We Are the World 25 for Haiti

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This article is about the 2010 celebrity remake. For the 2010 YouTube collaboration, see We Are the World 25 for Haiti (YouTube edition).
"We Are the World 25 for Haiti"
Single by Artists for Haiti
Released February 12, 2010
Format CD single, music download
Recorded February 1, 2010
Henson Recording Studios
(Los Angeles, California)
Genre Pop, R&B, hip hop, pop rock
Length 6:56 (Long Version)
3:25 (Short Version)
Writer(s) Michael Jackson
Lionel Richie
Producer(s) Quincy Jones (exec.)
Michael Jackson's Estate (exec.)
Lionel Richie (exec.)
RedOne
Mervyn Warren
Patti Austin
Humberto Gatica
Wyclef Jean
Rickey Minor

"We Are the World 25 for Haiti" is a charity single recorded by the supergroup Artists for Haiti in 2010. It is a remake of the 1985 hit song "We Are the World", which was written by American musicians Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie, and was recorded by USA for Africa to benefit famine relief in Africa. Initially, in late 2009, it had been suggested to Richie and Quincy Jones—producer of the original "We Are the World"—that a re-cut version of the song be re-released under the title "Live 25". Following the magnitude 7.0 Mw earthquake in Haiti, which devastated the area and killed thousands of people, it was agreed that the song would be re-recorded by new artists, in the hope that it would reach a new generation and help benefit the people of Haiti.

The song was recorded in fourteen and a half hours by over eighty artists on February 1, and was released on February 12, 2010, during the opening ceremony of the 2010 Winter Olympics. "We Are the World 25 for Haiti" was released as a CD single and a music download. It was produced by Quincy Jones, and executively produced by Lionel Richie, and Haitian-American musician Wyclef Jean. A music video directed by Paul Haggis was released to accompany and promote the song. The song was also recorded in Spanish by a Latin supergroup and was named Somos el Mundo. The song was directed by Emilio Estefan and his wife, Gloria Estefan.

"We Are the World 25 for Haiti" is musically structured similar to "We Are the World", but includes a rap verse which was written by some of the song's hip hop artists. Michael Jackson died months before the song's release, but his material from the 1985 recording sessions was incorporated into the song and music video, as per the request of his mother, Katherine. His sister Janet duets with him on the song, and his nephews Taj, TJ, and Taryll—collectively known as 3T—feature on the track's chorus. "We Are the World 25 for Haiti" received generally negative reviews by contemporary music critics, with criticism focused on the song's new musical additions, as well as the choice of artists who appear on the track. The song was commercially successful worldwide, charting within the top 20 in multiple countries. Some critics have even named it one of the worst songs of all time.

Background[edit]

In 1985, "We Are the World", a song and charity single originally recorded by USA for Africa was released. It was written by American musicians Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie, and produced by Quincy Jones and Michael Omartian for the album We Are the World. The song was well received by music critics and was the recipient of several awards. The song was a worldwide commercial success, as it topped music charts throughout the world and became the fastest-selling American pop single in history, as well as the first single to be certified multi-platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America. "We Are the World" was the best selling pop single of all time until it was eclipsed by Elton John's 1997 version of "Candle in the Wind".[1]

A deep green color car with its roof caved in and the back of the car crushed in. In the background, there is a tree, two phone line poles and a wall with graffiti on it that is half broken down.
Earthquake damage in Port-au-Prince

On January 12, 2010, Haiti was struck by a magnitude 7.0 Mw earthquake. It was the country's most severe earthquake in over 200 years and caused widespread damage.[2] The epicenter of the quake was just outside the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince.[3] It has been estimated that the death toll could reach 200,000.[4] Before the earthquake, Jones and Richie had planned to organize a re-recording of "We Are the World" on January 28, 2010 — the 25th anniversary of the original recording of the song.[5] Randy Phillips, who was a key figure in the song being re-issued, said that "We Are The World" producer Ken Kragen had suggested to re-cut "We Are the World" and title it "Live 25".[6] However, Lionel Richie and Jones were "very lukewarm" about the idea.[6] Phillips commented that,

