F2K10 is a countdown of the 20 worst songs of 2010. Track our progress here.
In 2010, when pop musicians are struggling to have half the visibility of the latest news-cycle-spawned entrant into Google Trends, it’s hard not to see charity endeavors as ego extensions. Recall “Just Stand Up!,” the Babyface-penned 2008 track in which Mariah Carey, Beyoncé, Mary J. Blige, and others outsung each other in hopes of convincing the audience that they cared about fighting cancer more than their fellow singers. Or American Idol‘s self-congratulatory “Idol Gives Back,” which this year pitted Alicia Keys singing about conquering New York City and a skit featuring the Octomom against scenes of economic devastation at home and abroad. Or the Keys-spearheaded, ridiculously silly “we won’t Tweet until you pay up” campaign in which celebrities tried to force people to donate to AIDS-related charities by holding back their 140-character nuggets of wisdom, and which only really succeeded in briefly zombifying Usher and giving some rich guy a big tax write-off right before the year’s end.
Given that the people making these appeals are probably a lot better off than those being solicited, it would maybe behoove celebrities to put their money where their mouths are, and to be a bit more tasteful in their appeals for cash. (Especially in that last instance. Just stay off your various media outlets for a day and donate your pay to charity, Ryan Seacrest. You’re overemployed enough that you can afford it.)
Which brings us to the pop response to the awful earthquake that struck Haiti earlier this year. First there came the telethon, in which Justin Timberlake and Madonna flipped songs about sex on their head in the hopes of bringing in iTunes revenue for charities helping out with the wreckage. (Bono was also involved.) On the heels of that came the remake of the 1985 charity megasingle “We Are The World,” which was masterminded by Wyclef and RedOne, among other producers. “I kept the whole chord progressions, the feeling and the vibe, but brought fresher sounds that are more now,” RedOne said at the time.
He also brought what could charitably be called a lack of editing, because the song has been stretched out to seven minutes in order to incorporate the following: Autotuned Barbra Streisand (!!!); two separate appearances by Nicole Scherzinger; a group rap that contains the will.i.am-penned line “when the floor breaks/ a magic carpet to stand on”; Auto-Tuned Lil Wayne filling in for Bob Dylan; Auto-Tuned T-Pain; Akon; and Kanye dueting with will.i.am.
And that doesn’t even get into the impersonations — not only does Maroon 5’s Adam Levine slip into Stevie Wonder mode almost too convincingly, we have Jamie Foxx trying to rewin the Oscar he snagged for Ray, repeating every Ray Charles ad-lib as if he were a Xerox machine. Michael Jackson’s contributions to the original are thankfully not re-performed (perhaps “Weird Al” Yankovic turned down Wyclef’s offer?), but Janet Jackson’s softer-than-soft accompaniment to her late brother is chilling, and not in a good way. (Not to mention that it’s somewhat galling to see her reduced to duet-partner duties while Scherzinger gets the spotlight twice.)
Honestly, a version of the song that was half the length and that brought together Wyclef’s Creole contributions and Jennifer Hudson’s exuberant singing with Jackson’s original demo might have not had as many group-Photoshop opportunities, but it at least would have sounded OK. Hell, the Jackson factor might have spurred curiosity and caused the song to top the charts — and if it had reached No. 1, we would have all been spared this facepalm-worthy Tweet from Dr. Luke:
Kesha stops “We Are The World 25 Haiti” from being #1 on HOT 100 http://bit.ly/dymx2V – YEAH!!!!!!
— Dr. Luke Doctor Luke (@TheDoctorLuke) February 19, 2010
Although really, what better way to sum up the worst aspects of 2010 than the above 140-character missive? The only thing it’s missing is a rumor about a dead celebrity.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on December 17, 2010