Right now, we don’t need famous people to serenade us with a token song from their mansions. We need them to reach into their millions and financially help to provide PPE for valuable workers, support for those in a domestic violence situation, and ultimately to end the coronavirus pandemic. Created by Lady Gaga in collaboration with Global Citizen and the World Health Organisation, the One World: Together at Home benefit livestream is meant to focus on the message of solidarity and entertainment, rather than ordinary people donating money that they may not be able to afford.
Gaga herself has single-handedly raised $35 million, an admirable effort and one that, until she chose to announce it, hadn’t been publicised. Bringing together the biggest stars on the planet, from different professions, genres, and countries, the 8 hour livestream was an unprecedented but brilliant way to promote both the arts and the tremendous efforts of key workers. Frequent infomercials and promos by celebrities such as Matthew McConaughey and Kate Winslet, and politicians such as Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg and London Mayor Sadiq Khan praised carers, healthcare workers, and those working to make sure the world stays fed.
The first 6 hours were a fantastic warm-up to the main act, a 2 hour concert featuring Lady Gaga and the top-billed artists singing various songs, from deep cuts to appropriate covers. Repeated on BBC1 for UK viewers with presenting done in-studio by Clara Amfo, Dermot O’Leary, and Claudia Winkleman, it was a shame to see them blatantly ignore the title of the benefit ‘Together At Home’. The trio instead chose to work in favour of a more traditional presenting style, flouting the restrictions placed on the UK by the government in a fashion that left many with a bitter taste in their mouths.
Regardless, the performances provided a sense of hope around the world, as Gaga opened the show with the Charlie Chaplin classic ‘Smile’. With many artists choosing to perform covers, this was a benefit that showcased their natural ability, particularly with singers like Billie Eilish who sang a stripped back version of ‘Sunny’ with her brother Finneas on piano. The large production of typical music videos and acts was gone, replaced by a more humanising glimpse into homes, with Charlie Puth’s unmade bed a point of humour for the audience at home. And it provided a boost for the artists too- Kacey Musgraves and Taylor Swift in particular saw sales of their songs ‘Rainbow’ and ‘Soon You’ll Get Better’ boom, making up 42% of the purchases of songs performed.
This was no typical fundraiser, where we would expect to see millionaires imploring the working class to dip into funds we barely have. Instead, we were encouraged to simply enjoy the music, while behind the scenes Gaga and the team were working hard to garner donations from private organisations such as Apple. And it was a tactic that worked- by Sunday, the total raised was $127 million, an astounding feat in a world that some say has never felt more apart. By bringing us all together to do what we can, and showing appreciation to those working on the front lines, the ‘One World: Together at Home’ benefit warmed hearts around the world, on an unusually lonely Saturday night.