Christina Aguilera Among Celebrities Urging U.S. Senators to Stop Gun Violence Now

Christina Aguilera is calling for politicians to take action on the issue of gun reform

The 40-year-old half-Ecuadorian American Grammy-winning singer has joined a roster of celebrities who’ve signed an open letter to U.S. Senators urging them stop gun violence now.

Christina Aguilera

Five years ago, amidst a string of deadly attacks at live music venues including the horrific mass shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla., on June 12, 2016, the cover of Billboard‘s July 2016 issue featured an open letter to U.S. Congress signed by 200 artists and music industry executives calling for gun reform.

Unfortunately, the need for reform has only grown stronger as shootings have continued around the country at a terrifying rate.

So now, five years later, as venues prepare to reopen after their pandemic shutdown and music fans ready to return to concerts and festivals, we stand again with the music community to ask lawmakers to take swift action to stop the violence. — Hannah Karp, Billboard editorial director

An Open Letter to Senators: Stop Gun Violence Now

As leading artists and executives in the music industry, we are adding our voices to the chorus of Americans demanding change.

Music always has been celebrated communally, on dance floors and at concert halls. But this life-affirming ritual, like so many other daily experiences — going to school or church or work — continues to be threatened, because of gun violence in this country.

The one thing that connects the tragedies like the shootings in Boulder, El Paso, Las Vegas, Parkland and so many other places in America, to the one that happened in Orlando five years ago this June, is that it is far too easy for dangerous people to get their hands on guns.

We call on the Senate to do more to prevent the gun violence that kills more than 100 Americans every day and injures hundreds more: Take action on background checks.

Billboard and the undersigned implore you — the people who are elected to represent us — to close the deadly loopholes that put the lives of so many music fans, and all of us, at risk.

Sincerely,

Christina Aguilera, Tori Amos, Sara Barielles, Aaron Bay-Schuck, Tony Bennett, Selim Bouab, Rob Bourdon, Scooter Braun, Cortez Bryant, Michael Bublé, Vanessa Carlton, Joseph Carozza, Steve Cooper, Tom Corson, Lee Daniels, Ellen DeGeneres, Brad Delson, Diplo, Mike Easterlin, John Esposito, Melissa Etheridge, Fletcher, Luis Fonsi, Becky G, Kevin Gore, Julie Greenwald, Josh Groban, Horacio Gutierrez, Joe Hahn, Halsey, Billy Joel, Craig Kallman, Alicia Keys, Kid Cudi, Carole King, Elle King, Adam Lambert, Cyndi Lauper, Kevin Liles, Dre London, Jennifer Lopez, Macklemore, Zayn Malik, Carianne Marshall, Ricky Martin, Paul McCartney, Julia Michaels, Guy Moot, Jason Mraz, Gregg Nadel, Yoko Ono, Mark Pinkus, Gregory Porter, Prince Royce, Bonnie Raitt, Dawn Richard, RMR, Paul Robinson, Maggie Rogers, Kelly Rowland, Mike Shinoda, Sia, Matt Signore, Britney Spears, Rob Stevenson, Sting, Barbra Streisand, Justin Tranter, Sir Trilli, Sharon Van Etten, Aimie Vaughn-Fruehe, Eddie Vedder, Andrew Watt.

If you’re interested in signing the letter, you can email guncontrol@billboard.com.

Gomez Among 24 Artists Featured on Orlando Shooting Charity Single “Hands”

Selena Gomez is lending her hands to help the victims of the Orlando Shooting.

The 23-year-old half-Mexican American singer/actress is among 24 artists featured on a new recording to raise money for the victims of the Pulse nightclub massacre.

Selena Gomez

The all-star release, entitled “Hands” — a charity single from Interscope Records with support from GLAAD — was conceived by hit songwriter Justin Tranter, co-writer of Justin Bieber’sSorry” and hits for Gomez, DNCE, Fall Out Boy and Gwen Stefani.

In addition to Gomez, the single also features Jennifer Lopez, who has worked on her own charity single with Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, Stefani, Jason Derulo, Meghan Trainor, Juanes, Pink, Mary J. Blige and Britney Spears.

The June 12 shooting at the gay nightclub in Orlando, which killed 49 people and injured 53, is the most deadly mass shooting in American history and the deadliest act of violence against the LGBT community.

Funds from the song will aid families with medical care, counseling and will also be used for education.

“Like the rest of the world I woke up to the news that morning and was horrified and sad and scared,” says Tranter, who has raised money and awareness for LGBT causes since coming out at age 14.

“Hands” is available on iTunes.

