When Grammy award-winning artist Raphael Saadiq executive produced Global Citizen’s STAND UP album, he wasn’t surprised that the cover songs selected to appear still resonate in 2020.
Singers Jordin Sparks and MILCK’s soulful spin on the Beatles’ “Come Together”, originally written for presidential candidate Timothy Leary’s 1969 campaign, continues to send a unifying message amid the global COVID-19 pandemic.
In singers Bonfyre and Masego’s heartfelt duet of Marvin Gaye’s “Mercy, Mercy Me”, the lyrics inspired by the destruction of the environment in 1971, ring true more than ever as climate change ravages the planet.
And women are only now starting to receive credit for their contributions to the world, Saadiq tells Global Citizen in regards to singers Tori Kelly and Jojo’s rendition of Aretha Franklin’s “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman”, which brought to mind his mother’s experience as a Black woman in the South in the ‘30s.
“I always said I could play great music from the ‘60s, in the ‘70s, ride in my car and see exactly what's going on in the music is still happening today,” Saadiq says. “It's sort of painful a little bit to know that it’s still happening, but I think this is the medicine.”
Created in partnership with Parlophone Records/Atlantic Records and released on Friday, STAND UP features seven classic tracks reimagined by contemporary artists, plus the original “Humxn Race” written by Saadiq and Taura Stinson.
Intended to uplift and celebrate heroism around the world, the album was released ahead of the Global Citizen Prize award ceremony premiere hosted by John Legend, which will honor activists and leaders dedicated to ending extreme poverty and broadcast and stream globally from Dec. 19.
Growing up, Saadiq looked up to the biggest soul acts of his generation, from Earth, Wind, and Fire to Chaka Khan. These artists gave him a positive outlook on the music-making process, he says. Now the artists featured on STAND UP, which also include PJ Morton, Yola, Andra Day, Chelsea Collins, Ari Lennox, Goldlink, Lucky Daye, BJRNCK, and Big Freedia, are joining Saadiq in paying tribute to some of the most beloved songs of all time from the eras that most influence his work.
“I thought it would be great to have artists that are younger and some older sing some of these compositions that meant so much to the world,” Saadiq, who has worked with some of the most respected names in entertainment from Stevie Wonder to the late Whitney Houston and composed HBO shows like Insecure and Lovecraft Country, says.
The idea for a collaborative album with Global Citizen first emerged when Saadiq performed at the Global Citizen Prize award ceremony in 2019 and he became more familiar with the organization.
In lieu of live events amid COVID-19, STAND UP is one of Global Citizen’s several initiatives this year to sustain momentum for the movement to end extreme poverty, which also included virtual events such as "One World: Together At Home" and "Global Goal: Unite for Our Future", supporting equitable COVID-19 response, and "Every Vote Counts" celebrating democracy.
“We've been deprived of festivals and shows this year, and this is kind of stepping in its place, letting people know that we haven't forgotten about them,” said Victoria Fortune, director of cultural engagement at Global Citizen and an executive producer on STAND UP.
Staying true to Global Citizen’s model, which does not charge attendees for admittance to its concerts, STAND UP is available free of charge across platforms including Spotify, YouTube, Tidal, Apple Music, Amazon, and more.
The title of the album itself is a call to action for people in the private and public sector to take a stance for equality and equity, according to Fortune. While there is an uptick in companies committing to social causes, they do not always follow through, she explained.
With the exception of “Come Together,” each song featured on STAND UP was originally written or performed by a Black artist or songwriter, but despite being released in the wake of a global reckoning with anti-Blackness and racism, that was not intentional, according to Saadiq. The album is an opportunity to shine a light on positive music, which doesn’t often get the attention it deserves, he adds.
Artists from around the world came together — many of them who recorded in the studio during the pandemic — to produce STAND UP over the course of two months, with a 24-piece orchestra, and a traditional New Orleans second-line band, no less.
When writing “Humxn Race,” the grand finale on STAND UP, Saadiq drew inspiration from the Human League’s song “Human”, specifically the lyrics: “I'm only human flesh and blood." He envisioned what it will be like at the end of the pandemic when everyone can perform the song together live.
“People were enjoying the process of being around musicians, working together, singing, and watching something come together for the good of the world,” he adds. “Hopefully it’s contagious and people want to stand up.”
Find the full STAND UP tracklisting below, available to stream on iHeartRadio, TIDAL, Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon, YouTube, and Deezer from Dec. 18.
- Come Together (The Beatles) - Jordin Sparks x MILCK
- Give The People What They Want (The O’Jays) - Yola x PJ Morton
- Natural Woman (Aretha Franklin) - Tori Kelly x JoJo
- Higher Ground (Stevie Wonder) - Andra Day x Chelsea Collins
- Mercy Mercy Me (Marvin Gaye) - Bonfyre x Masego
- Be Thankful for What You’ve Got (William DeVaughn) - Lucky Daye x BJRNCK x Big Freedia
- Sorrow Tears and Blood (Fela) - Ari Lennox x Goldlink
- Humxn Race (written by Raphael Saadiq & Taura Stinson; featuring various artists on the album)
Join Global Citizen in December 2020 to celebrate the leaders among us who have stepped up against a backdrop of unprecedented global challenges to take action for the world we want — a world that is fair, just, and equal.
The broadcast and digitally streamed award ceremony will also feature inspirational stories of human strength and unforgettable performances that will bring together artists, activists, and global leaders to remind each of us that, together, we will come out of this year stronger. Find out more about the Global Citizen Prize here.