much higher. The women had much less room. »
For Anouk Bélanger, professor and director of the doctorate in communication at UQAM, these docus abound and rally a large audience because they exploit the vein of pop feminism, an idea “quite popular for two, three years”.
It works, this channel of inspiration. Besides, it comes from women who are beautiful, rich and popular.
Anouk Bélanger, professor and doctoral director in communication at UQAM
“These documentaries butter thick and almost all follow the same plot, continues Anouk Bélanger. It’s almost always that little girl, the girl next door [la fille d’à côté]who rises above everyone to become a star planetary. It’s a success story [un exemple de réussite] which belongs to the concept of the American dream, which still functions well today, because it reinforces the neo-liberal ideology, according to which the success of each person rests first and foremost — if not entirely — on the effort individual. »
A promotional tool
The new promotional vocation of musical documentaries also explains their proliferation, as does the proliferation of streaming platforms, which are constantly seeking to provide their subscribers with new content.
The release of the documentary on Shania Twain was accompanied by the release of a new song of the same title (Not Just A Girl). Janet Jackson also benefited from the enthusiasm aroused by the airing of Janet to propose a new piece entitled Luv I Luvwhich we could also hear in the closing credits of the last episode.
“Documentaries have become promotional tools, that’s obvious,” observes Anouk Bélanger.
For artists, it is often a springboard for relaunching their careers and rekindling interest in them. It suits everyone: platforms, record companies, artists…
Although it was slow to hit Quebec, this wave of musical documentaries articulated around female artists nevertheless inspired Sophie Proulx-Lachance when she set to work on Elisapie – Facing the Music, her film about the Inuk singer-songwriter, which ICI ARTV aired last year. Reached by phone, the director claims to have taken a model from Miss Americana (Taylor Swift), Homecoming (Beyonce) and What Happened, Miss Simone? (Nina Simone), all three available on Netflix.
According to Sophie Proulx-Lachance, musical documentaries currently enjoy great popularity because they expose “the human side behind the singer”.
“A few show strength, power, but many show vulnerability. Is it something that attracts us? I do not know. But it’s something that obviously fascinates us. Britney Spears hadn’t interested anyone for a long time, and all of a sudden, because we see her collapsing, everyone started to pay attention again. »
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From Jennifer Lopez to Selena Gomez | To each singer her documentary
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