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Hasn’t Haiti suffered enough? The mildly anticipated retread of Michael Jackson & Lionel Richie’s landmark “We Are The World” — with 21st century flashes in the pan and abundant Auto-Tune in place of Bruce/Tina/Stevie/Willie/etc — hit YouTube over the weekend. It was filmed 2/1, the day after the Grammy Awards (AKA Hotbed Of Talent Awards) in the same LA recording studio that berthed the original. It is available for purchase at world25.org.

Expectations were low, but not this low.

While Richie and USA For Africa producer Quincy Jones mulled a celebratory remake of the classic song last year, “We Are The World 25″ was green-lit only in the wake of Haiti’s devastating quake on 1/12. Richie responds to criticism of the new version in USA Today:

What’s a classic? To the next generation, it’s just an old song. We have a familiar song that kids learn in school. Why not bring in Miley Cyrus and the Jonas Brothers and let them address the issues? We can pass the baton and empower the next generation to take up arms and have a legacy with this.

Okay.

Billboard’s Q&A with the project’s executive producer/AEG Live CEO Randy Phillips provides more context:?

Billboard: How did you come to be involved with “We Are The World-25?”?
Randy Phillips: I came in because Lionel Richie, who I manage, asked me to. Originally a group of guys including (original WOTW producer) Ken Kragen … had an idea to re-cut “We Are the World” that was called Live 25. Lionel and Quincy were very lukewarm about it because they felt that what happened 25 years ago was iconic and they did everything they could for Africa at that time, and they didn’t feel re-cutting the song really made any sense. Basically, Lionel didn’t really want to do it, and we kind of let it die by not issuing the publishing license, because Lionel owns the copyright along with Michael Jackson’s estate. That was in November/December. They had gotten Visa on board as an underwriter of that effort, and I think they were going to try and premier it at the World Cup.? ?Then Haiti happened and that pretty much changed everything. Quincy called Lionel and said, “this is what this song is written for, as a fundraising vehicle for causes, tragedies, catastrophes like this. Why don’t we take over the process, call our friends, and actually do this?” And because Lionel understood the urgency of Haiti, he agreed to do it.??

Billboard: Talk about the talent booking process.?
Randy Phillips: Tisha Fein had been on board for the original idea (to re-cut WOTW as Live 25), so Quincy kept Tisha as the talent booker, and she was already in contact with a ton of people. When you’re doing these things, one person tells you an act’s in, another person says they aren’t, it’s always a fluid thing until you get there. All of these things come together like that, much of it at the last minute. [Barbra] Streisand came in the day before. Of the list we went after, I’d say we ended up with 80% of the people we wanted.?
?…

?Billboard: Any comment on the controversy surrounding the booking of this project, primarily reports that you said acts would be participating that had not committed??
Randy Phillips: The truth is I wasn’t that involved in the booking, other than making a few phone calls to artists I was close to, like Jamie Foxx, who I’ve worked with in the past, and Justin Bieber, who I work with now as his tour promoter. This happens all the time when you’re putting one of these multi-act charity benefits together, people are in, people are out, schedules change. When you’re doing something as noble as this, why is there any controversy at all?

I don’t think there is any “controversy” except that it’s a terrible record. Jay-Z:

“I know everybody gonna take this wrong but I just think ’We Are the World’ — I love it, and I understand the point and I 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 mean, I’m a fan of music you know. And I know the plight and everything that’s going on in Haiti, and you know, and I applaud the efforts and what everyone has done. … For me ’We Are The World’ is untouchable like ’Thriller”s untouchable. You know, some things are untouchable. And I think it was a valiant effort, but for ’We Are The World’ to me is gonna forever be untouchable.”

USA For Africa is the greatest charitable supergroup of all time. Via Wiki:

The soloists: Lionel Richie, Stevie Wonder, Paul Simon, Kenny Rogers, James Ingram, Tina Turner, Billy Joel, Michael Jackson, Diana Ross, Dionne Warwick, Willie Nelson, Al Jarreau, Bruce Springsteen, Kenny Loggins, Steve Perry, Daryl Hall, Huey Lewis, Cyndi Lauper, Kim Carnes, Bob Dylan, and Ray Charles.

The chorus: Dan Aykroyd, Harry Belafonte, Lindsey Buckingham, Sheila E, Bob Geldorf, The Jackson 5 (with La Toya instead of Jermaine for some reason?), Waylon Jennings, Bette Midler, John Oates, the News, and a couple of Pointer Sisters.

And almost Prince. It would’ve sounded like this.

