I hate movie musicals. Actually, hate is too strong. I rarely enjoy movie musicals. Sure, I’ve tapped by toes during episodes of Glee and soared on an emotional crescendo or two, but most musicals interrupt themselves to sing and dance. They press snooze on the story to insert music videos. I listen to songs when I want music and I watch movies for a story. They’re exclusive, though not mutually. I avoid movie musicals, but I love movies about music.
We all have songs that we like because there’s a story behind them. Whether a friend (girl or boy) mixed you a tape, your parents had an album, or you had your first (fill in the blank) while (fill in the blank) was playing. It’s not that a particular song is good or bad compared to other music, but it means more to you because it carries a story in addition to a tune.
While I love songs that reminds me of a time when, I get an emotional charge out of new songs with new stories, which are my kind of movie musical. I offer you two noteworthy examples that are emotionally stirring and inspirational stories in their own right, but also great stories about music.
The story of the music is as amazing as the story of the man. After failing to gain notoriety from his first two albums, Rodriguez, killed himself on stage during a performance. At least, that’s the story everyone in South Africa heard, where his music was part of a cultural revolution. In South Africa, Rodriguez is bigger than Elvis and children grew up hearing his songs. Fans of Rodriguez went searching for the truth behind the rock/folk singer nobody in America knew existed. Friends and colleagues tell stories that will put a lump in your throat, and listening to his music is like being transported to the late 60’s, where songs burned with the fire of politics and young anger was changing the world.
Three rock-loving brothers from Detroit created punk music before there was punk. Refusing to change their band’s name was part of why you’ve never heard of them, but the story of their lost album is a tale of passion and patience. Their signature song, Politicians In My Eyes, gets better every time I listen to it, and it was awesome the first time. I bought the album for the story, but I listen for its head-banging baselines and powerful punk poetry.
In closing, avoid musicals unless they’re animated and these movies about music deserve the attention of your eyes and ears.