This week started off on an uplifting note, as Sunday night (April 5) saw both the star-studded country special ACM Presents: Our Country and American Idol’s Top 20 (well, 21 — read on) reveal. And on Monday, the World Health Organization announced another all-star special for April 18, curated by the one and only Lady Gaga.
Artists brought good vibes throughout the week, too: Cardi B and Rihanna offered big donations to the COVID-19 efforts, and Camila Cabello and Shawn Mendes paid a virtual visit to kids in a Washington D.C. hospital.
But in the middle of the positive events came the tragic death of Americana icon John Prine, who sadly passed away from coronavirus complications on Tuesday (April 7). He clearly left a mark on the industry, though, as countless stars shared touching messages to the late singer.
Take a look at some of the week’s biggest music happenings below.
Luke Bryan, Miranda Lambert and more country stars performed on ACM Presents: Our Country
On the night of what would have been the 55th Academy of Country Music Awards, country’s biggest stars joined together virtually for a two-hour special of uplifting performances. Miranda Lambert, Dierks Bentley, Lady Antebellum, Tim McGraw and several more sang from their respective homes, with the event concluding in a touching tribute to the late Kenny Rogers from Luke Bryan, Brad Paisley and Darius Rucker. (The official ACM Awards will take place in Nashville on Sept. 16.)
American Idol finalized its Top 21 for Season 18
Sunday was also a big night for American Idol fans, as the show’s final judge cuts were made to determine the top 21. Yes, this year’s batch of contestants are so good, Katy Perry, Lionel Richie and Luke Bryan couldn’t decide on a Top 20 — so they left the last spot up to viewers, with country singers Grace Leer and Lauren Mascitti battling it out (Idol didn’t say when the show will announce who claimed the spot, but voting closed on April 7). Though the coronavirus pandemic has temporarily put the show on hold, Billboard sat down with each of the contestants prior to the nationwide quarantine: Meet your Top 21 here.
WHO and Global Citizen announced the Lady Gaga-curated One World: Together At Home special
The World Health Organization’s virtual press conference on Monday (April 6) featured some big news: WHO and Global Citizen announced One World: Together at Home, a star-studded international special that will support healthcare workers who are fighting COVID-19. The stacked lineup was curated in collaboration with Lady Gaga, and will feature Billie Eilish, Paul McCartney, Keith Urban, Lizzo, Maluma, Coldplay’s Chris Martin, Elton John, and many more. Click here for more information on the April 18 special.
While John Prine’s passing was undoubtedly heartbreaking, it was touching to see how many artists he impacted from the outpour of social media reactions. “He was never anything but the lovliest guy in the world,” Bruce Springsteen tweeted. “A true national treasure and a songwriter for the ages.” Prine even made a mark on late-night hosts, with Seth Meyers tweeting, “No one wrote songs about humankind with more grace and wit.” But perhaps Sheryl Crow’s simple statement put it best: “You will be missed but your songs will live on.”
Shawn Mendes and Camila Cabello video chatted with patients at a DC hospital
As Camila Cabello and Shawn Mendes quarantine together, they decided to use some of their downtime to brighten the day for pediatric patients at Children’s National Hospital in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday. The couple teamed up with Ryan Seacrest’s foundation to surprise some adorable kids via video chat, answering questions and dancing to Megan Thee Stallion’s “Savage.” Cabello posted some of the interactions on Instagram, captioning the sweet post, “Kids are the light of this whole world!!!!!”
Cardi B pledged $1 million to coronavirus relief
Cardi B has been very vocal on social media during the coronavirus pandemic (even spawning a hit with her “Coronavirus Remix”), but her latest Instagram post may have been her most meaningful yet. The rapper announced that she’s teaming up with Fashion Nova to help those impacted by COVID-19, donating $1,000 every hour until they’ve given away $1 million. She even paid homage to the late Bill Withers in her post, singing a snippet of his comforting hit “Lean on Me.”
