Avid concert and festival goers are arguably amongst the most disappointed amidst the COVID-19 crisis and orders of social-distancing. Many anticipated shows for this spring and summer across the nation have understandably been forced to cancel or postpone. Thankfully for music lovers, the show must go on for many artists, stage or no stage. Televised concerts have become many singers’ attempted solution to the loss of live performances during these unprecedented times. Luckily for the artists behind the virtual concert efforts, quarantine boredom has bred a captive audience for any source of potential entertainment. Ultimately though, can the concert experience really be replicated from the comforts of our respective couches?
iHeartRadio was the first of a variety of major companies to host their own TV concert on March 29. The “iHeartRadio Living Room Concert for America” was held in an effort to provide relief and support to the American public, particularly those on the frontlines fighting against the spread of the coronavirus. Host and performer, Elton John, kicked off the star-studded event with an inspiring speech from the comforts of what appeared to be his kitchen. Some of the performances included Billie Eilish, Alicia Keys, Camila Cabello, Shawn Mendes and Mariah Carey. The concert served as both a temporary replacement for the iHeartRadio Music Awards, as well as a benefit for Feeding America and the First Responders Children’s Foundation, as reported by BBC News. The concert allegedly raised a grand total of $10 million for these two charities according to The Mercury News. As expected, I found the at-home film quality to be average with a performance quality to match. Many songs felt shortened or half-hearted, but overall it was moderately entertaining. The charitable attributes of the show were by far its most admirable element.
ABC followed this up with “The Disney Family Singalong” on April 16, which was hosted by Ryan Seacrest. The singalong provided viewers with performances of Disney classics sung by stars like Ariana Grande, Darren Chris, Michael Bublé and Christina Aguilera. The special concluded with a long anticipated High School Musical reunion performance of “We’re All in This Together.” 10.3 million viewers tuned in to the one-hour long special, and it is also now available on Disney+ for subscribers.
While I am a firm believer that Disney is for all age groups, this special felt rather childlike. I’m all for a singalong, but overall this felt as though it was intended almost exclusively for kids. Beyond Zac Efron’s sad phone-filmed cameo, the filming and editing of the special was adequate. Recorded in what appeared to be home studios, the performances by Christina Aguilera and Tori Kelly were undoubtedly the strongest of the night, especially in terms of audio and video quality. Overall, it felt weak considering all of the amazing music and stars that I typically expect from Disney.
Global Citizen provided audiences with the “One World: Together at Home” concert on April 18, headlined by Lady Gaga, Paul McCartney, The Rolling Stones and Beyoncé. Along with its iconic hosts, the special showcased appearances and performances by an impressive list of Hollywood’s elite, including Jennifer Lopez, John Legend, Kacey Musgraves, Jimmy Fallon, Oprah Winfrey and many more. The televised event was organized by the World Health Organization, in partnership with Global Citizen, a nonprofit organization focused on ending extreme poverty, as well as focusing on other global humanitarian efforts. According to Global Citizen, an impressive $127.9 million was raised by the concert to provide resources for healthcare workers as well as alternate organizations providing coronavirus relief for those in need.
Personally, I found this to be the most impressive and impactful of the three concerts. The talent and performance quality was superior to the two prior shows. Moreover, the overall tone of the special felt a lot more emotional, especially in tandem with the features of various frontline healthcare workers and other contributors to coronavirus relief. Taylor Swift’s piano performance of “Soon You’ll Get Better,” originally written in reference to her mother’s cancer, struck me the most out of all the performances. The lyrics of the song, which Swift once said she’d likely never perform live, were poignant and powerful in relation to the pandemic’s wrath. In general, the concert left me feeling moved and my cheeks, truthfully, tear-stained.
On one hand, the opulence of these celebrity homes serving as the background for these concerts feels distasteful, distant and a little enraging. However, on the other hand, the willingness of these stars to contribute their time, talents, resources, wealth and voices to such an important cause is admirable. Considering such tremendous funds raised by the Global Citizen’s concert, I must respect the noble intentions of the artists and organizations piloting these efforts. While work far beyond songs and speeches of hope is needed at this time, this series of at-home concerts helps to fill the hunger for quarantine entertainment at the very least. I definitely do not believe that they compare at all to in-person performances, and they are undoubtedly hit-or-miss. However, wasting an hour or so of my night feels much more worthwhile when that hour also raised millions of dollars for extremely worthy causes.