Proceeds will be distributed by Equality Florida Pulse Victims Fund, the GLBT Community Center of Central Florida and GLAAD.

The idea for the all-star project came together one day after the shooting.

L.A.-based Tranter and songwriting partner Julia Michaels had been on the road with Gomez writing songs aboard her tour bus in Miami the weekend of June 11 when news of the bloodshed prompted Tranter to switch course. That afternoon he signed on as a volunteer at The Center Orlando, the region’s chief LGBT community center.

“I called them and said, ‘If I fly up is there something for me to help with?'” he tells Billboard. “They say, ‘We need as many hands as we can possibly get.'”

“Hands” took hold the next day when Tranter met GLAAD CEO Sarah Kate Ellis who had arrived at the center from New York.

Beyond their immediate efforts — distributing food and water and GLAAD’s work with media — both were looking to make contributions that would have ongoing benefits. They point out that the massacre was also a profound attack on people of color, as that Saturday evening had been a popular “Latin Night” at Pulse. Most of the victims were of Latin heritage and Ellis says she does not want that point forgotten.

“When you hear the song it talks about hate being the driver here,” she says, “and that’s important because we have to be able to identify what’s driving these cruel acts in order to stop them. Artists using their platforms to accelerate acceptance is very powerful.”

Aligning with Interscope for the release, Tranter, GLAAD and Interscope president of A&R Aaron Bay-Schuck put the word out that a fundraiser was in the works. Within days artists from all spheres of the business had lined up — also among them Halsey, Ty Herndon, Dan Reynolds of Imagine Dragons, Adam Lambert, The Trans Chorus of Los Angeles, MNEK, Alex Newell, Mary Lambert, Prince Royce, Jussie Smollett, Nate Ruess and RuPaul — all recording separately from their homes, local studios, touring locations or wherever they happened to be at that moment.

“We assigned everybody what we thought would be the best part for their voice,” Tranter says, “and we asked them all to sing an additional part, just in case. But everybody got it done in time so we ended up with extra vocals.”

In Los Angeles “Interscope let us use their studio,” he notes. “Mary J. Blige recorded in New Orleans. Britney Spears in Thousand Oaks, I think. Pink in Santa Barbara. MNEK recorded at home in London. Selena recorded in her studio bus. Dan Reynolds recorded in his home. Adam Lambert was in Luxembourg. Ty Herndon the country star was in Spain. Kacey Musgraves, Nashville. Everyone just got it done.”

Another goal of the record, according to GLAAD, is to fund educational programs.

“This was an American guy who was born in Queens,” Ellis says of the gunman, Omar Mateen, 29, who was killed by police after a three hour stand-off. “He learned that hate here in America. This happened on American soil, against a particular community.”

While politicians and lobbyists have focused in recent weeks on Islamic terror and familiar narratives about gun ownership, Ellis, Tranter and others in the LGBT community want people to remember that this was a hate crime.

“I’m not educated enough to speak on the political details,” Tranter says. I’m a songwriter, not a politician. It could have been a million things but clearly, 100 percent, this was an attack on the LGBT community and people of color.”

“Hands” grew out of an unfinished piece that Tranter, Michaels and co-writer and producer BloodPop (formerly known as Blood Diamonds) had been working on and then shelved.

“The song didn’t ever finish itself and it didn’t ever feel right,” Tranter says of their initial efforts. “Now we know why.”

Mark Ronson also co-produced, while vocal engineer Benjamin Rice finessed the disparate tracks: “He helped us find the structure and make sense of it all.”

Warner/Chappell publishing executive Katie Vinten brought in numerous artists, among them P!nk, whom Tranter calls “a lifesaver,” adding, “Her vocal on the chorus is like from heaven directly.”

Spears opens the song with the plaintive line, “Can hold a gun or a hold a heart.” RuPaul is heard quietly toward the end, saying “take my hand baby.”

The songwriters had no specific plan as they entered the studio — only that they didn’t want the piece “to ever sound dated.”

“We didn’t want to have any trendy electronic elements,” Tranter notes. “We wanted it to sound classic, timeless and human. We want this anthem of positivity to be played for years to come.”

Download “Hands” here at iTunes.

Perez & Fellow Stars Sing Broadway for Orlando Charity Single on “Maya & Marty”

Rosie Perez is spreading the love for a good cause…

The 51-year-old Puerto Rican actress, community activist, talk show host, author, dancer and choreographer joined fellow Broadway stars on Tuesday night’s episode of Maya and Marty to show solidarity with Orlandos LGBT community.