"[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 [2009]. They had gotten Visa on board as an underwriter of that effort, and I think they were going to try and premiere it at the World Cup."[6]

However, because of the devastation caused in Haiti, these plans were postponed.[5] Phillips said that Jones had 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?"[6] Lionel understood the urgency of Haiti, and in January 2010, it was agreed that "We Are the World" would be re-recorded to help benefit Haiti, similar to how the original recording helped famine relief in Africa.[5] Richie commented, "Unfortunately, sometimes it takes a hit record to make someone decide to save a life. I want this song to be the battle cry again. Every once in a while, you have to wake the world up. We slept right through Katrina. If we are not a socially aware culture, we're going to fail."[7]

Recording[edit]

An elderly African-American man. The male is wearing a grey jacket open and a wine color shirt with a black tie.
Quincy Jones was a key figure in the production and recording of "We Are the World 25 for Haiti".

The new version of the song was recorded on February 1, 2010, in a session lasting 14 hours.[7] Eighty-five musicians were reportedly involved in the song's recording,[8] which was held in the same place as the original, at Henson Recording Studio on Beverly Boulevard in Los Angeles, California.[9] Also similar to the 1985 process, some of the participating musicians were already in Los Angeles to attend an awards ceremony: the 52nd Grammy Awards.[10] Jones said of the recording session, "It was a big challenge. It takes a serious army and serious emotional architecture. I've never seen such a diverse group of people, and they came for the right reasons."[7] The recording process brought together diverse artists, with the oldest being 83-year-old Tony Bennett and the youngest being 9-year-old Ethan Bortnick.[11][12]

The new version features updated lyrics and music, such as a rap segment pertaining to Haiti, described as a "Greek chorus extension", which was written by will.i.am.[10][13][14][15] Other writers included Kanye West, Jones and LL Cool J.[6] Lionel Richie and Jones revealed that Michael Jackson's sister Janet duets with her late brother, as per a request from their mother, Katherine. In the official video, there is archive footage of Michael Jackson from the original 1985 recording.[7] Richie said that he agreed with Katherine's request, commenting, "It made me feel more secure about this. We definitely felt a void. He's the other parent [to the song]."[7] The production team for the song included Humberto Gatica, RedOne, Mervyn Warren, Patti Austin and Rickey Minor. RedOne said that it took a week to create the new arrangement for "We Are The World 25 For Haiti".[16] He commented that he wanted to keep the "class of the original one" and did not want to "mess it up, because it's too good."[16] He noted that he wanted to make the song "sound more now and current" while keeping the originals "whole chord progressions, the feeling and the vibe, but brought fresher sounds that are more now."[16]

Haitian-American musician Wyclef Jean also serves as a producer.[10] In addition, Wyclef Jean sings the first line of the second chorus in Haitian Creole. Richie said new artists were selected for the song so the song could be aimed at a new audience, commenting, "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?"[7] adding that "It was designed so that we wouldn't have any of the originals there, so that we could pass on the baton to the next generation".[17] Phillips said that the producers received 80 percent of the people they wanted as recording artists for the song.[6] In addition to Jean, Haitian actor Jimmy Jean-Louis, most famous for playing The Haitian on Heroes, appears in the chorus.

At the time of the recording, numerous artists commented on the process, the 1985 version of the song and co-writer Michael Jackson. R&B singer Jordin Sparks revealed that, despite having been born after the release of the original, the song had a "huge impact" on her.[18] Celine Dion said that the release of the song would not only benefit the Haitian people, but also serve as a remembrance of "the passion [Michael] Jackson had for helping those in need".[18] Lionel Richie and Quincy Jones echoed Dion's sentiments and further stated that if the singer were alive, he would have wanted to be just as involved as he had been a quarter of a century ago.[18] According to Phillips, there was a "handful" of musicians who either declined or could not rearrange their schedules for the song's recording, including country singer Taylor Swift,[13] who was going to be touring in Australia.[19]

