Back in April, Global Citizen pulled off one of the biggest — and certainly one of the most unprecedented — musical events ever: A massive virtual advocacy festival, organized in a couple of weeks, boasting a multi-generational lineup of talent that performed from their homes at the start of the COVID-19 crisis. It was a huge success, and a tough act to follow, but two months later, Global Citizen set out to out-do itself with another concert special that not only reflected where we are now but aimed at an even higher philanthropic target.
Global Goal: Unite for Our Future aired Saturday June 27th in over 180 countries and featured yet another all-star lineup of musical guests and celebrities. This time, though, the performances weren’t all confined to homes. And where One World raised an impressive $127.9 million, the aim of Global Goal was to secure the big bucks needed to ensure COVID-19 tests, and ultimately treatments and vaccines, are available to everyone who needs them. It was a lofty target, but in all Global Goal raised a whopping $6.9 billion in pledges from corporations, foundations and governments, including support from all G7 nations.
One star who was heavily involved in Global Goal was Miley Cyrus. She delivered a noteworthy cover of the Beatles’ “Help!” in an empty Rose Bowl Stadium in Pasadena, California, telling Rolling Stone that she wanted her rendition to also “nod” to Dolly Parton’s own version of the 1965 classic. In her song choice alone, her message was clear, although to put an even finer point on it, the word “Help!” was spelled out in huge letters on the Rose Bowl field, and Cyrus performed the track inside the dot of an exclamation point.
“It was really moving for me seeing leaders from 40 governments come together on Saturday; I felt like our voices were heard,” Cyrus says of Global Goal. “And we’ll keep going! As Global Citizens, we’ll continue calling on leaders around the world to combat the disproportionate impact COVID-19 has on marginalized communities. We have a long way to go to make sure everyone, everywhere has access to the solutions that will end COVID-19, but if we keep uniting together, I know we can make this goal a reality.”
Cyrus’ performance at the Rose Bowl Stadium was indicative of Global Citizen’s larger effort to shake up the socially distanced telethon. While One World: Together at Home came together in a matter of weeks, Global Citizen had much longer to prep for Global Goal and plot out a few more elaborate performances and set pieces.
“There’s been so many at-home performances since we did One World that we didn’t want this to feel like that at all,” says Global Citizen CEO Hugh Evans. “Many performances happened in interesting venues all around the world, all practiced under social distancing conditions so that we are true to our word. But we wanted to make sure that it had a production value about it that actually makes you feel the hope that we want the world to feel when we end COVID-19 and the COVID-19 era.”
As such, Global Goal opened with Jennifer Hudson belting “Where Peaceful Waters Flow” on a boat in the Chicago River. Later, Christine and the Queens delivered “La Vita Nuova” from a deserted Grand Palais in central Paris, and Shakira and her band performed “Sale el Sol” from a rooftop in Barcelona.
Global Goal did still feature some of the giant-Zoom-call performances audiences have grown accustomed to during COVID-19 — most notably a massive reunion of Lin-Manuel Miranda and the original Hamilton cast, who teamed with Jimmy Fallon and the Roots for a rendition of “Helpless.”
Meanwhile, other artists who couldn’t get to unique locations put together mesmerizing performance videos, like Coldplay and J Balvin, who used eye-popping animation in their respective renditions of “Paradise” and “Que Calor”/“Mi Gente.” Evans also highlighted Usher’s video for his new song “I Cry,” which he shot just last week, and which nods powerfully to the recent protests against police brutality.
To that end, as much as Global Goal was about continuing the fight against COVID-19, organizers and participants did not shy away from the fact that the pandemic intersects in many ways with issues at the heart of the Black Lives Matter movement. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, who hosted Global Goal, said as much in his introduction, calling access to health and equality “fundamental right[s] that “we cannot allow to be dictated by income or race.”
“Many of us don’t want to go ‘back to normal,’” Cyrus says, “to where we were as a society before COVID-19. We want to move forward to a more just and equal world. Everyone deserves a healthy future, no matter what their skin color, how they identify, where they’re from or how much money they make.”
Noting the disproportionate impact COVID-19 has had on marginalized communities and communities of color in the Untied States and around the world, Evans says any vaccine or treatment must be readily available to all. “If we’re serious about seeing the world truly open up, we have to be serious about tackling what we’re calling ‘vaccine nationalism’ and actually make sure that [a vaccine] is available to everyone, everywhere equally on the planet,” he says.
While the billions in pledges raised during Global Goal will go toward that objective, the event also featured a pre-concert summit filled with interviews and panel discussions about other ways to continue fighting injustice and aiding those most in need. Along with her performance, Cyrus participated in the summit and says she wanted to speak to the energy she’s seeing from her generation and those younger than her to end these twin crises.
“My generation is hungry for change, and, in many ways, is leading the charge toward it,” she says. “I’m seeing young people use their voices every day to demand a just and equal world… . Especially now, we want this activism to lead to lasting change, even though it may take time to get there. As part of that effort, I’ve been educating myself and being a student of organizers and organizations. I really believe that our collective voice will make a real difference.”