Rosie Perez & Broadway Stars on Maya & Marty

Hosts Maya Rudolph and Martin Short joined Perez and the group in the first live performance of the single, “What the World Needs Now Is Love,” which was recently recorded by dozens of Broadway stars to benefit the LGBT community in Orlando after the mass shooting that left 49 dead and 53 injured.

Perez, Megan Hilty, Sean Hayes, BD Wong, Jessie Mueller, Billy Porter, Fran Drescher and more stars performed the new version of the Burt BacharachHal David song while images of Orlando and New York’s historic Stonewall Inn were shown.

The mass shooting at Orlando nightclub Pulse happened just hours before the Tony Awards on June 12. The ceremony itself was dedicated to its victims and just days later, the charity single was announced.

All proceeds from the sale of the song will benefit the LGBT Center of Central Florida. It can be downloaded at BroadwayRecords.com.

 

Longoria Hosting Special Night of Music to Raise Funds for Homeless LGBT Youth

Michael Longoria is singing for Homeless LGBT Youth…

The Mexican-American Broadway veteran is teaming up with American Idol alumni Constantine Maroulis and Diana DeGarmo for a special night of music on Thursday supporting the nonprofit organization New Alternatives at the New York City club Hardware.

Michael Longoria

The benefit, co-hosted by Ashley Austin Morris, will raise money for New Alternatives — an organization that helps homeless LGBT youth become self-sufficient and transition out of the shelter system and into stable adult lives. The center — which provides services including case management, education, life-skills training, community-building recreational opportunities for self-expression and support services for HIV-positive youth — will be losing its donated space after August, and Longoria hopes the benefit will raise enough money as well as awareness to keep the program alive.

“It’s a very dangerous situation for young people, where the only reason they’re homeless is because their family has abandoned them,” he tells Billboard. “That’s the only reason they’re in there, and that’s what we need to get involved in — if we don’t look out for them, who will?”

Programs like New Alternatives are necessary, he said, to help homeless youth map out their futures while staying out of “harm’s way.” “This organization is specifically for these people that go to these other shelters and are harassed or physically hurt because people don’t accept young gay people,” he said.

The event — which kicks off at 9 p.m. — will also feature raffles for a Broadway records album package, a bottle of Pinot by Tituss wine autographed by Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt star Tituss Burgess, as well as tickets to The Color PurpleFiddler on the RoofKinky Boots, Finding NeverlandHimself, Nora, Trip of Love and Feinstein’s/54 Below.

The evening will serve as a celebration of Pride Week and a reminder to the community to remain vigilant in the face of hate and bigotry in light of the tragic massacre at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, killing 49 and injuring 53.

“What happened in Orlando is just a reminder that no matter how much love we have, other sources of evil are always going to resist, so let’s find a way to get serious in a positive way that shows our support for each other and our love for each other in public,” he said. “The people that need to be the most out and proud are the youth — the young people that are seeing all this violence are now scared to be themselves. … I feel like now more than ever is the time we need to show affection and we need to show who we are, because those people that were in that nightclub were people that were living their lives and showing their love for one another.”

Longoria — who said he has visited Pulse while on tour with various productions — was heartbroken to learn of a mother who was killed in the club while out dancing with her son. “To know that that mother was there in support of her son and loved her son and was accepting of her son and she lost her life in that tragic moment was just the worst news that I got, and ultimately, it’s just an attack on all Americans, humanity and our American way of life,” he said. “In a gay club, we are in a place where we can be ourselves and be free and not worry about any of that judgment and live our lives, and to have an attack on that freedom is an attack on every freedom in America, and that’s why all Americans need to be paying attention and getting involved in hopes of preventing this kind of thing from happening again in the future.”

Longoria — an original member of the cast of Jersey Boys in the role of Frankie Valli after a run in Hairspray — is currently supporting his new CD, Broadway Brick by Brick: a Latin-infused collection of Broadway classics including “Maria” (West Side Story), “The Sound of Music” (The Sound of Music) and “Music and the Mirror” (A Chorus Line). The record weaves in Longoria’s own personal story of his youth in Los Angeles leading to his success on The Great White Way.

“It became an autobiography of my life, my journey as a very young opera singer in a Mexican-American culture, a very heterosexual, Catholic culture, and finding myself in musical theater, in Broadway songs, and realizing that I was gay all the while,” he said. “Each song I chose tells a milestone of my journey, starting with my father, getting accepted to NYU and not having a means to get there, and getting the scholarship and getting on a plane in Los Angeles and leaving my family behind.”

A $10 donation is suggested to attend. Hardware is located at 697 10th Ave. in New York.