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Why Global Citizen's Fall 2021 Concert Matters More Than Ever

Jennifer Lopez
Kevin Winter/Getty Images for Global Citizen VAX LIVE

Jennifer Lopez onstage at Global Citizen VAX LIVE in May.

Global Citizen Live includes The Weeknd, Billie Eilish, Usher, Jennifer Lopez, Ed Sheeran, Shawn Mendes, Lizzo and more.

On Sept. 25, an eclectic roster of A-listers will perform across six continents during the 24-hour Global Citizen Live, rallying to fight climate change and extreme poverty, and aiming to help the 41 million people on the brink of famine. These are issues that have only been compounded by the pandemic, notes Global Citizen CEO Hugh Evans.

“We’re going bigger than ever to reflect the scale and severity of the crisis,” he says. “This is not a celebration — it’s a moment of unity to rally the world, to petition world leaders, CEOs, philanthropists to commit to solutions that only governments and those with billions of dollars can bring about.”

Musicians and industry power players have been integral to the organization’s success since its inaugural concert in 2012, addressing world leaders on social media and behind the scenes to secure donations. After the deadly Beirut explosion in August 2020, superstar manager Wassim “Sal” Slaiby teamed with Global Citizen to help raise $1.2 million, which helped provide 7,600 people with food packages that could feed a family of five for one month. “We’ve become a crucial partner to government leaders, key [nongovernmental organizations] and private sector change-makers to harness our collective power to affect meaningful, lasting progress,” says Universal Music Group executive vp Michele Anthony, who sits on the organization’s executive management board and recalls hosting the first festival meeting in her living room.

Coldplay, BTS, Billie Eilish, Ed Sheeran, Metallica and Jennifer Lopez are among the acts due to appear at this year’s event, which the organization admits was a logistical roller coaster “as the pandemic continues to spread and schedules and tour routing continue to shift as a result,” says Katie Hill, senior vp music, entertainment and artist relations at Global Citizen.

Evans believes artists keep returning to support the movement, and to perform for free, because they can see the tangible actions taking place as a result. Usher — who will perform for a vaccinated, masked audience — agrees: “For a decade, this global organization has had a direct impact on inspiring change for those who need it most. When the lights go down and the performers have left the stage, Global Citizen is continuing its work, day in and day out, to defeat poverty and protect our planet.”

But, as Evans adds, the performers are making an impact, too. “Artists are activists. Their platform just happens to be an awfully lot bigger than [yours or mine].”

This story originally appeared in the Aug. 28, 2021, issue of Billboard.

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