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The Greatest Night in Pop - So Far


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By: Isaac P. Ale
February 16, 2024

The Greatest Night in Pop The Greatest Night in Pop [2024]

Film

What would happen if you gathered the biggest music stars of the 80's and put them in a recording session for almost 12 hours? And what if they were all singing a song that, one, wasn't their own and two, was just written?

The Greatest Night in Pop chronicles such a recording session as it details the famed creation of the 1985 single "We Are the World". A song created as an American fundraiser to help against the famine in Africa, specifically in Ethiopia. Instead of appearing as a glorification of wealthy, talented, music stars' benevolence and philanthropy the documentary is a highlight of a select few. Most importantly emphasizing their ability to create at a moment's notice, manager personalities, and extract the best out of incredibly talented people.

Beginning where it makes the most sense, The Greatest Night in Pop gives a quick introduction to Harry Belafonte's inspiration for making an American super group single as a fundraiser. From there, the film flies through a collection of testimonials of superstars calling their friends and associates to get together on the track. Lionel Richie was on a nuclear level hot streak at the time and was one of the first to sign up, causing a chain reaction of enlistments. Quincy Jones was asked by Richie, who then asked Michael Jackson. Richie reached out to Stevie Wonder who never got back to him because, well that's just Stevie being Stevie. Slowly, but surely we get to see the collection of stars come together such as Bruce Springsteen, Cyndi Lauper, Huey Lewis, Kenny Loggins, Smokey Robinson, and so many more.

But the magic of the documentary isn't in the sheer star power of the subjects. Instead, The Greatest Night in Pop shines when examining the relationships between the stars. The conflict and tension of a late night recording session and the nuances of each person. No better example exists than Bob Dylan not being completely comfortable recording in front of so many people so in comes Stevie Wonder to walk him through the process. Strapping on one of the greatest Dylan impressions, Wonder is able to navigate Dylan through the wee hours of the morning and enable him to do his best work. Of course Wonder isn't the only personality manager here, nor is he the best. That honor goes to the incredible Quincy Jones who has way too much patience.

While director Bao Nguyen could've simply put together a film that is more akin to The Beatles: Get Back, basically a glorified jam session, he opted for something much more significant. Seeing the interpersonal relationships between these artists, working together for a common goal, is much more inspiring than seeing them just jam. Nguyen's attention to this detail is reflected through carefully curated testimonial commentary from Richie, Springsteen, and Sheila E among others. These bits lend extra information behind the footage and help round out our experience while watching without obfuscating the goal of the film. The sign of a great documentary. Unfortunately, the material is so interesting you almost wish for more! Richie's story of how he and Jackson wrote the song is so outrageous I was begging for more. More of Jackson's pet snake, Richie's ophidiophobia, and hearing how they created this song from nothing and in a hurry.

At a crisp 96 minute runtime, The Greatest Night in Pop is an exhilarating documentary with fantastic editing and direction from Nguyen. There was likely a lot of footage to sift through and who would want the job of determining what to cut and what to keep? Nguyen and team did an excellent job trimming the fat and keeping the story centered around the actual recording session as opposed to the outside noise or side stories. There's enough humor and charisma from each centerpiece to carry the film forward. All the while, the movie does its best to avoid being sucked into the black hole of hey check out all these famous people, making it that much more impactful.

Froth

A good bit of light fun that works to knock down the mythologizing of stars, The Greatest Night in Pop showcases authentic and raw talent at work. People can't hit some notes, drink too much wine, get a little stage fright in front of Journey's Steve Perry, who wouldn't right? There's no need to get too bitter or too dark while watching this, so we may as well enjoy a delightfully crisp pilsner. Bizarre Brewing's Sun Myth is a Czech style pilsner that is unbelievably crisp, refreshing, and up to the task of adding even more fun to this documentary. Cold fermentation of this brew yields some complex flavors that mix in some biscuity sweetness, a pinch of lemon, and of course the classic earthy floral spice of the Czech style. Wonderfully carbonated, The Sun Myth drinks as smooth as ever with an almost creamy texture. But make no mistake, it is light as a feather!

While I haven't been a frequent visitor of Bizarre Brewing, every time I try their brews I'm incredibly pleased. It makes sense that they've been placed on USA Today's top new breweries of 2024 (breweries that have opened in the past 3 years). Needless to say, I'll be back to try everything soon!

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