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HR Apprentice. Ex Media Studies student at Swansea University. This blog is a collection of links, articles, academic reference and random thoughts.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Everybody Hurts: the verdict

Story from THE TELEGRAPH Everybody Hurts: the verdict

Like sonic aftershocks that inevitably follow any modern disaster, the reverberations of the Haiti earthquake can be heard all over the airwaves, as celebrities raise their voice in song.

This week, not one but two all-star charity singles are being unveiled. First up from the UK is Simon Cowell’s version of REM’s ‘Everybody Hurts’, which will be swiftly followed from the US by Quincy Jones re-recording of ‘We Are The World.’ Between them, they have mustered about 100 pop stars, over emoting for a good cause. The message is coming through loud and clear: We have felt your pain … now its your turn to feel ours.

I’m sorry. That was uncalled for. There is an air of sanctity around charity records that effectively puts them beyond criticism. Indeed, when Radio One DJ Chris Moyle unveiled the Helping Haiti version of ‘Everybody Hurts’ on his show, his remarks were confined to noting where the money was going, concluding “It doesn’t matter whether you like it or not.”

I just can’t bring myself to be so circumspect. I write this from the position of a music critic, not a philanthropist. I already gave, and I’d give a bit more not to hear this record again, although I suspect it’s going to be hard to avoid.

I was anticipating the worst and Simon Cowell has not let me down. The record is truly awful. Its an excruciating, saccharine, overblown farrago performed by some of today’s blandest pop stars to a sentimental, orchestral, rock power ballad accompaniment. It is completely lacking in the restraint and toughness that lent the original its intimate, understated power. In place of Michael Stipe’s grit and gravel voice, we get lots of breathy warbling and tremulous vibrato from the likes of Leona Lewis, Mariah Carey, Cheryl Cole and Kylie Minogue and boy band harmonising from Take That, Westlife and X Factor runners up JLS. Its very much a pop affair, with only Rod Stewart and Jon Bon Jovi (wailing dreadfully) representing the veterans. There is neither sight nor sound of Britain’s contemporary rock fraternity but room for relative nonentities like Joe McElderry. It says something about the record that only Susan Boyle strikes the appropriate note of humble sincerity. It’s a recording with far too much ego and it reeks of the re-positioning of the Cowell brand, as the impresario gets to show his caring side with his stable of television talent. It even comes with the endorsement of Gordon Brown, who knows a bandwagon when he sees it.

The US charity recording is going for more of a Hollywood blockbuster approach, with a chorus of over 75 stars rounded up by Quincy Jones after the Grammy Awards, straight from one red carpet to another. We haven’t heard the song yet, but we have heard a lot of chatter about how exciting the experience was for the singers themselves, with Celine Dion calling it “an amazing opportunity to work with amazing people”. Cowell’s fellow American Idol judge Randy Jackson said “I think this is a great moment in time and I wasn’t going to miss it for anything,” presumably not a message aimed at Haitian survivors. I think the organisers may have missed a trick there. Why not make singers pay to appear on charity records? Just think, if we charged them $50,000 each, these songs would have already raised 5 million before they were even released.

Helping Haiti’s ‘Everybody Hurts’ will be available for download on Sunday 7th, and in stores on Monday 8th February

1 comment:

  1. I haven't heard either song, & I'm very pleased about that. After this critique I now don't need to, at least the Cowell effort anyway. Do we really need to be subjected to awful pap music to give to people in great need?


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