My only gripe about USA For Africa: Dan Aykroyd, while a co-frontman on a chart-topping album in 1979 and not afraid of no ghosts, is Canadian. But clearly the entire team tapped into its inner zef and magic was the gathered. They worked all night and finished vocals at 8AM. Their 2010 counterparts “left to go to the Lakers game,” Jones told USA Today. “Voices give out, and you can’t keep them there all night.”

In any case, we should not be surprised that noble-ish intentions can yield such an abysmal product. Carelessly arranged packs of celebrities have given us some of the worst cover songs of the last 25 years. They leave a wonderfully awkward pockmark on the modern pop/rock landscape because they age so terribly, especially when they have videos. And they all have videos. Props to Bob Geldof for inventing the format! Leave your egos at the door!

Below is a silly but hopefully entertaining list I’ve been meaning to compile and post for a long time. Since we were just reflecting on 1985 it seems especially good timing. Speaking of timing, tonight (weather permitting) Brandon and I head to by:Larm 2010 — Amrit, Jessica, and Gabe will be holding down ’Gum HQ — to present Stereogum’s showcase at Stratos. Follow our Norwegian adventures at @stereogum.com. by:Larm will be the first music festival outside the U.S. I have ever attended. I am looking forward to the long flight as it will also be the first time I’ve been offline for more than 6 hours since 2005. I hope Brandon introduces me to some black metal dudes. I packed 3oz of corpsepaint.

The 21 Worst All-Star Charity Music Videos Of All Time. Enjoy?

21. Band Aid 20 – “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” (2004)

20. Helping Haiti – “Everybody Hurts” (2010)

19. Artists United Against Apartheid – “Sun City” (1985)

18. Artists Against AIDS Worldwide – “What’s Going On?” (2001)

17. Hope Collective – “Give And Let Live” (2005)

16. The Crowd “You’ll Never Walk Alone” (1985)

15. Various Artists – “Come Together Now” (2005)

14. Stop The Violence – “Self–Destruction” (1989)

13. Various Artists For Children’s Promise – “It’s Only Rock ’N’ Roll” (1999)

12. Various Artists For The BBC – “Perfect Day” (1997)

11. Beds Are Burning – “TckTckTck – Time For Climate Justice” (2009)

10. Various Artists – “Voices That Care” (1991)

9. The Peace Choir – “Give Peace A Chance” (1991)

8. Northern Lights – “Tears Are Not Enough” (1985)

7. Hear N’ Aid – “Stars” (1985)

6. Michael Jackson & Friends – “What More Can I Give” (recorded 2001, released 2003)

5. Ferry Aid – “Let It Be” (1987)

4. Various Artists – “Just Stand Up” (2008)

3. Band Aid II – “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” (1989)

2. Various Artists – “We Are the World 25 for Haiti” (2010)

1. Take It Back Foundation – “Yakety Yak Take It Back” (1991)

Take it back is right. MC Skat Kat = the original green skat cat. The more you know.

Can one of you figure out which artist appears most in this countdown? (i.e., who has THE BIGGEST HEART?)

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Good luck, guys!

Comments (52)
  1. Honorable mention/disqualified for lack of musical star power:

    Toto, Joe Cerisano & Sandy Farina – “Hands Across America” (1986)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WZorfXa5pBc

  2. Thank god you put ‘Beds Are Burning’ at #11. Love that song, but it’s absolutely butchered here. Way too much CO2 was exhaled to make that turd of a cover song.

  3. D-line  |   Posted on Feb 16th, 2010 0

    We are the world 25 is the crappiest of all time, its a parade of the worst pop “stars” working today. The cause is great, but the effort was waaaay off.

    Puke-tastic.

  4. So, the West Coast Rap All-Stars’ “We’re All In The Same Gang” isn’t on this list because it’s AWESOME, right?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wXGgWf2lacM

    • Aw, missed that.
      According to Wiki it was nominated for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group at the ’91 Slammys

    • moi  |   Posted on Feb 16th, 2010 0

      Agreed. That deserves to be in this list far more than “Self-Destruction”. I actually like “Self-Destruction” for nostalgia’s sake and because it showcased a lot of old school hip hop acts that would never be heard from again. Plus PE, Stetsasonic, Eric B & Rakim! Hipsters be damned, that sh*t was good.

  5. Brave New World  |   Posted on Feb 16th, 2010 0

    Without even giving it thought I would say the Sun City one was the best…80′s…give me a break…James Brown did better stuff than Rocky IV it turns out…

  6. stereogum=lame  |   Posted on Feb 16th, 2010 0

    Wow- This is fucking lame. I can’t believe Stereogum would stoop so low. Most of you were sucking your mother’s dicks when these videos came out. It’s so easy to be critical of these videos from years’ past. I guess they miss out on the “cool” scale. I think all you hipsters should get your cool band’s together, and come up with a brilliant conceptual charity video about how fucking cool it is to make others look bad.

