TV’s music-from-home experiment is taking some big jumps: A virtual “American Idol” (see separate commentary here) began Sunday (April 26); a virtual “Voice” begins May 4.
That continues a trend that has included six primetime music-from-home specials. Most recent was a Disney singalong and then a global marathon, with six hours streaming and then two more simulcast on three networks.
Some moments — including Jennifer Lopez doing “People” (shown here) — have been wonderful; some have been modest. To her credit, Billie Eilish has done three of these; in each, alas, she was barely audible.
And some have been technically impressive. Keith Urban was singing and playing the guitar, when another guitarist ambled into the background; that one was also Keith Urban … as was a third. At the end of the number, Nicole Kidman came in and hugged one of them; he must have been the best Keith Urban.
Some singers cut between views of back-up musicians, singers, even dancers. Some groups were re-united from different cities. The Backstreet Boys included lots of clever touches, zipping between soloists; the Rolling Stones settled for four unchanging rectangles … but at least this was the Stones.
Some pictures were crisp … especially for ABC’s Disney singalong. Technically, the ideal was the Garth Brooks/Trisha Yearwood concert from their home studio; the sights and sounds were perfect.
For others, there were problems – especially when working with a piano. Even the Sirs (Paul and Elton) couldn’t beat that.
The piano is a very insistent instrument; for a singer-pianist, the sounds must be adjusted perfectly. Otherwise, one choice is to simply shout; that’s what Elton John did. Even Stevie Wonder and Paul McCartney – two of the all-time greats – were so-so when singing at the piano bench.
It probably shouldn’t surprise us that some of the best moments in global event’s primetime portion were when someone simply sang. Lizzo did that well; Lopez did it wonderfully on “People,” a song usually avoided by sub-Streisand singers (which is pretty much the entire world). And, separately, Miley Cyrus had a great song in the second at-home edition of “Saturday Night Live.”
One of my favories has been “The Prayer,” wrapping up the global marathon. The piano was handled (quite well, I might add) by Lang Lang, leaving Andrea Bocelli, Lady Gaga (who organized the show), John Legend and Celine Dion to simply sing. With the exception of Dion, all had tried here (or on a previous show) to accompany themselves on piano. This time, they were magnificent.
At times, people were simply singing to recorded tracks. Still, that’s what “Idol” did its first season.
Yes, I wish the old “Idol” would still be here. I wish we had big-deal rock concerts like the recent Prince tribute … with Prince still alive … and the Beatles together … and Nicole Kidman hugging me.
But as the Stones reminded us during the golobal event: “You can’t always get what you want/But if you try sometimes you find/You get what you need.”
And right now, we need lots of at-home music.