Talk about saving the best till last.
Archie, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s 18-month old son, made a star turn when he wished the planet a Happy New Year in the closing seconds of Harry and Meghan’s new podcast, Archewell Audio, which dropped on Spotify Tuesday morning.
The adorable moment came at the very end of a 33-minute broadcast, which will likely divide audiences along predictable lines.
Harry and Meghan’s devoted fans, for example, will love Harry’s assessment that 2020 was a year when “we learned about how important it is to take care of one another and how meaningful our connections are even when it physically impossible.”
Ageing members of the aristocracy (and Piers Morgan) however, will no doubt be quick to argue that the podcast is nothing more than a ghastly virtue-signaling exercise, and, worse, a calculated challenge to Her Majesty’s Christmas address, especially the bit where Harry declared of the year just gone: “We really want to honor the compassion and kindness that has helped so many people get through it,” and Meghan added, “We also want to thank healthcare workers and frontline service workers and so many others for their sacrifices. Thank you.”
All this talk of honoring and thanking gave a sense this could be a warm up for the possible arrival of the Archewell Awards (which the British media will presumably attempt to belittle by christening them, “The Meggies”).
Archie’s star cameo, however, is likely to steal all the headlines, which may be no bad thing as the podcast itself felt decidedly like there was plenty of room left for Harry and Meghan to grow into their new clothes.
Harry said that they had contacted people who inspired them and asked them to record audio diaries. He said they were curious to hear “what they would reflect on when they had time to themselves” outside of what Harry described as “the sometimes awkward” medium of video chat.
Harry joked that this meant nobody would have to say, “You’re on mute” over and over again, which he described as “probably one of the defining phrases of 2020.”
Megan laughed and said, “So true.”
Harry then invited listeners to sit back and grab, “a cozy beverage if you can,” saying he hoped the podcast would bring listeners “a little warmth, a smile and something to think about.”
Meghan said of their guests: “We wanted to know what they will remember about this year, and how they will explain it to future generations, what they learned about themselves and what gives them hope. The responses have given us a lot to think about and it all came back to one thing, to the power of connection.”
And so, the first half of this allegedly uplifting broadcast was taken up by a litany of guests delivering gloomy and depressing accounts of just how shit 2020 had been for them.
The lineup included boldface stars such as James Corden, Tyler Perry and Elton John, along with activists, writers and athletes, but even they couldn’t lift the mood much.
Elton John, for example, described how was he was, “in the middle of a tour” when Covid started and he had to cancel it.
I know, poor him!
John said that as a 73-year-old semi-diabetic he is in a risky demographic, and said that he “didn’t see much” of his family other than his husband and kid over the year.
The British writer Matt Haig described how he was already feeling rather depressed when the pandemic first struck, and described his anguish at not being able to attend a close family friend’s funeral.
Tyler Perry, whose luxury Los Angeles mansion the couple lived in when they first moved to America, said that he handled the pandemic, “one day at a time, with a lot of prayer.”
He described his lowest moment as being when he was providing a meal for 5,000 people at his studio and getting in his car, driving around the block and realizing, “5,000 meals wasn’t gonna be enough.”
Harry then introduced professor and author Brené Brown, who said that her “lowest and hardest moment was really trying to move through the fear about keeping my children safe while also giving them enough freedom to not have serious social disconnection and mental health issues.”
Rachel Cargle, the author and anti-racism activist, said that her bleakest moment came when her mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer and she was unable to be by her side.
Restaurateur and World Central Kitchen founder José Andrés said his lowest moment came when he had to tell people who had worked for him for 27 years that, “tomorrow they would not have a place to work.”
The following day, he said, he started a free program for food which gave him element sense of achievement and satisfaction.
“I’m very happy just staying in I could lose a day just staring at the corner of the rug, that’s what I realized and have been okay with that.”
— James Corden
Perhaps the most inconsequential contribution came from James Corden—recently panned for his playing-gay performance in The Prom—who said, “I think what I learned about myself is that I really don’t have FOMO. I’m very happy just staying in I could lose a day just staring at the corner of the rug, that’s what I realized and have been okay with that.”
He did try to get back on message and say that being around his children more had brought him “quite a lot of joy,” but you sensed that he was phoning it in, in more ways than one.
At times, the podcast felt like an advert for Zoom. Elton, for example, said he has been hosting a regular AA meeting on the platform from his home which he described as a “lifesaver.”
The podcast then moved on to the positive and uplifting section, with Tyler Perry telling us we should never be forced to cover our smiles again, and Haig claiming that the pandemic had made the world “wake up” and made us realize “how connected we all are, to each other, to the natural world, to other species and we saw how human beings can rise to any challenge when we feel its importance.”
Inspiring quotes were read from the work of Maya Angelou.
Then it was time to wheel out the big gun of spiritual wellness, Deepak Chopra, who described himself as “an explorer of consciousness.”
Chopra said that his mantra now is love-in-action, commenting, “Love without action is irrelevant and action without love is meaningless.” Well, maybe.
And so it went on, the list of things to be hopeful for in 2021, from more love to more smiles. The various contributors blended into one ball of entirely unobjectionable fuzzy miasma of Instagram positivity.
The couple moved towards their sign off with Megan declaring, “From us I will say, no matter what life throws at you guys, trust us when we say, love wins.”
Harry added, “Love always wins.”
Meghan said, “So true.”
Meghan concluded the podcast by introducing the song, “This Little Light of Mine,” which she said was played “at the very end of our wedding, as we were walking down the steps of the church. It was the music that we wanted playing when we started our life together. Because as we all know, darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that.”
Harry said: “The message of the song is one we hold so dearly. It’s about using the light within us to make this world a better place.”
As the song faded out, a rustling on the mic was heard, and Harry said, “You can speak into it.”
Meghan said: “Archie, is it fun?”
Archie repeated the word fun. His accent: British royal meets Hollywood.
Harry said, “After me, ready: ‘Happy’”
Archie said: “Happy.”
But Archie didn’t need any more encouragement and said, “New Year.”
Harry laughed and went, “Boom,” presumably giving his son a high five. (It recalled when Harry said the same after the queen gently scoffed “Oh really, please” to the Obama’s jokey trash-talking pre-the 2016 Invictus Games.)
Whether one thought the Sussexes’ debut podcast was the purest drivel or the finest verbal alchemy, it would take a hard heart not to raise your cozy beverage and crack a smile to the simple moment of joy that Archie provided.