Reviewed by Divya Venkataraman
How many celebrities does it take to conquer a global pandemic?
International movement Global Citizen has been nudging its superstar friends to perform one-off gigs in support of the fight against COVID-19 for weeks. This weekend, it rallied its biggest lineup yet.
Curated by Lady Gaga, the One World special was less star-studded, more totally star-drenched: the concert brought together the likes of Elton John, Taylor Swift, and Paul McCartney to perform over an eight-hour marathon affair.
Big-name hits and spot-on classic covers were the order of the day. Gaga kicked off the main event, her “love letter to the world”, with a cover of Nat King Cole’s Smile. Shawn Mendes and Camila Cabello spun a mesmerising duet out of What a Wonderful World.
Elton John’s I’m Still Standing had suspiciously high production value for a quarantine effort. Then the Rolling Stones shimmered on to a split-screen one by one to each play their instruments on You Can’t Always Get What You Want.
Pertinent public health messaging punctuated almost every performance throughout both the digital and broadcast events. Celebrity interjections thanking frontline workers were numerous and sometimes incongruous but all heartfelt: Heidi Klum, Samuel L. Jackson and Michelle Obama all made appearances.
Oprah applauded healthcare staff after BurnaBoy’s set. NYC emergency physician Sanam Ahmed wrapped up her interview by introducing Lizzo, who sang Sam Cooke’s A Change Is Gonna Come showing off a voice as phenomenal belting out soul classics as it is singing about boys up in her DMs.
Later, Taylor Swift’s restrained performance of the lesser-known You’ll Get Better Soon didn’t quite hit the same note as familiar, evocative favourites.
It would be remiss not to mention the isolation personas that celebrities chose to project to the world: Adam Lambert crooned in blue eyeshadow, a velour jacket, and glitter jungle backdrop, while Charlie Puth sang his hit See You Again in front of his unmade bed piled with clothes. Delta Goodrem’s ARIA awards and John Legend’s Grammys conspicuously featured throughout their performances.
In the six-hour livestreamed digital lead up to the big-ticket broadcasted concert, lesser-known global musicians shone: South African rapper Sho Madjozi dancing unabashedly in her living room, and Belgian singer Angèle dazzling with her soft techno bops.
Finally, in true all-star form, the concert finished with Celine Dion, Andrea Bocelli, Lang Lang, John Legend and Miss Gaga herself performing ’99 hit, The Prayer.
In these unprecedented times, nostalgia ultimately proved most powerful.