Artists for Haiti[edit]

Pop singer Justin Bieber (pictured) opened the song, alongside Nicole Scherzinger and Jennifer Hudson.
Janet Jackson (pictured) sang alongside with her brother, Michael Jackson, via footages.
Mary Mary's voices can be clearly heard toward to the end.
Conductors
Soloists (in order of appearance)[20][21]
Chorus

Release, promotion, proceeds[edit]

The 2010 version of "We Are the World", released under the name Artists for Haiti, debuted on the NBC television network on February 12 during their coverage of the 2010 Winter Olympics opening ceremony.[10][22] When the song premiered in its paid time spot, the video was edited in length, due in part to the time spent introducing the song.[6] However, the full-length music video was shown on NBC the following day during daytime Olympic coverage.

Similar to marketing of "We Are the World", a music video of the song was filmed and released. The music video was directed by Academy award-winning film director Paul Haggis.[14][22] Haggis said that he finished the video 12 hours early.[23] Haitian film students were involved in the video as part of the production crew.[23] The official video for the song was formatted similar to the original; the video opens with the song's title with the recording artists' signatures surrounding it, as well as clips of the artists performing their parts in the recording studio and included archive footage of Michael Jackson performing his part of the song. The video was intercut with clips showing people in Haiti following the earthquake.[23]

Critical reviews and responses[edit]

"We Are the World 25 for Haiti" received extremely negative reviews from contemporary music critics.[24] The song was criticized for its use of Auto-Tune, the choice of recording artists, and for the song's rap. Chris Richards, a writer for The Washington Post, described the song as being "horribly oversung".[25] Richards commented that the most "disappointing" thing about the song was that "there were too few voices from the country, rock and Latin music communities."[25] He also noted that "nobody can argue with its worthy cause" because of the song's proceeds to relief in Haiti, but remarked that the song did not have "We Are the World"'s "original thrill" due to the song's "panoply of voices".[25] Jon Pareles, a writer for The New York Times, remarked that while the song's "Hollywood gloss" was "durable", the song has "all the pitfalls of a Hollywood remake".[26] Parales commented that the quality of the song and performance "rises or falls on its talent pool" and criticized the choice of male musicians compared to We Are the World's original male artists.[26]

US Magazine mentioned that "this version features second-by-second unexplainable absurdities, including Justin Bieber being given the opening verse, Nicole Scherzinger and other Z-listers assigned more than one prime slot, and Wyclef Jean's incomprehensible yodeling".[27] Maura Johnston, a writer for MTV, wrote more positively about the song, commenting favorably on the contemporary artists' performances in living up to their predecessors. "Despite the different faces, the overall feel is similar to the original's," Johnston wrote.[15][28] Simon Vozick-Levinson, a writer for Entertainment Weekly, gave the song a mixed review, noting that We Are the World 25 for Haiti was not as good as the original: "All in all, I can’t say this new 'We Are the World' measured up to the 1985 version."[29]

Eight days after the Artists for Haiti 2010 celebrity remake was released, a "video response" to the song's official YouTube video was posted by Internet personality and singer-songwriter Lisa Lavie, and was "favorited" on the YouTube channel of the We Are The World Foundation.[30] Lavie's "We Are the World 25 for Haiti (YouTube Edition)" excluded the rap segment and minimized the Auto-tune that were the subject of critical reviews[24] of the celebrity version. Lavie's video, an Internet collaboration of 57 unsigned or independent YouTube musicians geographically distributed around the world, received positive reception from media, including CNN ("certainly is a sign of the times")[31] and ABC World News with Diane Sawyer ("Persons of the Week"... "in effect saying, We are the world, too... who proved that anthem is not just for glittering names.")[32] Both videos link to the We Are the World Foundation for donations.

