For those of you who are perhaps a little bit worried that the entire world has gone completely crazy and grown even more tasteless than you’d ever imagined possible, I direct you to this interview with MTV News, in which Jay-Z points out that, you know, yes,this whole “We Are the World” thing was a huge fucking mistake.
“I know everybody is gonna take this wrong: ‘We Are the World,’ I love it, and I understand the point and think it’s great. But I think ‘We Are the World’ is like ‘Thriller’ to me. I don’t ever wanna see it touched. I know the plight and everything that’s going on in Haiti. I applaud the efforts…but ‘We are the World’ is untouchable like ‘Thriller’ is untouchable. Some things are just untouchable. It was a valiant effort, but for me, it’s gonna be untouchable.”
But we should probably talk about some of the specific reasons this version is so terrible, right? Yes
Actually, before we do that, let’s stop for a minute and acknowledge that Pink absolutely fucking killed it on her parts. Jennifer Hudson too, and Adam Levine, strangely. Anyway, here:
1) Not a single person in the room thought to let Lionel Richie and Quincy Jones know they might some day regret letting Justin Bieber sing the opening lines.
2) The juxtaposition of that woman from Sugarland doing the massively affected marble-mouth thing that I think Britney maybe started, with Josh Groban over-enunciating like the high-powered mega-nerd he is, even despite his super-cool military inspired jacket.
3) Tony Bennett. Just, Tony Bennett. The awkward way he delivers his line, the clenched fist for emphasis… he is truly the Gary Carter of popular song.
4) Academy Award-winning director Paul Haggis thought superimposing Janet Jackson next to Michael Jackson in footage from the original recording was perfectly acceptable, and not at all JV-looking.
5) Enrique Iglesias was invited.
6) Toni Braxton playing to the camera, trying her best to make this whole thing seem like it was about her—totally crass.
7 Ok, fine, I actually really like that Jaime Foxx sang as Ray Charles for a second.
8) The brand new hip-hop verse featuring LL Cool J, Wyclef Jean, Will.i.am, Busta, Snoop, and some other people I don’t recognize: It sounds like what old white people in the 80s did when they tried to make jokes about rap.
9) The lines “When the earth quakes, we’ll help you make it through the storm,” “12 days, no water, where’s your will to live?” and “Like Katrina, Africa, Indonesia and now Haiti needs us” are far too specific. The brilliance of the original version, and the reason it didn’t need to be changed at all, is that it kept things vague enough to be timeless while still getting its point across beautifully.
10) The guy at 4:48 who looooves Carlos Santana’s shredding.