Justin Bieber, the pop singer, performed to a sold-out crowd in the Saudi Arabian Red Sea city of Jiddah, singing some of his biggest hits. The Sunday night concert occurred despite calls from human rights advocates and activists for Bieber to postpone his performance in protest of the kingdom's arrests and a crackdown on critics.
Hailey Baldwin Bieber, Bieber's model wife, uploaded a supportive video of him on stage with the caption "Go Baby." Other footage shared on social media showed Bieber performing solo, dressed in a matched crimson ensemble. Jason Derulo performed before Bieber, a pop and R&B musician, accompanied by female backup dancers dressed in sweatpants and baggy blouses.
This would have been impossible only a few years ago in Saudi Arabia, where ultraconservative values dominated. Concerts were prohibited, and men and women not married were segregated in public locations. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is driving the transformation to modernize the country, attract international investment, and generate opportunities for young people.
However, Human Rights Watch and others have urged celebrities to avoid the Nation, claiming that such events are intended to deflect attention and scrutiny away from Saudi Arabia's human rights record.
Bieber was the headline act at Saudi Arabia's Grand Prix, which Lewis Hamilton won ahead of the season's final race.
The Canadian pop musician has not commented on the public pressure surrounding his concert and requests that he cancel it. Weeks before his Saudi Arabia performance, the fiancée of slain Saudi critic Jamal Khashoggi joined a chorus of voices pleading with him not to perform at the kingdom's Formula One event.
Hatice Cengiz begged the megastar to cancel his concert in an open letter published by The Washington Post, urging him to "send a powerful message to the world that your name and talent will not be used to restore the reputation of a regime that murders its critics." She said that the crown prince "directly" decided to host the Formula 1 event and invite a celebrity like Bieber.
However, similar to other performers, such as Mariah Carey in 2019, Bieber performed to ecstatic supporters. It is unknown how much celebrities were compensated for their visits to the monarchy. The majority of these performances are attended by Saudi youth, who take advantage of the country's growing social developments.
Prince Mohammed attended the Formula One race and was photographed on social media snapping photographs with young Saudi males who had gathered to meet the heir to the kingdom. The F1 race was the kingdom's first hosting of the sport's main event. At the same time, it has previously held the lesser-known Formula-E race and other athletic events to boost the country's status as a tourist destination.
At the time of Khashoggi's assassination in late 2018, the crown prince was acclaimed for altering the lives of many citizens. Meanwhile, Khashoggi was penning pieces for The Washington Post, highlighting the prince's audacious foreign policy maneuvers and concurrent assault on activists and perceived adversaries, including women's rights campaigners, writers, clerics, and economists.
Khashoggi was assassinated by a team of Saudi agents working for the crown prince while visiting the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul to seek marriage documents for his Turkish fiancée.
According to a US intelligence assessment made public under President Joe Biden, the operation was approved by the crown prince. Prince Mohammed has maintained that he was unaware of the process in advance.
Bieber's Saudi Arabia concert comes just before embarks on a globe tour next year. Live Nation, the business that owns Ticketmaster, is promoting the time. Saudi Arabia's state-owned sovereign wealth fund, led by Prince Mohammed, is one of Live Nation's major institutional shareholders, with a stake worth approximately $1.4 billion.