Rolling Stone said its readers "mostly agreed" with the assessment of a February 27, 2010 Saturday Night Live parody: "Recently, the music world came together to record 'We Are the World 2,' a song to raise awareness of the Haiti earthquake disaster; sadly, the song itself was a disaster," with several impersonators dubbing the parody "We Are the World 3: Raising Awareness of the 'We Are the World 2' Disaster."[33]

Chart performance[edit]

"We Are the World 25 for Haiti" debuted within the top 30 in multiple territories. "We Are the World 25 for Haiti" charted at number 27 on the Spanish Singles Chart on the charts issue date February 14, 2010.[34] The song debuted at number 17 in New Zealand on the charts issue date of February 15, 2010.[35] "We Are the World 25 for Haiti" peaked within the top five, charting at number three in Norway on the charts issue date of February 16, 2010; the chart's position is currently the song's highest charting international territory since its release.[36] The song debuted at number 25 in France on the issue date of February 13.[37]

"We Are the World 25 for Haiti" charted at number two on the Billboard Hot 100, behind Kesha's "Tik Tok".[38] "We Are the World 25 for Haiti" charted higher in its debut week than the original version, which entered the Billboard Hot 100 at number 21.[38] According to Billboard, the song's charting position stemmed mainly from download sales, with a reported 96% of the song's charting being from such sales.[39] Following the song's debut during the Olympics, 246 radio stations sampled the song in the United States.[39] Radio stations in New York expressed that they would play the song frequently to raise awareness of Haitian citizens in need.[39] Other radio stations throughout the United States echoed similar responses on the song getting airplay.[39]

The song also sold over 267,000 downloads in three days.[38][40] "We Are the World 25 for Haiti" debuted at number eight on the Canadian Hot 100 dated for February 27.[41] The song also debuted at number six in Belgium Wallonia and Flanders, as well at debuting at number 17 in Sweden.[35] The song also charted at number 28 in Denmark.[35] The song entered Irish charts at number nine.[42] In the song's second week of release in Norway, "We Are the World 25 for Haiti" moved up two spaces, topping the chart.[43] Unlike the song's chart performance in territories like Norway, the song dropped four places on the Billboard Hot 100 to sixth place and stayed in the charts for only five weeks more.[44][45]

Charts positions[edit]

Chart (2010) Peak
position
Australia (ARIA)[46] 18
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)[47] 1
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Wallonia)[48] 1
Canada (Canadian Hot 100)[41] 7
Denmark (Tracklisten)[49] 10
Ireland (IRMA)[42] 9
Italy (FIMI)[50] 10
Luxembourg Digital Songs (Billboard)[51] 2
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[52] 8
Norway (VG-lista)[53] 1
Spain (PROMUSICAE)[54] 15
Sweden (Sverigetopplistan)[55] 5
UK Singles (The Official Charts Company) 50
U.S. Billboard Hot 100[38] 2

Track listings[edit]

