John Legend and Keith Urban open Olympics with another awkward virtual performance of 'Imagine'

·2 min read

Nothing says "Olympics" like a socialist anthem about a world with no countries.

The Tokyo Games finally got underway on Friday with an opening ceremony featuring Naomi Osaka, an empty stadium, and another star-studded performance of John Lennon's "Imagine." The ceremony included a video of John Legend and Keith Urban singing the utopian 1971 hit alongside Afropop artist Angélique Kidjo and Spanish singer Alejandro Sanz, intended to represent the Americas, Oceania, Africa, and Europe, respectively.

If this seems a bit familiar, you may recall the long-ago days of March 2020, when Gal Gadot and several of her fellow celebrities (including Jimmy Fallon, Kristen Wiig, and Sia, among many others) teamed up to virtually perform "Imagine" in a video shared on social media. The stunt was rather poorly received, with many slamming the video as out of touch and tone-deaf coming from wealthy celebrities. ("'Imagine' if celebrities came together to donate money/resources to people [who] actually need it," TV critic Caroline Framke wrote on Twitter at the time, summing up the general reaction.)

Even Bridesmaids star Chris O'Dowd, who appeared in the video, later said the performance was "in that first wave of creative diarrhea that seemed to encase the entire world" at the start of the pandemic and admitted the backlash was "justified."

Gadot, however, defended the video: "I had nothing but good intentions and it came from the best place, and I just wanted to send light and love to the world," the Wonder Woman star said in the wake of the backlash. "I can only say that I meant to do something good and pure, and it didn't transcend."

It's worth noting that this is not the first time "Imagine" has been performed at the Olympics: Several Korean artists (including Ha Hyun-woo, Jeon In-kwon, Lee Eun-mi, and Ahn Ji-young) united for a rendition of the song at the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang.

Lennon's widow Yoko Ono, who co-wrote the song with the former Beatle, also expressed support for the latest performance on Twitter. "John and I were both artists and we were living together, so we inspired each other. The song 'Imagine' embodied what we believed together at the time," Ono wrote. "John and I met — he comes from the West and I come from the East — and still we are together."

The Olympic Games are now underway in Tokyo.

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