The original song—written by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie and produced by Quincy Jones and Michael Omartian—became an instant classic in 1985. It featured some of the greatest voices in music history (Ray Charles, Diana Ross, Bruce Springsteen). And the song has helped raise over $63 million over the years in aid for for Africa.
But whether gathering stars for an updated version of MJ's legendary track—no matter how good the cause—is up for debate.
Can't we just leave a good thing alone? "I know everybody is gonna take this wrong: 'We Are the World,' I love it, and I understand the point and think it's great. But I think 'We Are the World' is like [Michael Jackson's] 'Thriller' to me. I don't ever wanna see it touched." Jay-Z told MTV News this past weekend. Stereogum's Scott has even harsher words for the remake:
[W]e 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."
It's ok, but... Entertainment Weekly praised Lil Wayne but panned the song as a whole. Simon Vozick-Levinson writes, "...Lil Wayne Auto-Tune wheezed his way through Bob Dylan's lines from the original, something I've been waiting to hear since I read that it was coming." He adds that "Weezy didn't disappoint, delivering the remake's most memorable moment by far, though admittedly in a WTF sort of way...All in all, I can't say this new "We Are the World" measured up to the 1985 version."
The song is a "good look," and whoa—did you know Miley Cyrus could sing? "To be honest with you, I'm very aware of the record and how big the record was," G-Unit rapper Llyod Banks told MTV. "But I was so young at the time, it really doesn't affect me the way it would affect an older rapper." On whether the inclusion of rap in the remake, Banks said "I can't say they messed it up. If anything, they brought it to a new audience...anything would have not topped [the original version]. You could have anybody sing on that. But it was a good look. It was for a good cause."
The San Francisco Chronicle's City Brights blog agreed with Banks' positive assessment of the song, saving special praise for Miley Cyrus' role in it. "The teen pop sensation from the TV Show Hanna Montana sang her heart out and in a way some did not expect. Not this blogger," writes Zennie62.
E! News joins the chorus of praise, saying the reason the remake debuted at the No.2 spot on the Billboard Hot 100—higher that its original 25 years ago*mdash; is "Because it's better." Why? Writer Joal Ryan cites the five reasons the new version trumps its predecessor: No stupid sweatshirts; "Egos got checked t the door" (really?); Wyclef Jean; the music video stays true to the message of the effort; and Michael Jackson. "The 1985 M.J. was a superstar at his peak. The 2010 M.J. is a memory. And a reminder that the ground beneath us all surely does move." Wow. Heavy stuff, E! News.
"We Are The World 25 for Haiti"--the 2010 cover, written by Michael Jackson, Lionel Richie, and will.i.am.
The original: "We Are the World," USA for Africa, written by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie.