Press Play Live: iHeartRadio misses the mark with benefit concert

Photo via Wikimedia Commons under Creative Commons license Mustafa Doğan Özçelik / CC BY-SA (

Michael Kelley and Richard Andrus

Last night, Elton John hosted the iHeartRadio Living Room Concert for America, presented by Fox.

Throughout the broadcast, celebrities such as Ryan Seacrest and Lizzo appeared to discuss their thoughts regarding the ongoing pandemic while also urging viewers to donate as much capital as they could to Feeding America and First Responders Children’s Foundation, both of which are working to relieve those suffering from COVID-19.

Despite not announcing the final total during the broadcast, it was announced earlier in the night that over $1,000,000 had been made for the two charities in under 15 minutes.

The lineup for the concert included artists such as Alicia Keys, Tim McGraw and Mariah Carey, all of whom intimately performed songs off their discography from their homes to raise awareness of COVID-19.

Although the impact of the concert was self-evident, the overall message behind it came off as moderately insincere and rushed.

As the entire event was a last-minute replacement for iHeart Radio Music Awards, the latter comes as no surprise. Nonetheless, that is no excuse for insincerity in such a dire time for the world.

For example, the concert managed to speak very little about new information regarding the virus and focused more on the general knowledge about how to prevent the spread of COVID-19. However, this lack of newfound information did portray celebrities as being more relatable as they know just as much about the pandemic as the general population.

Some celebrities such as Lady Gaga did share their genuine thoughts on the pandemic, empathizing with the world and encouraging everyone not to give up.

One element worth praising is how the concert showcased the experiences and emotions of actual medical professionals that are fighting against COVID-19.

About halfway through the broadcast, a nurse spoke of her experiences taking care of victims of the virus, ultimately emphasizing the seriousness of the pandemic and genuine fear all healthcare employees face when going into work.

A performance of John Lennon’s “Imagine” by two doctors from Mayo Clinic’s Minnesota location immediately followed and was the most genuine performance of the hour-long program by far.

Other than “Imagine,” the two performances that came off as the most authentic were those done by Demi Lovato and Billie Joe Armstrong, who performed “Skyscraper” and “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” respectively.

Unlike some of the other artists who took part, Lovato and Armstrong played songs that were relevant in regards to the pandemic and conveyed a sense of optimism, instead of just playing the most popular song from their discography such as Billie Eilish with her performance of “Bad Guy.”

Dave Grohl’s performance of the Foo Fighters’ 1997 song “My Hero” was another highlight of the event. After finishing the song, Grohl stated how “If you sing this last chorus every time you wash your hands, I think you’ll be in good shape.”

While the concert as a whole promoted viewers to donate towards charitable causes, there was no evidence to suggest that the performers were doing the same and giving any of their capital toward COVID-19 prevention.

Some viewers were upset with the broadcast for this, with one Twitter user saying “It’s really upsetting for a celebrity to ask me to donate money to a great cause when I am unemployed because of #Covid_19 and they have millions of dollars. Get some perspective.”

All in all, in regards to this in-home concert experience working to be as effective as its predecessors such as Live Aid, it ended up being rather mediocre.

By fitting in tens of celebrity cameos in under an hour of runtime, the majority of whom were merely repeating similar words to those prior, the concert frequently came off as unauthentic.

Even though the individuals who appeared on the broadcast were not obligated to, the majority of them could have said more about staying hopeful and confident in this world climate. This concert had the potential for these celebrities to express how the virus has personally affected them, but instead of doing that, the majority of them decided to play the same broken record for 60 minutes.

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Twitter: @MKelleyWW & @RAndrusTWW