    • A counterargument:

      1. 11 of the 21 videos above are from the last 15 years. Unless your recollection is exceptionally horrible, I’d say that puts over half the list within memory of the average Stereogum reader.

      2. How does being older excuse the shitty production? There are plenty of amazing music videos (and songs too, for that matter) from the eighties and nineties.

      3. I don’t know what you’re on about with “ur hipster bands should make a superstar charity video then lol!!!!” thing, other than falling back on “hipster” as an (overused) insult. I’d like to think most people would agree that a bunch of indie musicians getting together to create a schmaltzy, badly produced cover would most likely result in a really terrible song too, but maybe that’s just me.

      4. I’m not sure if this is what you’re getting at, but I don’t think anyone here is even remotely disparaging the sentiment behind these songs/videos. There’s no harm in pointing out the fact that they’re all varying degrees of hilarious/cringe-worthy.

      5. Following up a statement like “I can’t believe you would sink so low!” with a bunch of childish insults = lame.

    • jaded hipster  |   Posted on Feb 16th, 2010 0

      Or…those “hipster” bands might already contributing directly to causes they support through donations, playing benefit shows, and spreading the word about those causes to generate interest in others. What do these kinds of supergroup songs actually contribute? Most of these celebrities could either donate directly themselves or get people involved through various charity groups. This type of bullshit is about being seen and putting yourself in the spotlight over the actual cause. Maybe that’s why you don’t see indie rock charity music videos…because they’re smart enough to realize they can actually make a difference without using the tragedy for their own benefit.

  7. I was all set to say that I didn’t want to be cynical since these were all done for good causes, even if the music is bad, but… yeah, these really are abysmal. I’ll just remind myself that “We Are The World 25″ is making a shitload of money for Haiti and never watch any of these again, ever.

    All of those bad videos did inspire a truly awesome song/video by Pulp though. Now this is how you do (read: parody) an all-star charity music video, folks: http://video.yahoo.com/watch/2022514/v2155719

  8. MC Skat Cat!

  9. tommy  |   Posted on Feb 16th, 2010 0

    i enjoy band aid 20. so does the fact that its #21 on this list mean that its a relatively good all star charity song? (i mean, how many of them are there anyway?)

    look, i like keane and coldplay. (shoot me.) and i think its the only track ill ever hear chris martin and tom chaplin sing a line together on record.

  10. My favorites: #s 19, 14, 12, 11, 7, 1

    lol @ yorke and greenwood in #21

  11. Chris  |   Posted on Feb 16th, 2010 0

    For a guy who claims to be the best rapper alive, Jay-Z sure doesn’t know too many synonyms for “untouchable”.

  12. This is the best-ever topic for a list. Thanks for collating all this crappiness together in one place. It promises hours of laughter.

    While the intent is genuine, perhaps admirable, these videos inevitably end up with everyone looking awkward and out of place. (To say nothing of the out-of-place-ness of MJ being teleported 25yrs into the future in the recent We Are The World).

    A question that was raised while the various Haiti shindigs were going down: Why do we rely on musicians for this kind of response? Why not a little social pressure to have sports teams -for instance- donate the proceeds of one game to such a cause?

  13. guys, stop Haitin  |   Posted on Feb 16th, 2010 0

    Alright, we all kinda saw “WATW25″ coming, but Stereogum, I thought you said we were going to not make fun of it (and Everybody Hurts) because of all the suffering in Haiti.

    For real though, Haiti didn’t just evaporate. They still need tons of help, and as bad as these two covers are, they’ll definitely help keep some news coverage on Haiti and raise a shit ton of money.

    • Yo, Stereogum’s just doing their part by keeping the topic alive a little longer. Like Palin said last week, it’s OK to be un-PC as long as you’re being satirical.

  14. racecar.grin  |   Posted on Feb 16th, 2010 0

    If they really wanted people to donate, they would have just put Barry White’s portion of #1 on ITunes.

  15. Shea  |   Posted on Feb 16th, 2010 0

    Someone needs to make a convenient mixtape of all these songs. Tragedy Jams 2k10.

  16. Zeon  |   Posted on Feb 16th, 2010 0

    How could you miss the eurocheese masterpiece that is ‘Let The Music Heal Your Soul’, featuring N’Sync, Backstreet Boys and Aaron Carter???
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ma8qVI8Is-Y

  17. Juan Pablo Torres  |   Posted on Feb 16th, 2010 0

    I’m gonna go ahead and say Bono has the biggest heart.