Bob Dylan scored his first-ever No. 1 on a Billboard chart
Believe it or not, it took the legendary Bob Dylan nearly 60 years to reach the top of a Billboard chart under his name. Even crazier? He achieved the feat with a 17-minute track. “Murder Most Foul,” a chronicle of the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy, reached No. 1 on the Rock Digital Song Sales chart dated April 11. But don’t worry, Dylan has celebrated a couple of No. 1s as a writer too: Peter Paul & Mary’s rendition of “Blowin’ in the Wind” topped the Adult Contemporary airplay chart in August 1963, and The Byrds’ version of “Mr. Tambourine Man” ruled the Hot 100 in June 1965.
Lil Nas X celebrated his 21st birthday with some surprising guests
Though Lil Nas X couldn’t celebrate his 21st birthday grabbing a drink with friends, he made the most of his quarantined bday thanks to Elmo and a piece of bread. (No, we’re not kidding.) “Bringing in my 21st with my day 1,” the rapper captioned a hilarious video of himself blowing out a candle on slice of bread, while holding a stuffed Elmo and dancing to Doja Cat’s “Say So.” He later shared a clip of his “quarantine birthday turn up” with Elmo, which featured strobe lights and thumping house music. From the looks of it, Lil Nas had a great 21st:
Twenty One Pilots dropped the quarantine-centric “Level of Concern” video
These uncertain times may be scary, but Twenty One Pilots offered a silver lining: “Level of Concern,” a quarantine-inspired bop that the duo unveiled along with a home-video visual on Thursday (April 9). The grooving track marks TØP’s first new music since 2018, and was clearly written and recorded over the past few weeks (“Would you be my little quarantine?” singer Tyler Joseph sings on the pre-chorus). To make the song even more special, the band intends to donate a portion of the “Level of Concern” proceeds to Crew Nation, which will benefit touring and venue personnel affected by coronavirus.
Selena Gomez unveiled a deluxe version of Rare
Meanwhile, Selenators had not one, but three new songs to dive into on Thursday, when Selena Gomez released the deluxe version of Rare. The expanded LP features her previously released fan-favorite “Feel Me,” along with new songs titled “Boyfriend,” “Souvenir” and “She.” To add to the excitement, the next day Gomez revealed the video for “Boyfriend,” a masterful play on the old saying “you have to kiss a few frogs before finding your prince.”
Just when Ariantors thought Ariana Grande’s “7 Rings” put a brilliant twist on Rodgers & Hammerstein’s classic “My Favorite Things,” Ari went and did it again — this time, with a quarantine twist. “Hair masks and hot baths and exfoliation/ zoom chats and board games, guided meditations/ learning to beat my own face decently/ these are some steps of my quaran(rou)tine,” she wrote in a now-deleted social media post, declaring in the caption that the list should be sung to the “My Favorite Things” melody. Though the post is no longer there, one post she did leave up was one thing she didn’t mention in her quaran(rou)tine: An Adam Sandler-approved reenactment of a famous Waterboy scene.
Rihanna teamed up with Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey for a huge donation to domestic violence victims
Ten days after Rihanna’s Clara Lionel Foundation donated $1 million to COVID-19 response efforts, the “Love on the Brain” singer took her support to the next level. Her foundation teamed with Twitter/Square CEO Jack Dorsey to provide $4.2 million to the Mayor’s Fund for Los Angeles, helping domestic violence victims in the city amid the “stay at home” mandate. According to a press release, the funds will provide 10 weeks of shelter, meals and counseling for 90 domestic violence victims per week, with an additional 90 victims every week thereafter for 10 weeks.
Twenty One Pilots and Selena Gomez weren’t the only ones with exciting releases this week. The Strokes’ highly anticipated album The New Abnormal arrived on Friday (April 10); Tory Lanez dropped the third installment of his The New Toronto mixtape series; and Maddie & Tae released their long-awaited sophomore album, The Way It Feels. And along with a track from Charli XCX, there were several songs that involved some awesome team-ups: John Mayer and Leon Bridges, Alesso and Liam Payne, and Black Eyed Peas with Ozuna and J. Rey Soul. Check out Billboard‘s run-down here!