'We Are the World' Raises Profits, Eyebrows
By PopEater Staff Posted Feb 16th 2010 02:01PM
'We Are the World 25 for Haiti,' a remake of the song originally recorded in 1985 to aid famine relief in Ethiopia, debuted at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. The track is packed with star power; a wildly diverse chorus loaned their voices to the charity effort, including Pink, Lil Wayne, Kanye West, Nick Jonas, Celine Dion, Barbra Streisand, Jordin Sparks, Snoop Dogg, Jamie Foxx, Miley Cyrus, Randy Jackson, Brian Wilson and Gladys Knight.
The effort has been a monetary success; the recently-formed We Are the World Foundation has made the song available through iTunes, where it reached number one status by Sunday. The video been viewed on YouTube 6.7 million times so far. But some are wondering if this project was the best choice for the relief effort. Watch the video below and see the reasons after the jump...
Jay-Z is among the most famous naysayers. "I think 'We Are the World' is like [Michael Jackson's] 'Thriller' to me," he told MTV. "I don't ever wanna see it touched. Some things are just untouchable. It was a valiant effort, but for me, it's gonna be untouchable."
"I know the plight and everything that's going on in Haiti. I applaud the efforts," he said, and explained that he'd prefer to see a new song written in support of disaster relief. "I have tremendous respect for Quincy Jones. Of course, I think he's genius, as everyone else does. [But] I think it's time for us to make a new [song]. I tried to do that with 'Stranded,' [a collaboration with Rihanna and U2's Bono and the Edge performed at the 'Hope for Haiti Now' telethon]. I didn't try to make 'We Are the World,' but I tried to make our take on how we felt."
We tend to agree - though we're fans of any effort to raise money for this vital cause, the repurposed tearjerker calls to mind Elton John's 'Candle in the Wind,' an elegy to Princess Di originally written for Marilyn Monroe. Some musicians took a different path, rushing to create original material to generate relief funds. Grammy-winning band Linkin Park joined the ranks of celebrities on a mission to support relief efforts in Haiti last month; they released a charity album thrown together with lightning speed, including their own original track. We spoke to Linkin Park member Mike Shinoda about Download to Donate, a compilation of unreleased songs. Shinoda told PopEater exclusively, "I saw the images on the news, and I knew that Music for Relief had to do something."
Revisiting the previously released 'We Are the World' was fine with some, but many fans of the original chimed in online to voice their disapproval. "This version does not hold a candle to the original, which was composed primarily of A-list performers, many who are now in the Rock Hall of Fame," reader JD writes on Rolling Stone's blog.
"The original had individuals. That's the key thing, from the moment the original starts you know who everyone is, very distinct voices," writes Chris.
The New York Times agrees, pointing out that the women in the 2010 talent pool compare (mostly) favorably to their 1985 counterparts, but "there's a major gender gap" in the remake. "Simperers like Adam Levine and Enrique Iglesias appear rather than Stevie Wonder. Usher openly mimics Michael Jackson," writes columnist Jon Pareles. "And there's an Auto-Tuned triumvirate: not just Lil Wayne but Akon and T-Pain as well, all in a row."
Some of the contributors themselves give this genuinely well-intentioned project an uncomfortable vibe. Audio and video footage used of the late Michael Jackson (who co-wrote the song with Lionel Richie in 1985) lend an unsettling air to the track. Lil Wayne's presence is less than wholesome; the rapper was available to record the charitable collaboration, but his sentencing in a weapons possession trial was postponed last week to complete a series of oral surgeries. The sentencing has been rescheduled for March 2, though Lil Wayne is also set to stand trial for drug and weapon charges in Arizona next month.
We at PopEater aren't sure the song was the best choice for the group, but we're willing to concede on two strong points: any major effort to gather funds for this cause is worthwhile, and deeply appreciated - and we're not sure we've ever heard anything as moving as Haitian native Wyclef Jean singing 'We Are the World' in Creole. Love the remake or hate it, just make sure you're supporting the effort to support and rebuild Haiti.
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