  18. chris  |   Posted on Feb 16th, 2010 0

    The title of this post sums up Stereogum I’d say.

  19. Sam  |   Posted on Feb 16th, 2010 0

    Come on, Sun City was pretty good.

  20. Rob S.  |   Posted on Feb 16th, 2010 0

    Hear N’ Aid is my favorite. If not for the goofy play on the name, I love the fact that so many metal dudes took time out of their obviously busy schedule of groupies and blow to help starving African children. It’s also funny to see they realized that most of these guys were obscure enough and blended together in such a mass of hairspray, week old stubble, and tight leather that they needed to be identified so we actually knew who they were.

  21. Michael Kranjcevich  |   Posted on Feb 16th, 2010 0

    Siobahn Fahey from Bananarama is in A LOT of these, so she gets the big heart award….

  22. Jon  |   Posted on Feb 17th, 2010 0

    Everything about Sun City is awesome: The song, the cause, Bruce’s growl and Bono’s sneer.

  23. Anonymous  |   Posted on Feb 17th, 2010 0

    I really don’t think the #1 song, “Yakety Yak” belongs on this list at all, much less in the number one spot. Most of these songs are loaded with saccharin and schmaltz, which is what makes them so crappy. “Yakkey Yak” is reminiscent of the old Schoolhouse Rock videos. It’s way better than the sentimental, posturing crap in the other videos.

  24. How are we forgetting Fred Durst and the Goo Goo Dolls horrendous cover of “Wish You Were Here?” Possibly the worst tribute ever.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3vYaq9ZzyT4

  25. See, this is why people associate charity with something horrible. It has nothing to do with the purpose, disease or disaster, behind the charity, it’s all of these crappy songs except for Self Destruction. It really doesn’t belong on this list. It is still a good song and who’s who of 80′s east coast rappers. Also, wasn’t the song more for increasing awareness within the Black community than raising money through crappy music?

    Who are these people in the videos. A lot of these songs suffer from too many nobodies in them. They’ll show a clip of Mary J. Blige or Bono singing then cut to the guy that makes the cinnamon twists at your Taco Bell singing. There are too many wtf (who not what) moments in these videos. A lot of them are like that even the new version of We Are The World. Aren’t there enough famous people in the world to make us not care through a horrid charity song.

    Lastly, Miley Cyrus is awesome. You have to love that tone def, teenage shrill next to Rhianna’s in a song that has Beyonce and Carrie Underwood. Seriously, people got in an uproar over her Vanity Fair pictures yet no parents aren’t complaining that she can’t sing. That’s it, I’m starting a charity group to ail those afflicted by her singing and there will be a single. Who wants in?

  26. dungo  |   Posted on Feb 18th, 2010 0

    GAY GAY GAY……..WHO REALLY CARES ABOUT MJ ANYMORE…..I DONT!!!!

  27. Geoff Tate  |   Posted on Feb 20th, 2010 0

    2:21-5:07 on #7. All the finger-tapping and artificial harmonics world hunger can take.

  28. Alan  |   Posted on Feb 21st, 2010 0

    Tears Are Not Enough should not be on this list it is a better song than We are the World.

  29. So much good intentions, so much bad music.

    Yet here’s one more: “Stop the Madness”: the Rock Against Drugs WAtW
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z5zJvX3pIY4

  30. What about the free range chicken charity song from SNL late 80′s/early 90′s era?? I would kill to find video of that. The chorus was something like “brothers & sisters let the chickens be!” Am I the only one who immediately thinks about that every time I see one of these charity videos?

  31. why don’t people like these? They’re pretty good.

  32. Always fallen 2 ways about charity records. Obviously I can see the good intentions behind the thing but also the great publicity 4 bands on the slide! Call me a cynic but I always see the opportunist side in people, not that thats a bda thing lol!

  33. Does this belong here too? The protest song / charity single (proceeds went to cancer research) from when Doctor Who was put on hiatus in 1986…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s1yW8FrrXAA

  34. Clean the scene for Team Eugene……

    http://www.eugenechristopher.com

  35. that “we are the world” remake was horrible. but its just a reflection of the differences between pop music in the 80′s and pop music now. I tend to think that.. the 80′s fcking ruled… and even kids today that weren’t even born in the 80′s fcking love the 80′s. I don’t get it. Its weird. But I think it boils down to being racist against blacks and their dumb music, and the 80′s was a great decade for “white” music.

    But that’s racist. Its just a theory.

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