MusiCares goes on a ‘Mission’ with virtual event featuring BTS, H.E.R., John Legend and others

Jhené Aiko sings during the March 12, 2021 virtual event, "Music on a Mission," produced by MusiCares.
Jhené Aiko sings during the March 12, 2021 virtual event, "Music on a Mission," produced by MusiCares.

Credit: Courtesy of MusiCares

Credit: Courtesy of MusiCares

In a normal year, the annual MusiCares Person of the Year benefit – traditionally the Friday night before the Grammy Awards – recognizes an artist or band for musical and charitable contributions.

In January 2020, all eyes were on honorees Aerosmith, who only days early had possibly, maybe, perhaps booted drummer Joey Kramer from the band (the veteran sticksman took a bow with Aerosmith that night, but did not play during their performance).

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The year prior, Dolly Parton earned the honor and, notably, the 2018 feting of Fleetwood Mac was the impetus for Stevie Nicks’ furor at Lindsey Buckingham (he gently mocked Nicks behind her back as she was addressing the crowd), resulting in his departure from the storied songsmiths.

It’s also always a ritzy fundraiser for the charitable arm of the Recording Academy, which typically assists musicians who need financial aid for health crises or other emergencies.

But in our still-pandemic lives, the blah-ness of a virtual world remains and this year, rather than spotlight an honoree, MusiCares tweaked its focus to “Music on a Mission.” The online event paid tribute to the resilience of the music industry while also reminding people of the dire needs of so many musicians, crew members and others within the live music community whose livelihoods have been decimated by COVID-19.

In the past year, MusiCares has distributed more than $24 million to about 30,000 music professionals.

On Friday night, a $25 donation provided viewers an opening set from DJ D Nice in his “Club Quarantine” (fittingly, his first tune was Sister Sledge’s “Lost in Music”) and slightly more than an hour of pre-taped current performances, clips from the MusiCares vault and affirmations from artists including Gloria Estefan, Elton John, Ringo Starr and Lionel Richie about the importance of the organization. (Those who purchased a ticket can view the production through March 19.)

H.E.R. performs "Fight for You" during the 2021 MusiCares "Music on a Mission" livestream.
H.E.R. performs "Fight for You" during the 2021 MusiCares "Music on a Mission" livestream.

Credit: Courtesy of MusiCares

Credit: Courtesy of MusiCares

All proceeds from the event will be distributed to music industry people in need; at its peak – pre-BTS performance – the livestream nabbed almost 19,000 viewers.

Beamed in from their respective sound stages or, in the case of John Legend, impeccably appointed living room with a fire flickering in the background, a lineup that also included Jhené Aiko,, Haim, H.E.R. and BTS unfurled their respective hits, including “Love” (Aiko), “Fight For You” (H.E.R.) and “Dynamite” (BTS, who utilized an empty theater and stationed JK – aka Jungkook – behind a drum set for a bit).

While well-intentioned, the current performances interspersed with caffeinated throwback videos mostly made us long for the types of packed audiences and shared electricity among music lovers shown in the old footage.

From Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band (the 2014 honorees) to Usher (saluting Lionel Richie in 2016 with a pitch-perfect rendition of The Commodores’ “Lady”) to Nicks with friend Tom Petty (the subject of 2017′s tribute only months before his untimely death) duetting on “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around,” MusiCares has undoubtedly created many a stirring musical moment.

Let’s hope for that collective experience in 2022.

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