"We Are The World" remake debuts, means well, mostly underwhelms


Last Friday -- just before 2010 Winter Olympics host city Vancouver paid dazzling tribute to its history with dope, crafty light-projector maneuvering that kinda China's a-billion-human-props-strong '08 bullshit to shame, in a way -- the Paul Haggis-directed clip for "We Are the World 25 for Haiti" debuted. And it sort of sucked, in a carbon-copy sorta way. By and large, it sucked for the same reasons I thought this whole remake idea sucked in the first place, when it was first announced: this is a remake of a gaudy, saccharine save-the-world pop song written by pop stars for pop stars twenty-five years ago. I still maintain that somebody should have just written a new fucking song from scratch and called it anything else. Editing in celebs who couldn't make the leave-your-ego-at-the-door overnight/cram/jam session is a bit dishonest.

In the true spirit of love, brotherhood, peace, and harmony -- wherein in a perfect world, you know, everybody would immediately drop their remotes when the video ended and beeline to the net to download the song from iTunes -- "We Are the World 25 for Haiti" had leaked to the Internet by the next morning. And I've listened to it maybe a dozen times now, and it has its redeeming qualities, even if I'm never gonna wanna hear it again after I complete this blog post. A few of them, and a few other observations, are below:

- The Haiti footage will take your breath away, seriously, really driving home the gravity and heartbreak of what happened there. I kind of wish Haggis hadn't bothered including any shots of vibing celebs gripping their studio cans for dear life. That would have been more honest, somehow.
  • Barbra Striesand emoting on camera just reminds me of every last Barbra Striesand parody I've ever had to sit through.

  • Josh Groban looks like he just rolled out of bed.

  • Jennifer Hudson, bustin' down Berlin Walls and shit with those pipes. Jennifer!

  • Mary J. Blige looks like she's in the Witness Protection Program or something. Seriously, Ms. Queen of Hip-Hop Soul? You're indoors. At night. (I guess.) In a heated studio full of cameras that want to capture you belting out a save-the-world anthem. Lose the big puffy Janet Jackson hat and wrap-around shades. Come on.

  • Man, when Wyclef Jean lays into those crazy, probably-in-Haitian ululations, it just sends heavy chills down your spine, doesn't it? Wow. I kind of wish he'd just make albums where he did that and absolutely nothing else.

  • P!nk seems so lonely, pouring out her heart in that empty booth, doesn't she? It's almost as though she's got the weight and hopes and fears of an entire nation on her shoulders, like only she can save Haiti by forcing every ounce of strength into a performance that will ultimately be diced and spliced melded into the takes of several dozen other would-be saviors until the whole thing is a mostly flavorless slush.

  • Akon, rocking the classic white tee with authority!

  • Jamie Foxx, whipping out the ol' Ray Charles imitation for laughs!

  • Let's not even talk about the "rap break," or whatever you want to call it, which was kind of latter-day KRS-One or something and reduced everybody involved to a joke. (I know this is all supposed to be family friendly, but still.)

  • Immediately after that, Kanye West spits the best rap verses you could imagine being acceptable and appropriate and political for a project like this. Snoop, LL, Bone Thugs, and whoever else was rapping must feel kinda lame.

  • You just knew that T-Pain and Lil Wayne would sing their parts through AutoTune, didn't you? Jeez.

  • On second thought, Haggis should've just trained a stationary camera on Jeff Bridges for the whole thing and made that the video. Love that guy. The Dude!

  • There's Brian Wilson looking lobotomized and absent, like he sleepwalked into the wrong studio and stuck around for the free pasteries.

  • You know, if Michael Jackson were still alive, and Justin Bieber wanted to hang with him or stay over at Neverland, he'd totally rebuff Bieber. (I thought about using the phrase "totally blow him off," really I did, but this post is going to aggravate enough people as it is already.) It'd be like those Hanes commercials where Charlie Sheen wants to bro down with Michael Jordan, but Michael Jordan's just way too cool to be seen with Charlie fucking Sheen, except for totally different reasons that you already understand if you're familiar with Michael Jackson's alleged history with young boys.