Thirty years ago Bob Geldof gathered the most popular music acts in the UK to record a single entitled “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” to raise money for the Ethiopian famine of the 1984.
Today, Geldof's assembled another super-group of UK musicians to rerecord the song and donate the proceeds to the fight against Ebola. Among the acts chosen are One Direction, Bastille, Ellie Goulding, Bono, Sam Smith and Ed Sheeran.
This is the fourth version of the song following the 1989 and 2004 releases; however, this time around parts of the original lyrics have been altered to accomodate additional voices and situational specifics.
Geldof reworked his original piece to adapt to the Ebola outbreak and omited some of the more controversial lyrics. Examples of these changes are replacing, “Where only water flowing is the bitter sting of tears,” with, “Where a kiss of love can kill you and there is death in every tear,” and, “Well, tonight thank God it’s them instead of you,” with, “Well tonight we’re reaching out and touching you.” A full list of changes and analysis can be found on The Guardian.
Similar to the preceding versions, Band Aid 30 has become the fastest-selling single of 2014. The Guardian confirms that it has sold more than 206,000 copies and is predicted to surpass the success of previous Band Aid recordings. The original single sold 3.7 million copies in the UK and was the biggest-selling single ever at the time.
Even with the release’s immediate success and the amazing financial support for charities attacking the Ebola outbreak, many complaints have been voiced about the single. Several of these criticisms have followed the song since its original creation in 1984 while others are tied to the new African movement.
The most common issue raised with the song is the controversial lyrics. Even after rewriting some of the more questionable lines from the original song, most don't believe the song instills the correct image of Africa. Musician Fuse ODG actually backed out the project because the lyrics made him uncomfortable. As a pioneer of the This Is New Africa movement, ODG feels that the song paints a negative image of Africa centered on fear, death and hopelessness - the exact image that ODG’s movement is trying to fight. Though ODG decided to not participate in the session, he still supports the message and donated to the cause.
Dan Matthews of Forbes notes that the other issue is the lack of African-American singers on the record. The white, Anglo-Saxon heavy line-up gives the single an uneasy colonial feel.
Unfortunately, this sea of criticism tends to drown the message of the project and the spirit of charity. In the end, it is important to support and donate towards efforts to fight the spread of Ebola and to care for its victims.
To make a donation visit the Band Aid 30 website here and check out Band Aid 30 “Do They Know It’s Christmas” below.