The all-star twenty-fifth anniversary cover of “We Are the World” just debuted on NBC as part of the opening ceremony for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. At last, we got to hear the sound of everyone from Barbra Streisand to Kanye West to Vince Vaughn lifting their voices as one to help raise funds for earthquake relief in Haiti. Director Paul Haggis (Crash) filmed the production. Clearly, there was no shortage of talent involved, and it was for a most deserving cause. So how did the new “World” turn out?
The proceedings opened on a weak note, to this critic’s ears at least, with pint-sized pop star Justin Bieber’s thin voice. (Sorry, Bieber fans.) Things improved somewhat as soon as Jennifer Hudson came in on the following line. And then we were off: Josh Groban! Jennifer Nettles! Nicole Scherzinger?! Seeing Michael Jackson duet posthumously with his sister Janet (using old footage from the original “We Are the World”) should have been touching but felt a little uncomfortable instead. Soon, 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; Weezy didn’t disappoint, delivering the remake’s most memorable moment by far, though admittedly in a WTF sort of way. As for the random huddle of rappers that followed — will.i.am, Snoop Dogg, LL Cool J and more all chanting some bland lyrics together — the less said of that, the better. Finally, as the song drew to a close, Kanye West and will.i.am exchanged some well-meant if underwhelming rhymes (“Feeling like the world’s end, we can make the world win”). Some more choral vocals, a few eloquent cries from Wyclef Jean, and that was it. Vince Vaughn did not get a solo turn, which is a good or a bad thing depending on your perspective.
All in all, I can’t say this new “We Are the World” measured up to the 1985 version. But perhaps you’ll disagree? Watch an extended version of the performance below, buy the song on iTunes, or visit the We Are the World Foundation online to donate to Haiti relief. Then let us know what you thought of “We Are the World” in the comments, below.
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Linkin Park’s stark Haiti video: Watch ‘Not Alone’ here