Let me clarify that before I get drawn and quartered for criticizing a project that’s raising money for the unfortunate people of Haiti. It was and is necessary to do whatever’s possible to help with a horrible situation. That much is obvious. I’m just not sure “We Are the World” should have been remade.
While there’s no question that all of the artists who showed up at Henson Studios on Feb. 1 to add their voices to the song – as well as the ones who added tracks since then – did a fine job, the new recording just feels a little hollow.
Part of that may be due to the challenge producer RedOne faced in making WATW sound contemporary without destroying the integrity of the song; That didn’t leave him much room to maneuver.
The biggest problem with the track is that it sounds overproduced, with reverb on most of the vocals cranked way up. Granted there were probably a few soloists there who benefit from that effect, but singers like Jennifer Hudson, Josh Groban, Mary J. Blige and Barbra Streisand do not need a lot of reverb to make them sound good.
And let’s talk about the Auto-Tune. Enough already. Please, I’m begging you. Auto-Tune is fine when it’s used for effect in the right setting: Cher’s “Believe,” Kanye West’s 808s & Heartbreak album or Ke$ha’s “Tik Tok.” It’s fun in a dance club or as a tool to paint a sonic mood. But using it here on solos by T-Pain and Lil’ Wayne – who’s supposed to be filling Bob Dylan’s shoes on the recording – is pointless and totally inappropriate. (Not to mention distracting.)
One part of WATW 25 that’s refreshing and a genuinely welcome addition is the rap interlude featuring a host of hip-hop’s brightest including LL Cool J, Will.I.Am, Swizz Beatz, Snoop Dogg and Busta Rhymes. It feels and sounds like a natural part of the track and isn’t distracting like the Auto-Tuned solos. I think even Michael would approve.
Overall though, WATW 25 feels like a pale copy of the original recording. There’s no doubt in my mind that everyone who participated in the new track was there out of a genuine desire to do something to help in Haiti, but the song feels staged somehow compared to the 1985 version. Maybe that’s because the first version was thrown together quickly. It had an intimate “in the moment” vibe.
Somehow it’s just not the same when a happening like this is preceded by two-weeks of press releases and has an acclaimed director and a full film crew armed with state-of-the-art technology on-site to make the video.
So what are your thoughts on the new recording? Am I being too hard on WATW 25? We’d love to hear what you think.
In case you haven’t heard/seen “We Are the World: 25 for Haiti,” you can do both below.