Stevie Wonder, Green Day, The Lumineers, The Killers, and The Chainsmokers are set to headline the Sept. 23 Global Citizen Festival, the annual concert in Central Park that blends music and social activism.
The event, now in its sixth New York iteration, will also feature performances by Pharrell Williams, Big Sean, Andra Day, and Alessia Cara, organizers announced Tuesday.
Wonder (pictured) is returning for a second time as a headliner, having been one of the marquee artists in 2013. Williams sang at Global Citizen’s offshoot festival in Hamburg, Germany, last month, which was timed to coincide with the G-20 summit of world leaders.
Ranging from the punk pulse of Green Day to the soulful strains of The Lumineers, the eclectic nature of the lineup – put together by Coldplay’s Chris Martin, who curates the concerts – is deliberate, said Hugh Evans, the CEO and founder of advocacy organization Global Citizen.
“We try to bring in artists from multiple genres. We don’t want to just hit the rock demographic or just hit the pop demographic or just hit the R&B demographic or just hit the EDM demographic,” Evans told Variety. “Whatever music you’re into, you can come to the Global Citizen Festival and be part of it, because ultimately our hope is that the message transcends the music, that we’re the generation that sees the end of poverty in our lifetime.”
As in the past, 60,000 tickets are expected to be given out for the festival, essentially as rewards to participants in Global Citizen’s initiatives to end extreme poverty worldwide and tackle other social ills. By signing petitions or tweeting messages at world leaders urging them to take action on issues such as girls’ education and sanitation, participants – mostly millennials – become eligible to enter a lottery for tickets, which are free.
Last year’s festival, which featured Rihanna, Metallica, and Usher among others, took place in the middle of the U.S. presidential campaign. Since Donald Trump’s election, Evans said, the need for action has become even more urgent – especially in light of Trump’s call to slash billions of dollars in foreign aid from the U.S. budget – and the level of engagement among Global Citizen’s followers has skyrocketed.
“It’s had a massive effect on us,” Evans said. “We’re getting more people [involved in Global Citizen campaigns] on any given month right now than we had in the peak of the festival last year. You’re finding far less complacency in the world.”
The organization’s use of music to further its aims has deepened over time; Live Nation is now one of its key partners. “Increasingly, we are embedded into the global music industry,” Evans said, “but I think everyone’s who’s involved knows that our true north is the end of extreme poverty by 2030, and we’re only going to get there if we use the immense uniting power of music to bring people together.”
With his bulging Rolodex of international contacts, Martin has been instrumental in assembling the lineups over the last two years, particularly for offshoot festivals in Hamburg and Mumbai, India. Evans said the Coldplay front man personally phoned Herbert Groenemeyer to ask him to headline the concert in Germany, which also saw performances by Shakira and Demi Lovato. For the upcoming New York event, which is being produced by Ken Ehrlich (past producer of the Grammy Awards), Martin called up The Chainsmokers and Big Sean.
The diversity of acts recruited by Global Citizen for its festivals means that no single artist or work has yet become the organization’s signature voice or song, an immediately identifiable audio-emblem, but that may happen over time.
“Every movement needs an anthem,” Evans said. “What Quincy Jones did many years ago with ‘We Are the World’ rallied people at a certain time…There is, I believe, [at] some point in the future, room for the next generation of younger musicians to help craft an actual anthem.”
For the fourth year in a row, the concert in Central Park will be aired live on MSNBC and msnbc.com. It will also be streamed on YouTube and Twitter.