  1. Short version[6] "We Are the World 25 for Haiti" - 3:25
  2. Long version[6] "We Are the World 25 for Haiti" - 6:57

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Anne Beatts (1997-10-12). "If It's a Hit, Why Stop There?". LATimes.com. Tribune Company. Retrieved 2010-02-16. 
  2. ^ "Magnitude 7.0 – Haiti Region". Retrieved January 12, 2010. 
  3. ^ "Major earthquake off Haiti causes hospital to collapse – Telegraph". London: telegraph.co.uk. 2010-01-12. Retrieved January 12, 2010. 
  4. ^ "Haiti says 200,000 may be dead, violence breaks out — Reuters". reuters.com. Retrieved January 14, 2010. [dead link]
  5. ^ a b c Billy Johnson (2010-01-21). "'We Are The World' Re-recording Reportedly In The Works". Yahoo! Music. Yahoo Inc. Retrieved 2010-02-15. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i Ray Waddell (2010-02-12). "Producer Details 'We Are The World 25' On Eve Of Debut". Billboard.com. Nielsen Business Media, Inc. Retrieved 2010-02-15. 
  7. ^ a b c d e f Edna Gundersen (2010-02-14). "Quincy Jones, Lionel Richie pass 'We Are the World' baton". USAToday.com (Gannett Co. Inc). Retrieved 2010-02-15. 
  8. ^ "We Are The World, Haiti (VIDEO): New Version For Haiti Earthquake Victims". HuffingtonPost.com. HuffingtonPost.com, Inc. 2010-02-12. Retrieved 2010-02-15. 
  9. ^ Solvej Schou (2010-02-02). "Stars gather to cover 'We Are the World' for Haiti". USAToday.com (Gannett Co. Inc). Retrieved 2010-02-15. 
  10. ^ a b c d Alan Duke (2010-02-02). "Stars gather for 'We Are the World' recording". CNN.com (Time Warner Inc). Retrieved 2010-02-02. 
  11. ^ ""We Are the World" Child Sensation Ethan Bortnick Joins the Baldwin Family". Gibson.com. Retrieved 2012-11-07. 
  12. ^ "10 Year Old Piano Prodigy Ethan Bortnick Performs at Las Vegas Hilton". Vegasnews.com. 2011-07-23. Retrieved 2012-11-07. 
  13. ^ a b Mazur, Kevin (2010-02-03). "Behind the scenes for 'World: 'A good vibe going on'". USAToday.com (Gannett Co. Inc). Retrieved 2010-02-15. 
  14. ^ a b Edna Gunderson (2010-02-02). "New voices unite for 'We Are the World'". USAToday.com (Gannett Co. Inc). Retrieved 2013-10-15. 
  15. ^ a b Maura Johnston (2010-02-12). "'We Are The World: 25 For Haiti' Unites Music's Biggest Names". MTV.com. Viacom. Retrieved 2010-02-15. 
  16. ^ a b c Kelly Marino (2010-02-11). "'We Are The World' Remake Producer RedOne Aims For 'Current' Sound". MTV.com. Viacom. Retrieved 2010-02-15. 
  17. ^ Passchier, Lorraine (2010-02-12). "'We Are the World' remake debuts during Vancouver 2010 Olympic Games". VancouverSun.com. Canwest Publishing Inc. Retrieved 2010-02-15. 
  18. ^ a b c Vena, Jocelyn (February 2, 2010). "Michael Jackson's Influence Lives On In 'We Are The World' Remake". MTV. Retrieved February 2, 2010. 
  19. ^ "Correction: Taylor Swift Not Available For ‘We Are The World’ Remake". AccessHollywood.com. NBC Universal, Inc. 2010-01-28. Retrieved 2010-02-15. 
  20. ^ Edna Gunderson (2010-02-02). "Complete list of 'We Are the World' artists". USAToday.com (Gannett Co. Inc). Retrieved 2013-10-15. 
  21. ^ "Credits « Official Site of We Are The World 25 For Haiti". We Are The World Foundation. Retrieved 2010-02-22. 
  22. ^ a b "Stars in US re-record We Are the World for Haiti". BBC News. February 2, 2010. Retrieved February 2, 2010. 
  23. ^ a b c Jayson Rodriguez (2010-02-13). "'We Are The World' Director Celebrates Premiere With Haitian Film Students". MTV.com. Viacom. Retrieved 2010-02-15. 
  24. ^ a b Tyler-Ameen, Daoud, "The Worst Ideas Of 2010: We Are The World 25" (WebCite archive), "The Record" of npr.com, December 21, 2010.
