Two years ago, a disturbing documentary about a globally famous pop icon won an Emmy for best documentary or nonfiction special. That doc, of course, was Leaving Neverland, which focused on allegations by two men that Michael Jackson had molested them when they were children. Another disturbing doc, Framing Britney Spears, could win in the same category this year.
The New York Times-branded doc centers on Britney Spears’ celebrity, her treatment by the paparazzi, and the court-ordered conservatorship under which she has been living since 2008, which has sparked the #FreeBritney movement.
When the 73rd annual Emmy nominations are announced next week (on July 13), the Spears doc appears to be a lock to be nominated.
Another music doc, Tina (HBO), about rock legend and survivor Tina Turner is also seen as a very likely nominee in the category, while still others are seen as having a reasonably good chance of receiving a nod: The Boy From Medellín, which follows musician J Balvin as he prepares for a concert in his hometown (Medellín, Colombia); The Bee Gees: How Can You Mend a Broken Heart, a look at the famed brother trio, of which Barry Gibb is the sole survivor; and The Go-Gos, a look at the iconic female rock band.
The last two winners in the category — Leaving Neverland and The Apollo, about the legendary Harlem club — were both music docs, and both aired on HBO. Two other music docs have won in the category in the past decade: George Harrison: Living in the Material World, about the ex-Beatle, and What Happened, Miss Simone?, about Nina Simone, the singer and civil rights activist.
The award will be presented in September as part of the Creative Arts Emmy Awards. Those awards are a walk-up event to the 73rd annual Primetime Emmy Awards, which are set for Sunday, Sept. 19, on CBS.
Framing Britney Spears was nominated for best music documentary at the 2021 MTV Movie & TV Awards but lost to BTS’ Break the Silence: The Movie.
This year, 78 documentary or nonfiction specials are on the Emmy entry list, from which the five nominees will be chosen. Of those, 17 are music docs or non-music docs hosted by famous music stars (namely Cher and Ludacris).
Here’s a complete list of these docs, along with the Emmys’ capsule descriptions (reprinted with just minor edits for style):
The Bee Gees: How Can You Mend a Broken Heart: Chronicling the triumphs and hurdles of The Bee Gees. Brothers Barry, Maurice, and Robin Gibb, found early fame writing over 1,000 songs with 20 No. 1 hits transcending through over five decades. Featuring never-before-seen archival footage of recording sessions, home videos, concert performances, and a multitude of interviews.
Biggie: I Got a Story to Tell: Featuring rare footage and in-depth interviews, this documentary celebrates the life of The Notorious B.I.G. on his journey from hustler to rap king.
BlackPink: Light Up the Sky: Korean girl band BlackPink tell their story — and detail the journey of the dreams and trials behind their meteoric rise.
The Boy From Medellín: A portrait of an international music superstar. The Boy From Medellín follows J Balvin as he prepares for the most important concert of his career–a sold-out stadium show in his hometown of Medellín, Colombia.
Cher & the Loneliest Elephant: Cher and a team of vets, trainers, and more lead a large-scale effort to move a bull elephant, Kaavan from a rundown zoo to a faraway wildlife sanctuary, and they must do so during the most disruptive global emergency since World War II: the outbreak of COVID-19.
David Foster: Off the Record: A biography of the composer and producer David Foster, who has sold over a half billion records and produced the careers of Celine Dion, Barbra Streisand, Lionel Richie, and Michael Bublé.
Framing Britney Spears (The New York Times Presents): Her rise was a global phenomenon. Her downfall was a cruel national sport. People close to Britney Spears and lawyers tied to her conservatorship now reassess her career as she battles her father in court over who should control her life.
The Go-Go’s: The Go-Go’s chronicles the first all-female band to play its own instruments, write its own songs and soar to No. 1 on the album charts. Featuring testimonies, The Go-Go’s charts the meteoric rise to fame of a band born of the L.A. punk scene that created a zeitgeist.
I Want My MTV (Biography): [This film] charts the rise of a cultural phenomenon that came to define a generation: MTV. The network pushed the boundaries of art, sex, gender and race, cementing its image to celebrity. Featuring exclusive interviews with the network’s founders, VJs, artists, and journalists, and including rare footage.
Jimmy Carter, Rock & Roll President: The story of President Jimmy Carter’s relationship with music, the important role that music played in his life and work, and the bonds with musicians Willie Nelson, the Allman Brothers and Bob Dylan.
The Nine Lives of Ozzy Osbourne (Biography): [This film] traces the many lives and career of the man who personifies rock and roll rebellion. Ozzy reflects on his childhood in poverty, fronting Black Sabbath, his award-winning solo career, becoming a beloved 21s century television dad and his recent Parkinson’s disease diagnosis.
Orchestrating Change: The story of the only orchestra in the world created by and for people living with mental illness. Me2/Orchestra’s groundbreaking mission is to erase mental health stigma one concert at a time while changing the lives of these musicians in ways they never imagined.
P!nk: All I Know So Far: A behind-the-scenes look at P!nk as she balances family and life on the road, leading up to her first Wembley Stadium performance on 2019’s “Beautiful Trauma” world tour.
Shawn Mendes: In Wonder: Over the course of a world tour, this documentary follows Shawn Mendes as he opens up about his stardom, relationships and musical future.
Tina: A look at music icon, Tina Turner, and her improbable rise, and 1980’s career resurgence. It combines new interviews with Turner and her closest friends and family with never-before-seen footage and personal photos to tell the complete — and complex — story of the Queen of Rock ‘N’ Roll.
Voices Magnified: Locked Up in America: Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges gives a look into America’s prison system – the heartbreaking realities and life-altering consequences facing inmates, communities, and the nation. The special features a moderated conversation between inmates, calling from prison phones, and prison reform advocates about the challenges and potential solutions to the current system.
What Drives Us: Dave Grohl sits with some of the biggest names in music to discuss the joys and heartaches of touring the world in a van with your band and learning what it takes to connect with an audience and bring live music to the masses.
Here is a link to capsule descriptions of all the eligible docs in the category.