This year, The Rock at Boston College is doing the season of joy in a big way by generating new content every day in our second annual “25 Days of Christmas”. The Rock is proud to present this installment in our holiday special.
Now, anyone who knows me knows I love a wide variety of music, including all that cheesy 80’s pop, the songs that we all somehow know a lot of the words to even though none of us (well, except me) actually go out of our way to listen to it. So, it comes as no surprise that my all-time favorite Christmas song is the 1984 version of “Do They Know It’s Christmastime?” I mean, what can I say? I was raised listening to U2, The Police, and Culture Club; it would be nearly criminal for me to not enjoy the members of Band Aid. Plus, the effort raised awareness and money to help famine victims in Africa.
But now we have a dilemma: Band Aid 30 has rerecorded the song to raise awareness about Ebola, and to be honest, it just doesn’t cut it. Now, this isn’t just me being loyal to the original (though I am). There are a few reasons I don’t like this new version.
Primarily, the sound just doesn’t work. In the original song, a lot of extraordinarily talented singers were asked to join the effort, all people whose voices blended well together, and whose styles complemented each other. Band Aid 30 took a lot of artists who, despite being talented, do not mesh well together at all. Rita Ora and Bono? Sam Smith and Dan Smith from Bastille? Sam Smith and anyone, to be honest? It just wasn’t planned well.
Each artist tried to put their own spin on the parts of the song they were given, and I won’t lie, each snippet sounds really good, but Sam Smith’s morose crooning immediately following Rita Ora’s pop styled bit just doesn’t work. In the original, there is a variety in the style of artists, but they transition better between the artists. They don’t switch immediately from pop-sounding Culture Club to the lead singer of Duran Duran, they put in effort to meld them all together into a beautiful sounding song.
Also, the problem with this new song is also that it isn’t being received well due to its message. 30 years ago, it was deemed a song that reeked of “the white people must help the poor Africans” and even the produced acknowledged that it did carry those connotations. One article even said the song “led to an image of an Africa full of countries, and people, unable to help themselves and constantly looking to foreigners for help” (Malone, Al Jazeera).
But that was the first time the song was released, no one knew (though I’m sure they could have predicted) how it would be received. 30 years later, it is reasonable to assume that the producers of this song would realize that it would be received the exact same way. Nevertheless, here it is, the fourth rerecording of the song, and the sentiment is the same. So my question is, despite raising money to aid the efforts being made to stop the spread of Ebola, is the message this song is sending (one that was completely predictable) doing more harm than good?
So I know I’m slightly biased, with my love of 80’s music and all, but there are a few good reasons to prefer the original song. Not only does it sound a LOT better, but it also didn’t knowingly walk into a lot of controversy with the message it has. But I’ll let you decide for yourself.
Band Aid 30:
Band Aid 1984: