How much carpe can one diem take?
Featuring everyone from Bublé to Bieber to basketballer Serge Ibaka, Sunday night’s star-splashed Stronger Together broadcast will follow on the heels of several other recent eyeball-grabbing events including Elton’s John’s Living Room Concert, CBS’s Grammy Salute to Prince, Andrea Bocelli’s online Easter Sunday special and last weekend’s One World: Together at Home extravaganza. Appointment television and must-see streams are holding sway, but surely, even in our captive state, we’re at risk of being overbooked.
The Stronger Together/Tous Ensemble show is set to be the biggest multiplatform broadcast in Canadian history, with 15 broadcasting groups led by Bell Media and CBC/Radio-Canada presenting the event on hundreds of television, radio, streaming and on-demand platforms. Organized as a national salute to front-line workers combatting COVID-19, the 90-minute commercial-free broadcast supports Food Banks Canada.
It begins at 6:30 p.m., with a roster of performers and testimonial givers too vast to list here. Margaret Atwood, Céline Dion and Shania Twain will let us into their homes. Famous comedians, athletes, actors and one ubiquitous astronaut will also open their doors. Fans of Schitt’s Creek will not be let down.
Organizers say all the participants have yet to be yet announced, but how much is too much these days when superstars seem to be doing everything but delivering us pizza on a daily basis?
According to Bell Media’s Mike Cosentino, overkill is not at risk. “People want to be entertained and informed, and it’s up to us to megaphone the right message to our audiences.”
Cosentino, Bell Media’s president of content and programming, spoke to The Globe and Mail on a conference call with Sally Catto, CBC’s general manager for entertainment, factual and sport. Though both of them insisted Stronger Together participants represented the diversity of the country, there’s a noticeable lack of hip-hop artists.
Canadians Drake, rapper Tory Lanez and R&B star the Weeknd sit atop the Billboard charts, yet none of the three appeared on Global Citizen’s One World special. They’re not expected to appear on Stronger Together either.
Neither Cosentino nor Catto would comment on who was approached to appear on Sunday’s broadcast, but Bell Media’s president is Randy Lennox, who used to run Universal Music Canada. If he doesn’t have Drake’s cell number, no one does.
It’s hard to believe Drake and the Weeknd weren’t invited. Perhaps they chose not to cameo, not to be a joiner, not to sublimate themselves for a cause. As for Tory Lanez, show producers might have been scared off by the rapper’s popular but scandalous Quarantine Radio broadcasts on Instagram Live.
If there’s one thing the organizers of these kind of events have to be wary of, it’s tone. Pretentious behaviour on the One World broadcast – including John Legend showing off his Grammy Awards – did not go unnoticed. Mansion-dwelling country superstar Tim McGraw singing poolside on Elton John’s special was a bad look. Neil Young petting his dog in a Colorado cabin during one of his Fireside Session streams? Much better.
“Everyone wants to get this right,” Cosentino said about tone.
Added Catto: “The artists understand the gravity of the situation.”
And maybe that’s the problem – the seriousness. Some of the best performances of One World were the fun ones. The cloned Kieth Urbans were a gas. A looning Charley Watts of the Rolling Stones air-drummed, not bothering to pretend the music was anything but touched-up and prerecorded.
These kind of shows are not celebrations, but neither are they funerals. Live Aid in 1985 raised money for Ethiopian famine relief, yet no one forgets Mick Jagger and Tina Turner disrobing and dueting wildly. We shouldn’t expect those kind of sexy shenanigans on Sunday, but a little bit of unzipped escapism wouldn’t be out of line.
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