VH1’s 8 Best Behind The Music Episodes, Ranked

8 Best Behind the Music Episodes from VH1, Ranked
By Staff
April 06, 2023

#BetteMidler_VH1's 8 Best Behind The Music Episodes, Ranked
#BetteMidler_VH1’s 8 Best Behind The Music Episodes, Ranked

Before fan-curated YouTube documentaries and extensive series on TikTok, most music fans learned of industry secrets and the lives of artists behind the curtains with the aptly titled Behind the MusicThe VH1 series followed the careers and personal stories of mainstream megastars and indie icons alike.

Through interviews, footage, and media reports, the crew behind the famed music documentaries ruled the small screen for multiple decades. Offering stimulating dissections into the lives, careers, and traumatic moments of their subject, Behind the Music, was a reliable port of information for avid music consumers.

As the series has completed its two-episode revival in 2022, we thought it would be a good idea to look at the series’ most celebrated episodes. With the emergence of new stars, icons transcending industry standards, and a greater effort to re-evaluate the state of the entertainment industry, revisiting the most appreciated episodes of the series does not just satisfy fan demands but allows consumers to evaluate an informative cultural relic.

8 Billy Joel (1997)

At the time of the airing of this episode, the aptly-titled Piano Man had officially retired. After the release of his last studio album River of Dreams, Billy Joel revealed to journalists that although he writes music for himself, he has no intention to record or release said music for the time being.

In traditional Behind the Music fashion, the crew evaluates Billy Joel’s career and legacy through the lens of Joel himself. Despite his gargantuan career, Joel opens up about being taken advantage of by scheming managers, a deceitful family member, as well as his experience with substance abuse. In one instance, Joel reveals that the constant financial abuse has led to him missing out on an estimated figure of $90 million.

Giving Joel the autonomy to share his story results in an episodic diary that stands in between platforming the Piano Man and avoiding the exploitation of Billy Joel’s experiences for personal or financial gain.

7 The Notorious B.I.G. (2001)

In the episode dedicated to the bastion of Bad Boy Records, Biggie appears via video footage alongside rappers Diddy, Method Man, Charli Baltimore, and R&B singer Faith Evans. His peers delved deep into Biggie’s life in Brooklyn before his historic rise alongside the lasting impact he has left on rap music following his passing.

6 George Michael (2004)

Coming out of the ’80s as a solidified success, this beloved special follows the man, the music, and the mantra of one George Michael. Providing fans with an extensive look inside the megastar’s life, the episode begins by framing Michael’s family life as troubling. As is the case for most queer children, safety and unconditional love was not as guaranteed as it is for others. Coupled with a toxic father-son dynamic, Michael’s childhood mirrors that of many viewers each with its caveats and distinctions.

The special soon explores George’s rise to fame, both as a member of Wham and in his solo career. With classics such as “Careless Whisper,” “Father Figure,” and “I Want Your Sex,” George’s glimmering career was believed to be a dream by many. However, by now, the general consciousness surrounding fame has slightly shifted for the better, with many understanding the dark clouds that hover over the famous.

George’s struggles with his sexuality, the negative effects of the blockbuster success of the Faith album, and the loss of several important figures in his life threatened to destabilize him. The episode follows the traditional story of fame: capturing the rise, unraveling, and continued success of an icon like George Michael.

5 Aaliyah (2012)

Aaliyah Haughton has been immortalized as the Princess of R&B. Due to her influential fashion choices and musical direction, the triple-threat has been revered by industry peers, fans, movie stars, and critics alike. Behind the Music’s special episode chronicles the impactful life, untimely death, and longstanding legacy of the singer. With albums such as One In A Million and her self-titled effort, the episode focuses on the fruitful collaboration and friendship between her, Missy Elliott, and Timbaland.

Outside of music, audiences also see a “goofy” glow to the singer, commonly described as a sweet soul and a great friend to the various people who have had the chance to be in her circle.

Twenty years after her passing, Aaliyah’s aesthetic has blossomed into a noteworthy trend in fashion. With roots going back to early 2010s Tumblr and late 2010s Twitter, her iconography has been passionately preserved by fans attempting to spread the true history of Aaliyah. At the time of the Behindthe Music special, her likeness can be found all over the internet and among the latest crop of budding R&B talent.

4 Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers (1999)

Premiering decades after the passing of Tom Petty, fans were gifted a passionate introduction to the band. At the time, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers have deemed rock titans due to their domination of the genre’s scene during the ’70s and ’80s.

The special documents the band’s hectic business relationship with MCA, and the impact of the line-up changes, alongside plenty of intriguing anecdotes. The episode touches on the mysterious arson attack on Petty’s home as well as the chaotic incident that led to Tom’s hand injury.

Behind the Music‘s coverage of Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers exemplifies the quiet chaos that followed the band. Unlike the metal and grunge bands that dominated the ’90s, the controversy surrounding Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers was far more concerned with Petty’s relentless fight for artistic freedom.

3 Megadeth (1999)

Through the examination of Dave Ellefson’s tumultuous childhood, audiences soon entrap themselves in the riveting narrative around the English rock band. Formed in 1983, the band has been credited as one of the four most influential thrash metal bands and Megadeth‘s Behind the Music special illustrates influential instances throughout the band’s career that paved the way for their marveling success.

Fans, newcomers, and curious viewers get an exclusive look inside the band’s premature days, such as Dave’s stint as Metallica’s lead guitarist and the subsequent feuding, their influential ’80s debut album as well as their successful run in the ’90s.

2 Motley Crüe (1998)

With an ample amount of sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll, Behind the Music‘s overview of Motley Crüe has garnered mass acclaim. The tempestuous episode follows the controversial band from its inception to its contemporary status as heavy metal mavericks.

Related: Megadeth Frontman Dave Mustaine Explores His Time in Metallica & Rise as Thrash Metal Legend in Gibson’s IconsFollowing the format of the series, audiences revisit many of the band’s most infamous moments, including but not limited to substance abuse, domestic violence, and debaucherous behavior. The episode develops into a dark recollection of the band’s career as it touches on the fatal car crash involving lead vocalist Vince Neil and the late musician Razzle as well as the often glamorized but terrifying marriage between drummer Tommy Lee and actress Pamela Anderson.

1 Bette Midler (1999)


It comes as no surprise that the episode surrounding the legendary multi-hyphenate ranks first. Documenting her illustrious career, the episode follows Bette Midlers birth, rise to fame, ascension to icon status, and the various experiences that truly define her career.

The episode unveils interesting and important factors about Midler’s life, such as her initial residency at Continental Baths, Alongside Barry Manilow, Bette Midler impressed audiences with her captivating voice and her inclination for a “mellow” adult contemporary style. Notable for their gay patrons, Midler was a staunch supporter of LGBTQ rights as the world saw the ravaging effects of AIDs and the poisonous rhetoric that came with the disease.

Midler’s extensive performing career lends itself to the various people and experiences she meets along the way and vice versa. Whether it be a stint on Broadway or her slew of multi-platinum records, Bette used a fruitful combination of her talent, her connections, and an ear for what audiences crave to create a formidable career.

While the Behind the Music format does not cover every aspect of her life, the episode contextualizes Midler’s fame within the broad scope of American history, further solidifying Midler’s imperative icon status.

Video: Bette Midler – VH1’s Behind The Music

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