In 1985, the song “We Are the World” was recorded. The song, written by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie, was created to benefit Africa. All of the money the track brought in through sales and merchandise was given to our African brethren, a sum that came to total $63 million.
But I’m not here to talk about charity. I’m here to discuss the conglomeration of legendary musicians that took part in this song. Michael Jackson, who was at the height of his popularity during its recording, recruited an all-star cast to collaborate on the track.
The only way to encapsulate the sheer magnificence of this song is to listen and watch it for yourself. The song is about eight minutes long, and yeah, I know, that’s way too long of time for you to devote your attention towards. But, if you appreciate music at all — and I mean good music — then this video should be an absolute joy for you to watch.
In fact, if you’ve never seen it, then I think that you, as a human being, should be required to watch it. It’s extremely important for everybody to know how different the music industry was back then, and you can catch a pretty good glimpse of it simply by watching this video. So here we go. I’m going to go make a sandwich while you watch.
*Puts down his salami and cheese sandwich*
*Instantly regrets his decision to make a salami and cheese sandwich*
As I stated earlier, if you have any appreciation for good music, then watching this video should be absolutely captivating for you. I always have found it fascinating to see old pictures from back in the day — especially before I was born — that capture two legendary humans next to each other in the same room.
This video is the ultimate version of that. But not only are you seeing all these legendary people together, but you are seeing all these legendary people together doing the things that made them legendary in the first place.
The song opens with Lionel Richie and Stevie Wonder, and from then on, each verse transitions seamlessly into the next musician, which comprises a laundry list of classical musicians — Paul Simon, Kenny Rogers, Tina Turner, Billy Joel, Jackson, Diana Ross, Willie Nelson, Bruce Springsteen, Kenny Loggins, Daryl Hall, Huey Lewis and Cyndi Lauper, before wrapping up with a couple guys named Bob Dylan and Ray Charles.
Every single one of those people should be household names to everybody. And it’s just amazing to know that just a mere 28 years ago, every single one of them was still young and right in the primes of their career. How can you register that fact and not be envious of people who grew up in the 60s and 70s?
Seeing Michael Jackson, singing the chorus by himself, gave the me the chills. Watching Bruce Springsteen sing so hard that it looks like his vocal cords are going to burst is refreshing. And seeing Lionel Richie give the thumbs up at the end — it’s perfect. And then you get to see them all sing together.
No musical collaboration, ever, in this world can top this video. None.
But, shamefully, the artists of our generation actually tried to do that.
25 years after this video was recorded, the “top artists” of today recorded their own version of this song, and donated all of its profits to Haiti. Let’s take a look.
*Throws up his salami sandwich.*
I was disgusted the moment the video started. But that disgust hit its peak when Miley Cyrus sang a solo. Are you freaking kidding me? Read the list of artists I posted a few paragraphs above in the 1985 video, and then look at who is involved in this newer version.
First of all, they chose Justin Bieber to open the song, transitioning into Nicole Scherzinger. The beginning is the most poignant and memorable part of the song, performed in the original by Lionel Richie and Stevie Wonder, and they chose Justin Bieber and a Pussycat Doll to do it this time around? The song never had a chance after that.
Sadly, it only gets worse. Not only were the likes of Miley Cyrus and the Jonas Brothers invited to participate, but the song actually features T-Pain singing with AutoTune. In the original, you have some of the most authentic and pure voices involved, and 25 years later, you desecrate the song with manufactured digital sound. And yet, it still gets worse from there.
At the 3:15 mark, it sounds like a wasp enters the throat of Wyclef Jean the minute he opens his mouth to sing. And unbelievably, it still gets worse from there.
At six minutes in, it turns into a rap song. So, somehow, if you haven’t lost faith in humanity up to that point in the song — you will after that. It’s just heinous.
Michael Jackson died a year before this video was recorded, and I can’t even imagine how much he must have rolled over in his grave while listening to this. If a gravedigger ever wanted to dig up Michael Jackson’s corpse for whatever odd reason, they better aim about 25-miles east, because that’s how far he rolled during the eight-minute entirety of the song.
But the bigger picture here is that this song makes you really take a long, hard look at the state of the current music industry. A collaboration was attempted, by compiling the highest-profile artists that exist in our world today, and this is what they came up with. It’s a stark and depressing contrast to 25 years earlier, and that should make everybody sad.
Okay, it’s not that they were all terrible. There were some musicians in the 2010 version that could feasibly stand in the same room as the 1985 group, and those people include Josh Groban, Mary J. Blige, Jennifer Hudson, Janet Jackson, Barba Streisand, Celine Dion, and hell, I’d even lump Pink into that mix, because she’s got a killer voice. But that’s it. The other 20+ musicians can get the hell out of here, as far as I am concerned.
I know it was all for a good cause, but if I’m Haitian, I don’t even want any of the money that resulted from this catastrophe. I’d rather starve to death.
*Eats the rest of his salami and cheese sandwich, realizes the irony considering what he just said.*