First things first: the facts. As the majority of the population knows, this song is a remake of the original “We Are the World” released back in 1985, hence its new title “We Are the World 25 for Haiti.”
I will jump in with my opinion here of the original. It’s no secret that I grew up listening to Michael Jackson practically most of my childhood. Even though this song was released a year before my birth, I still knew of it well. I didn’t care for it as much as I did for songs like “Dirty Diana” or “Man in the Mirror.” But I was well aware of it and I thought it was an alright song. Here we are in 2010; my thoughts are still the same. It did wonders for the cause, but I’m not as thrilled about this song, even after the tragic loss of Mr. Jackson.
Like most of the world, I didn’t hear about this remake until the recent tragedy in Haiti. Even before that happened, there were thoughts of remaking it just to celebrate its 25 years of age. My thoughts, also with the world, were mixed. I didn’t have the highest of expectations; especially after hearing a few of the singers the radio station mentioned. I also was dubious about a rap verse added into the song. But I figured, how bad could it be? I mean, the “What’s Going On” remake was actually pretty awesome, I think. But even that has similar ties to this song which I can address later.
The song debuted a week ago. It actually took me a little while to hear what others thought. My first thought? Its different, yet the same. And this is a good and bad thing. It’s odd to describe, but I feel the same about this song as I do the original. BUT, I like this new version more, and at the same time, I hate it a little bit too.
I’m all for super-groups and mutli-star collaborations. It’s great seeing so many people work together for one cause. So I enjoyed seeing the video and all these people you normally don’t think you’d see together in one room singing together in harmony and whatnot. It’s what warm fuzzies are made out of. On top of that, some of the solo parts were actually very well done. And I will agree with other critics, if it weren’t for their high class talents, this song may have tanked greatly. And by high class, I mean Jennifer Hudson, Mary J. Blige, Tony Bennett, Usher, Pink, BeBe Winans, Mary Mary and even Carlos Santana… just to name a few. Kudos for including, or rather keeping Michael in there with archive footage, yet I feel the way they pasted Janet in there looked very cheesy. I was happy to see her nonetheless.
Where I started to lose it? Auto-tune. Thanks to Jay-Z, we have an anti-auto-tune movement afoot. It may have been going since he sang the now infamous song, but the fact that it was included in this song is what made me start to dislike it. For me, auto-tune in the late 2000’s is what synthesizer keyboards and keytars were to the 80’s. Just my opinion. I know that’s T-Pain and even Lil’ Wayne’s trademark style these days, but c’mon son. The rap verse wasn’t how I thought it would be, but again, it was interesting to see all those rappers together getting a verse out. As for the verse itself? My jury is still out on that one. It was good for what it was worth, but I think I would’ve preferred these rappers to rap on their own since they all have their own unique style. Maybe, just maybe, they could’ve each had their own line or two and then maybe ended together. But later on you get to hear what sounded like adlibbing but may have been actual verses from Kanye West and will.i.am as well as the other singers. And stop hating on Wyclef!
This is where we take a quick look back at “What’s Going On” and how the rap verses worked. There were a few bars each for each rapper, and I was cool with that. You could tell who was who, and I think that would matter to a fan. Just a thought.
Also with this song, the remake was intended for a cause called Artists Against AIDS Worldwide. But shortly after the song was recorded, 9/11 happened, and this became one of many anthems for hope and rebuilding that year. The proceeds still went for fighting AIDS, but half of it also went to the Red Cross for that recent tragedy. One of the differences for “We Are the World” remake is that it didn’t really have an alternate purpose until the earthquake in Haiti. I think what also makes “What’s Going On” work is because the original was song by one person, they remade with several. “We Are the World” has several and continues with several more. Okay, that’s not really a big deal. I thought it was a point; maybe it’s just something I’m trying to point out.
Let me back up for a second… what the stank is up with Justin Bieber? Why is he constantly a trending topic on Twitter? And why did he start this song? I have nothing against him; I just thought there would’ve been a better choice. Again, it’s my opinion.
The first person I heard to be against this song was Jay-Z. Not to misquote him while I paraphrase, but he felt it would have been better to write a brand new song instead of remaking this “untouchable” one. I’m inclined to agree, yet I can’t help but be on the fence. I mean, even if he was interested in doing this song, I couldn’t see him rapping together with the rest of these dudes. I’m sure he could but like I was saying, I like to hear everyone’s style. Let them rap as one when they get to the end of their collective verse or something.
But there are others who feel the same way that this song is an abomination! Some feel that MJ could be spinning in his grave, while others say he’d be singing right along with them. I actually think he’d be singing along, since Lionel Ritchie and Quincy Jones were there. I do agree with Jay-Z, this may have been more fitting if they just made a brand new song. But what’s done is done. And at the end of the day, it’s not entirely all about what we think. This song has a purpose, and that’s to help Haiti. By the way, they are still struggling down there. Just because the news isn’t on them 24/7 anymore, doesn’t make their troubles go away. It’s just another food nugget for thought.
Officially, I think I’m on the fence with this song. But if I’d be leaning, I’m leaning on the side of liking it. The more I hear it, the more it grows on me. And who knows, 25 years from now, if I’m asked to be apart of the 50th anniversary remake, I might say yes. Where do you stand? Are you or have you bought it?
I agree with “being on the fence” with this song. I am not a fan of Justin Beiber being the opening voice for the song, simply for the fact that he is such a new and upcoming and even un-experienced voice…and for someone like him to be the first one a listener hears on a remake of such an ‘untouchable’ song…is almost a slap in the face (for me at least). I am not a fan of the rap verse that merges all of the rappers’ voices together into a verse done in unison for the same reasons as you stated; I like the rap style of “What’s Going On” a lot better, as it showcases each rapper’s unique talents as an artist. Finally, I want to go as far as to say I hate the auto tune part of the song. I understand that it’s a modern version of a classic, but to me, “We Are the World” is such a classic that it’s almost as if it is being mocked by putting an auto tune verse into it. Almost as if the song is a joke, and that “real” talent doesn’t need to be used…just a little bit of auto tune. I am no music critic. I’m just putting in my two cents 🙂 Overall, great analysis of the song!