Inauguration party: Common, John Legend, T-Pain and Generation Now
WASHINGTON -- With American flags projected on the tall walls surrounding the stage, an excited Common took the stage. Saturday night’s show, he declared, was a celebration.
“When our president, Barack Obama, won, it was a victory for all of us,” the rapper proclaimed to the several hundred packed into the Donald W. Reynolds Center for American Art and Portraiture for the Generation Now inauguration party.
“Our president is in his second term because he reached for the sky,” he added before launching into his first song, “The People.”
Common’s performance kicked off the Generation Now inauguration party, which was thrown by youth vote nonprofit OurTime.org and hosted by Will.i.Am. The night’s other headliners were John Legend, an oft-used Obama campaign surrogate, and T-Pain.
Our Time organizers boasted of the 300,000 young voters it registered by partnering with celebrities to publicize get-out-the-vote efforts via social media. Many of the event’s speakers declared that the youth vote was here to stay and defiantly mocked reports of an “enthusiasm gap” that many political pundits speculated would keep young voters away from the ballot box this election cycle.
“I’m not a big political person, but [Obama] drove me to the ballot box,” Common told reporters outside of the event on Saturday. “I’ve got to give that an ‘A.’”
The Chicago rapper opened the show with songs including “Be” and “Testify” and later removed his jacket, pulled a fan onstage to serenade and dance with her -- even giving her a kiss on the lips -- as a remix of Beyonce’s “Party” played in the background.
Common closed his set with a politically themed freestyle over “Clique,” the hit single released last year by a slew of his G.O.O.D. Music label mates.
But he wasn’t gone long. Moments later Common reappeared to join Legend, who had taken a seat behind the piano as the two belted out “The Light.”
The excited crowd soon calmed as Legend delivered soft performances of “Green Light,” “Ordinary People” and his current, Grammy-nominated, single “Tonight.”
The once-rambunctious crowd quietly sang along, contributing the chorus of “Ordinary People,” while Legend manned the piano.
The nine-time Grammy winner was a frequent sight at the Obama campaign events, among a deep roster of A-list artists who lent a hand in the president’s reelection efforts.
The event’s other celebrity appearances included Miss America 2013 Mallory Hagan, actress Sophie Bush, media mogul Arianna Huffington and a number of members of Congress.
“It’s all about engaging young people and getting them to tune in at not just the national level, but for them to do their part at the local, community level,” said event host Will.i.Am during an interview before the show.
While thefrontman is one of the performers most closely tied to the Obama campaign in the minds of many, he stressed that young voters inspired by the president must remember that he can’t individually change the country. Rather than looking to Obama to solve the nation’s woes, voters must look at their own involvement in the political process.
“What’s wrong with a lot of America is that we want to grade [the president] instead of grading ourselves,” he said. “Bring responsibility back to the individual rather than waiting on some superhero to change your local neighborhood.”
T-Pain, the night’s final act, said he he’d like to see Obama be more aggressive and not stress out about his critics. “He gets too stressed,” the singer said. “He can’t worry about what people say, he just needs to keep doing his thing.”
But while he wants a more relaxed president, the performer did everything but promote calm when he took the stage a few hours later.
In sharp contrast to Legend’s soft delivery, T-Pain delivered an energetic performance that enthralled the crowd. He leaned on his deep catalog of radio hits, performing songs including “Buy You a Drink,” “5 o’clock” and “Blame It” before closing the night with “Can’t Believe it.”
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