Taylor, Billie, Demi, Blackpink: The Pop Star Documentary Boom

It used to be that stars had to be reliably famous for a long time before documentary cameras chased them around. But everything is filmed now, anyhow, and pop stars are embracing this sort of serious treatment at earlier phases in their careers.

In recent years, that’s meant entries from Taylor Swift, who used it to reset her public politics; Billie Eilish, who reinforced her relentless chill; Shawn Mendes and Ariana Grande, who mostly preened; and Blackpink, which took the chance to reveal more than the usual K-pop group.

Perhaps the most extreme example is the current YouTube docu-series “Demi Lovato: Dancing With the Devil,” a stark and sometimes harrowing retelling of the pop star’s trials with addiction and sexual assault.

On this week’s Popcast, a conversation about how the documentary boom parallels the rise in social media self-documentation, how art is deployed in service of purported authenticity, and what happens when the person being documented is more in charge than the director.


Simran Hans, a film critic at The Observer

Caryn Ganz, The New York Times’s pop music editor

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