Saturday, February 27, 2010

"We are the World 25 for Haiti" by Artists for Haiti (2010)

Well, I've already talked about the aesthetic tragedy that is the 'charity single'. Just to underline the message I feel compelled to repeat again and again, charity singles are for very good causes and are definitely worthwhile things to do. I certainly don't want anyone to think that I'm being callous about charity or about disaster relief, and I certainly don't want anyone to think I'm being callous about the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, which affected me very deeply and still continues to.

...but this record sucks. Big time. I refer, of course, to the new version of "We Are the World" which was cobbled together to aid Haiti a few weeks ago. Any cent to help Haiti is well spent, so anyone who is spending money on this particular horrorshow is doing a good thing. But one of my particular pet peeves of charity recordings, the artists' sense of self-importance, is on display in this recording (and its YouTube video) in nearly intolerable levels. These artists are so hung up on the world of good they'll be doing their careers - I mean, doing the people of Haiti - that they lose all sense of subtlety. The result is something so artificial, so faceless and corporate, that any sense of collectivity and altruism is just blasted away.

How does it compare to the original? Well, to its credit it gives no one the job of 'singing Michael Jackson's lines', which would be an obvious disaster waiting to happen. Instead, Michael Jackson suddenly appears out of nowhere, white gloved, and singing with a bunch of people 25 years removed from him. Shrug. Whatever. The single most hilarious moment is when Cyndi Lauper's lines are taken over by Celine Dion - shrill in a lovable way replaces by shrill in a, well, shrill way. Celine Dion is so removed from the joke that she wouldn't even recognise it if she saw it. The autotune is, of course, hilarious. And the rap addendum is on one hand a necessary update to reflect what's popular now (and was popular but more easily ignorable 25 years ago) but on the other hand completely horrible: a bunch of male voices (mostly old enough to have just missed the first "WATW", mind you) engaged in some slow-tempo mass chanting pretending to be rap. Wyclef, candidate for beatification after the past few months (I mean that sincerely; the guy is awesome), embarrasses himself in front of the mic a few times, Jamie Foxx rather ridiculously sings his lines as Ray Charles, the whole mess gets going with Justin Bieber of all people (presumably to give Miley Cyrus and the Jonas Brothers credibility), Vince Vaughn, Jeff Bridges and Nicole Richie are present, for no discernible reason (save nepotism), and everyone keeps clutching their headphones. Like, incessantly.

The whole thing will hopefully earn squillions of dollars for Haiti. The website is, where you can donate a truly worthy cause. But once you've spent your money, ruminate on how better off the world would be if this particular group of self-important musicians had not gotten together...

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