Does Brian Wilson know who Lorde is? Or why there's a tiger on his piano?
This lavish video boasts an array of stars performing Wilson's 1966 Beach Boys classic "God Only Knows" to help launch BBC Music, described by the company as "an ambitious wave of new programs, innovative partnerships and ground-breaking music initiatives."
Karmarama created the clip, which features luminaries representing various generations and styles. The Impossible Orchestra, as it's called, features Wilson, Lorde, Elton John, Pharrell Williams, One Direction, Stevie Wonder, Dave Grohl, Jake Bugg, Emeli Sandé, Chris Martin and many more. Kylie Minogue floats in a soap bubble. Baaba Maal rides by in a balloon. Alison Balsom sits perched in a gilded cage.
The extravaganza debuted yesterday during a pan-channel BBC broadcast, and the video's nearing 800,000 YouTube views already. The song also benefits BBC's Children in Need charity, is available for download and streaming and was released as a physical CD single in the U.K.
"One of the things that interested me most about this project was the idea of bringing together so many different styles of music," says Ethan Johns, who produced the tune. "To make so much diversity work within one piece of music was quite a challenge."
Naturally, the initiative's been compared, favorably and otherwise, to other musical megastar team-ups, such as the 1997 Children in Need reboot of Lou Reed's "Perfect Day," which was a global smash. (Elton John is the only star from that outing to appear in "God Only Knows," by the way.)
One story in the Guardian brands the new effort as "not quite a perfect day," noting, "There's something self-aggrandizing about this—but with the amount of music the BBC covers, perhaps it is deserved?" Coverage elsewhere on the site disdainfully notes that "God Only Knows" arrives just as "the corporation's battle to retain the television license fee [is] getting almost tougher by the week."
BBC Music director Bob Sherman explains the project, and the song choice, thusly: "Everybody gets the significance of 'God Only Knows.' And that's what we're trying to do with BBC Music. We're trying to make it feel like it's an all-encompassing brand for everybody." That quote comes from the "making-of" clip, in which Queen guitarist Brian May—whose trademark fret runs on "God Only Knows" are a highlight—seems to offer a slightly different take, calling the song "quite enigmatic, really."
Some view the CGI effects and costumed theatrics as overkill, but I'd say the grand scale fits the message, which is quietly captured in the closing bars of the performance. Wilson sits alone at the piano, sans tiger or bombast, just looking into the camera and singing his brilliant song. A single feather drifts onto the keyboard, like a celestial seal of approval, reminding us that music is a blessing capable of lifting us up to a higher plane.