For those not terminally addicted to listening to lightly fluffed chart music, the appearance of Lewis Capaldi on the screens may be met with ambivalence. The funny Scottish fella whose self-deprecating humour made him an indie darling on TikTok in his early years has since moved on. An all-access documentary from Netflix, where have audiences heard that one before? Streaming giant Netflix get their nails in deep with the stars of tomorrow, and yesterday, with Taylor Swift and Lady Gaga also profiled by the platform. They are both done with that gloss and immeasurable hand-wringing that comes when in the presence of an artist whose net worth would take a big chunk from their shares. How I’m Feeling Now knows that and bigs up Capaldi as the commercial pop artist with a heart behind the scenes.
For some, it could be argued that heart does not make it onto the stage, but this is not a criticism of his music but of the documentary. It is never easy to watch anyone head through a struggle, yet Netflix profile someone who by his own admission needed a mental health check. How genuine anyone can be in the presence of so many cameras, how fans will swallow up their every word with no criticism or observation of the impact, is a speciality reserved for the superstar documentary. Swift and Selena Gomez have featured within it, and even the better artists on the lower rungs, Suede and Pulp for instance, have seen their appeal profited from through nothing more than a few lines on their hometown and a reason to throw a camera toward them. Documentary filmmaking in the music scene has often felt stifled, but it feels deflated here.
He could certainly be forgiven for being obtuse, as a lyric to the title track of this documentary makes reference to. Capaldi’s tour through his hometown, the eventual rise in conflict behind the scenes and a sudden diagnosis are touching without the generally unremarkable documentary work from Joe Pearlman. He is an expert in making messy, emotionally staggered pieces and does not fail here. An unusual following Capaldi has, those who scream and cry for tracks that are made for a broad and common denomination but are helmed by a seemingly lovely person who has been unchanged by fame when it comes to his roots. It is hard to break through to the real Capaldi in How I’m Feeling Now because so much of it is phased out with slow-motion, the doubts of every artist projected as just of Capaldi.
Every artist fears the next step. Capaldi seems like a nice lad who hit the top of what his dreams had reached out for, and in inevitable stardom-like fashion, there was burnout and realisation. How I’m Feeling Now has a silver lining under it, that Capaldi has achieved that and backed away from it so suddenly is a sign he knows to pick up the pieces. But that is a private battle and Netflix does very little to make him feel like a person. He is a product to be shown off and profiled ahead of his next album release. Perhaps his peak for those that take an active aversion to the charts will remember Capaldi’s peak as the Rough Trade video from three years ago, but for many, he means much more. How I’m Feeling Now will shortchange those it appeals to but not receive criticism from them, because they are hungry leeches wanting peeks behind the camera at the so-called “real” person.