The annual Wawa Welcome America Festival celebrating Philly’s role in all-things independent has been in full swing since June 19. So far, that has included free admission to over 20 museums, including Old City’s National Constitution Center and the African American Museum, along with exhibitions and live events at Esperanza Art Center, Fishtown Recreation Center and various other community-driven locations.
This is all good, clean fun for the family, and an exciting way to see Philly’s art treasures at a steal.
Beyond its fireworks, however, nothing defines Philly and the whole Welcome America vibe such as its Benjamin Franklin Parkway free concerts on July 4. This year’s Welcome America Festival features Tori Kelly, Ava Max and the immensely soulful, R&B vocalist Jason Derulo as its headliner.
For the uninitiated, Derulo has been everything from a tween sensation and a pop hop crooner at the top of the 2010s with hits such as “Want to Want Me,” only to hit a career low when he filmed the unwatchable cinematic version of Andrew Lloyd Weber’s ‘Cats’ musical right before the pandemic struck. While Derulo was credited with looking good in a cat costume, his vocal prowess couldn’t save a lousy film.
“The music industry — you kind of got to make it happen yourself, and there’s no one to guide you,” Derulo told Billboard magazine on the subject of mentorship and navigating one’s career, for the better and worse. “Even for myself, during my journey, I had to figure it out.”
One thing that Derulo figured out during Covid was the immense possibilities of filming short, sweet TikTok video clips of the singer at work, singing, and at home, hanging out. Voracious for content of any kind, the personalized video feed became his forum, as Derulo could be goofy, romantic, devoted to his dogs and his girlfriend… he could be anything he liked.
“I was never really a social media guy because Twitter and Instagram didn’t really speak to me,” Derulo told Variety Magazine. “When it started, TikTok was more of a dance app, and I tried a challenge or two. But because I was at home, I started to experiment with it. More than half of the top TikTok videos are comedy, so I’d post things and be like, ‘OK, they don’t respond to this, but they seem to like that,’ and learned what made it tick, for lack of a better word. And it all just kinda exploded.”
With over 50 million followers to his name, Derulo is back on top with a newer record label (Atlantic), and dropping fresh hit tracks in time for July’s sizzling heat such as this season’s “Slidin’” with rapper Kodak Black.
“If I had to make summer a sound, it would be this song,” Derulo recently told Billboard Magazine. “It’s also empowering for women, talking about a boss woman who’s doing her own thing.
“This song feels like summer, so I think it’s gonna be a big moment for summertime and get people dancing.”
For a complete schedule of events, including Party on the Parkway, Pops on Independence, the Wawa Welcome America July 4th Concert and more, visit welcomeamerica.com