So by now, I’m pretty certain the world knows Band Aid 30 recorded “Do They Know it’s Christmas” on Saturday. I heard rumblings of the recording over the weekend and decided to leave it until this morning before giving it a fair listen. As purely an aside, we have a radio station here in LA (KOST 103.5) that is already playing Christmas music.
It’s really not Christmas yet.
After listening this morning I can say this: the newest version
isn’t horrible. It shouldn’t be, because it had already been done once….twice…, ok three times prior. It is; however, incredibly subdued compared to the original. I suppose that was the intention given the reason for it’s being revisited. I can’t really argue with the reasoning behind the rerecording, except that if someone really wanted to help the cause, wouldn’t they have just written a new song? I think the cause – fundraising to help with the Ebola crisis in West Africa – is very important. Panicking at home, where ever “home” might be, is not going to help. Stopping the disease at it’s source is the right way. Donating to Doctors Without Borders, or to any number of the other agencies sending teams of healthcare workers to the area would be appropriate responses. Rehashing a song from the 80s with “current” artists, changing up a few lines as well as the rhythm and believing it’ll sell on hype alone seems a little disingenuous, to be honest, and certainly not because Duran Duran or many of the other artists were not asked or chose not to participate.
This is not a case of “sour grapes” (the idea is laughable) because my favorites or your favorites are not on the record. The cause is absolutely paramount; but if it is really all about Ebola, then why not give it it’s own song? Isn’t the cause worth the effort? No one, least of all me, is arguing that something shouldn’t be done. (Although I will argue the sentiments some have – that the song is all about stopping Ebola from coming specifically to Britain – is way off key. The goal is to eradicate the disease, to stop it in it’s tracks, so that the entire world benefits.) I just tend to believe that the idea would have had much better traction had it not felt like an afterthought based on an idea that didn’t really work all THAT well before. Yes, the record sold millions; yes, the artists involved became even more popular; and yes, we can all recite the words from memory and squee each time we hear it on the radio at Christmastime…but it didn’t save Africa from starving. We still fail miserably at feeding the world.
The original song was joyous. It went over well as a Christmas song because while the subject matter was and still is serious, the song gave a feeling of hope. Who did not belt out the chorus when they’d see the video on TV or hear it on the radio?? We believed that buying that record would help someone. As a teenager in 1984, I felt good knowing that as young as I was, buying that record made a difference. Simply purchasing music had the potential to bring good to the world. The verses and chorus of the song had that spirit of goodwill, hope, renewal and joy. This version is much different. Ebola kills so many. It is a horrible disease. There’s one line of the song about how a baby’s tear can kill. That’s an incredibly powerful, and sad line. In a Christmas song. How can that be made hopeful and joyous? I just know that every single time I hear this version, I’m going to think about that baby’s tear. Heartbreaking.
I’m not saying the song won’t sell. My UK friends continue to say the song will hit number one in the UK. One thing it will never do though, is rewrite history. It simply cannot. It cannot fully embody the groundbreaking feeling we all had, listener and artist alike, when the first “Do They Know It’s Christmas” came out in 1984. There is no way to capitalize on that, and there is no way to outdo the first…which should have never been the goal, but somehow, choosing to remake the original only does just that.
Bottom line: if you like the song, buy it. But, if you want to really make a difference, donate generously to Doctors Without Borders or any of the other organizations that send healthcare personnel, supplies, etc to West Africa to do the things that you and I might never be willing to do ourselves. Either way, the point is donating to the cause. In the meantime, I still smile every single time I hear the 1984 version of “Do They Know It’s Christmas” on the radio, and I don’t think that will ever change, regardless of how many remakes Sir Bob organizes. That alone should speak volumes.