  25. ^ a b c Chris Richards (2010-02-13). "Less-than-stellar remake 'We Are the World' debuts at Olympics in Vancouver". WashingtonPost.com (The Washington Post Company). Retrieved 2010-02-15. 
  26. ^ a b John Parales (2010-02-14). "For Haiti, They Are the Remake". NYTimes.com (The New York Times Company). Retrieved 2010-02-15. 
  27. ^ Drew, Ian (2010-02-17). ""We Are the World 25" Ranked 2nd Worst Charity Video Ever!". US Magazine. Retrieved 2010-04-13. 
  28. ^ Maura Johnston (2010-02-13). "'We Are The World' Soloists Lil Wayne, Pink Take Cues From The Original". MTV.com. Viacom. Retrieved 2010-02-15. 
  29. ^ Simon Vozick-Levinson (2010-02-12). "'We Are the World' remake for Haiti debuts during Olympics opening ceremony: What did you think?". EW.com. Time Warner Inc. Retrieved 2010-02-17. 
  30. ^ We Are The World Foundation (charitable foundation) website.
  31. ^ Josh Levs, CNN, "YouTube Singers Rock for Haiti" (March 6, 2010); Josh Levs, CNN, "YouTubers do 'We Are the World'" (March 7, 2010); Rosemary Church, CNN International, "We Are the World, part two", (March 20, 2010).
  32. ^ ABC World News with Diane Sawyer broadcast, March 19, 2010, preceded by online video ABC News, The Conversation: 'We Are the World' YouTube Edition (ABC World News); "Conversation: 'We Are the World' 2.0" (ABC World News Tonight).
  33. ^ Jennifer Lopez Plays Rihanna as "SNL" Mocks "We Are the World"
  34. ^ "Top 50 Cancionies". PROMUSICA.es. Productores de Música de España. Retrieved 2010-02-17. [dead link]
  35. ^ a b c "Artists for Haiti - We Are the World (song)". Charts.org.nz. Hung Medien. Retrieved 2010-02-16. 
  36. ^ "Topp 20 Single uke 8, 2010". Lista.vg.no. Verdens Gang AS. Retrieved 2010-02-17. 
  37. ^ "French Digital Singles Chart - 13/02/2010". Lescharts.com (in french). Hung Medien. Retrieved 2010-02-20. 
  38. ^ a b c d Silvio Pietroluongo (2010-02-17). "'We Are The World' Returns to the Upper Reaches of the Hot 100". Billboard.com. Nielsen Business Media, Inc. Retrieved 2010-02-17. 
  39. ^ a b c d Gary Trust (2010-02-23). "'We Are The World 25," Radio's Reaction, Pt. 1 [Page 1]". Billboard.com. Nielsen Business Media, Inc. Retrieved 2010-02-25. 
  40. ^ Todd Martens (2010-02-16). "On the charts: Sade's 'Soldier' sets the tally ablaze; 'We Are the World' tops 260,000 downloads". LATimes.com (Tribune Company). Retrieved 2010-02-17. 
  41. ^ a b "February 27, 2010". Billboard.com. Nielsen Business Media, Inc. Retrieved 2010-02-19. 
  42. ^ a b "Top 50 Singles Week ending 18th February 2010" Irish Recorded Music Association (2010).
  43. ^ "Artist for Haiti - We Are The World 25 For Haiti". NorwegianCharts.com. Hung Medien. Retrieved 2010-02-25. 
  44. ^ http://www.billboard.com/charts/2010-04-03/hot-100?order=drop
  45. ^ "Week of March 6, 2010". Billboard.com. Nielsen Business Media, Inc. Retrieved 2010-02-23. 
  46. ^ "Australian-charts.com – Artists for Haiti – We Are The World 25". ARIA Top 50 Singles.
  47. ^ "Ultratop.be – Artists for Haiti – We Are The World 25" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50.
  48. ^ "Ultratop.be – Artists for Haiti – We Are The World 25" (in French). Ultratop 50.
  49. ^ "Danishcharts.com – Artists for Haiti – We Are The World 25". Tracklisten.
  50. ^ "Italiancharts.com – Artists for Haiti – We Are The World 25". Top Digital Download.
  51. ^ "Luxembourg Digital Songs - March 6, 2010". Billboard. 
  52. ^ "Charts.org.nz – Artists for Haiti – We Are The World 25". Top 40 Singles.
  53. ^ "Norwegiancharts.com – Artists for Haiti – We Are The World 25". VG-lista.
  54. ^ "Spanishcharts.com – Artists for Haiti – We Are The World 25" Canciones Top 50.
  55. ^ "Swedishcharts.com – Artists for Haiti – We Are The World 25". Singles Top 60.

External links[edit]