While the pandemic could have kept Elton John from hosting his yearly Oscars viewing party, it actually made the night’s cause even more worthwhile.
Given how the COVID-19 health crisis has especially impacted the millions of people fighting AIDS and HIV around the world, the Elton John AIDS Foundation forged ahead with the fundraiser, pivoting to a livestreamed pre-party followed by commercial-break interludes during the awards-show broadcast. The superstar singer/songwriter lined up host Neil Patrick Harris and performer Dua Lipa, plus appearances from Lady Gaga, Cynthia Erivo, the cast of It’s a Sin and more of his famous friends, for a night of music, comedy, interviews and education.
Below, Billboard highlights five of the best moments from an entertaining and impactful virtual event.
Dua Lipa Brings the Oscars Glam
Just because there wasn’t an in-person gala didn’t mean Dua Lipa dressed down for the night. In fact, the pop star went all-out glam for a pair of two-song sets, wearing a floor-length, long-sleeve black velvet turtleneck gown with a feather-duster train, topped off with a chunky chain-link diamond necklace and a sleek black hairstyle. Her four backup singers and bandmembers – including two guitars, a keyboard and a string section – followed her dress code in tuxes and black dresses, surrounded by mirrored walls and feathered bouquets. But what about the music? That was all class too, as Lipa delivered orchestral arrangements of her Billboard Hot 100 top five hits “Don’t Start Now” and “Levitating,” as well as two more tracks from her Grammy-winning Future Nostalgia album: “Hallucinate” and “Pretty Please.” (More Dua to come…)
Cynthia Erivo Turns an Elton Classic Into Oscars Trivia
We all know and love “Your Song,” but this version was a little bit funny. Actress Cynthia Erivo changed the lyrics of Elton’s 1971 top 10 Hot 100 hit to a series of famous lines from Oscar-winning movies, stringing together “Show me the money,” “I am your father,” “Shaken not stirred,” “Here’s lookin’ at you, kid,” “I’m the king of the world!” and more along to the famous melody, for a little movie trivia delivered via pop song. Best of all: Erivo wore a flamingo-adorned cocktail dress that recalled Björk’s infamous swan dress at the 2001 Oscars.
Lady Gaga Urges the Importance of Mental Health
Lady Gaga has always been an advocate for mental health, especially through her Born This Way Foundation, so it’s no surprise that she has teamed up with her good friend and his Elton John AIDS Foundation to champion mental health programs for young people fighting AIDS. In a videotaped message, Gaga said, “This last year has taken a huge toll on the mental health of people all over the world. Our mental health is fundamental to our physical health, and this is especially true to young people fighting HIV. … We won’t end the AIDS crisis unless we provide care for both mental and physical health,” she implored.
Olly Alexander FaceTimes His Castmates
The cast of It’s a Sin — the drama series set during the 1980s AIDS crisis that originally aired on the U.K.’s Channel 4 and is now streaming on HBO Max — sidled up to the bar and chatted with Sir Elton and his husband, David Furnish, while singing along to John’s “Saturday Night’s Alright.” Of course, the Oscars are always on Sunday, so John suggested they update the lyric to a more appropriate day. Missing from the crew was Olly Alexander, who FaceTimed with co-star Lydia West and said he was busy promoting his new Years and Years song “Starstruck” and was surprised to see all his castmates hanging out with Elton John without him. “We miss you, Olly!” John called to the musician/actor.
Elton John Duets With Dua for the Very First Time
This was the main event: The night’s entertainment teamed up with the night’s host. After Dua’s outfit change into a sequined and fringed long-sleeve silver dress to match John’s purple-sequined blazer, the duo took turns duetting on each other’s songs, starting with John’s Hot 100 chart-topper “Bennie and the Jets” (watch video above). Next up was Future Nostalgia deep cut “Love Again,” with Elton staying at the piano and seeming to have an especially good time growling the line “goddamn, you’ve got me in love again.” Dua blew a kiss to Elton after the performance and said, “What a dream and an honor. Elton, thank you so much for having me!”
If you’d like to donate to the Elton John AIDS Foundation, text (310) 773-5233 with your donation amount, your name (or anonymous) and an optional message.