If you read last year’s blog about Christmas music, then you know that my favorite Christmas song of all time is “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” by British supergroup Band Aid. While that song was made in 1984 with proceeds relieving famine in Ethiopia, it was also remade in 1989 by the supergroup Band Aid II for the same cause. Another supergroup, Band Aid 20, was assembled in 2004 and remade the song to aid Darfur. With this year being the 30th anniversary of the original Band Aid song, a supergroup of British pop artists dubbed Band Aid 30 formed and made another rerelease, this time to aid Ebola treatment in West Africa. I had heard a lot of talk about this new version, and given the previous two remakes and talk of lyric changes, I wasn’t too excited—until I actually listened to it.
The first time I heard the Band Aid 30 version, I immediately noticed some of the current big players in the music business were on the track. From One Direction to Ellie Goulding to Bastille, this remake managed to stay relevant with its inclusion of popular artists. Throughout the song, I noticed a few especially distinct voices. Sam Smith brought his uniquely emotional tone and on point vocal runs to the version, while Paloma Faith’s interesting vocal timbre and breathy, soft voice give it some more character. (Side note—if you haven’t already, you should definitely check out Paloma Faith’s music. It’s fantastic.) The real star, though, is Rita Ora, who belted her part of the bridge with passion unsurpassed by any of the other collaborators.
The song’s overall sound is also the truest to the original version that any remake has been. It starts slow, with vocals and minimal production, and slowly crescendos into a symphony of piano, drums, guitar and amazing vocals. The choral harmonies even sound oddly reminiscent of the original’s.
Like I said earlier, the lyric changes in this version made me skeptical. After the Band Aid 20 version was criticized for keeping lyrics that held a narrow worldview of Africa, the masterminds behind the Band Aid projects decided some of the lyrics needed a change. Also, the project wasn’t really for hunger this time, but Ebola. Although most of the lyric changes didn’t hurt the song, I do have qualms with one specific rewrite. In all previous versions, the last line of the second verse has been “Well tonight thank God it’s them instead of you.” In the new version, however, this was rewritten to be “Well tonight we’re reaching out and touching you.” When this lyric changed, it took away some of the gratitude you feel while listening to it. It basically means that people in the U.S. and Europe are privileged to not be affected by epidemics like famine and Ebola.
In spite of this, I still enjoy the remake. The original Band Aid version will always hold a special place in my heart, but Band Aid 30 is a remake that I will actually listen to—and you should too.
If you would like to donate to Ebola treatment, you can do so on the Band Aid 30 website.