“I have no doubts that when we look back 25 years from now, that Verzuz will still be in the top five of things that we remember about 2020.”
That’s how singer-songwriter and producer Johntá Austin described the music livestream phenomenon, which is returning for season two on Thursday, Nov. 19, in a recent GQ oral history. He’s speaking from experience, having competed against Ne-Yo in the fourth battle in Verzuz’s first season back in late March.
And the thing is, he’s not wrong.
In a year that put nearly everything on hold, Verzuz has emerged as one of its few bright spots. The brainchild of producers Timbaland and Swizz Beatz, the series invites two music icons, thus far predominantly from the R&B and hip-hop genres, to go head-to-head as they highlight their discographies in two 10-song rounds. Over the course of its two-part first season, Verzuz attracted heavy-hitters like John Legend, Alicia Keys, Nelly, Snoop Dogg and Brandy to join in on the fun. And with each new battle announced, the audience only continued to grow, with folks like Oprah Winfrey, Mariah Carey and Michelle Obama tuning in and commenting along with the average fan.
As Lil Jon, who battled T-Pain back in April, told GQ, “That’s one of the greatest things about Verzuz, that you can see Michelle Obama, whoever it is. Everybody and anybody in pop culture, sports, fashion, politics is in those Verzuzes and commenting. I think that’s one reason why the average person connects to Verzuz so well. They’re basically in the VIP room in the conversation.”