The rumor is that next week, after the Grammy Awards, a group of modern-day musicians will gather to re-record the song “We Are The World”, originally recorded by USA For Africa in 1985. While the original raised money and awareness for hunger in Africa, this one will do the same for the Haitian earthquake relief.
Don’t get me wrong… I’m all for helping the victims of this horrendous natural disaster, but “We Are The World” should never be re-recorded. It is a perfect example of a time-and-place brand that deserves it’s rightful spot in music history. The magic that was “We Are The World” can never be recaptured. So many factors work against it… the original and legendary veil of secrecy that no longer exists, the element of surprise and “oh wow” when it finally arrived, the extremely dated song itself, and the simple fact that we’ve been there, done that.
Need more evidence? I present to you the re-recording of “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”,. first in 1999 as “Band Aid II” and then again in 2004 as “Band Aid 20″ (a reference to the 20th anniversary of the original). Anyone request those two versions on their favorite radio station over the holidays? Nope. Everyone loves the original from 1984. Both remakes are considered failures for two reasons:
1. They lack the earnestness of the original, both in sound and in purpose. The original was a novel idea, and the remakes inevitably lack that impact. Somehow, the earnest nature of the original still resonates.
2. Magic like that just can’t be rebottled. You can’t just do it again. The proverbial toothpaste doesn’t go back in the tube. Lightning doesn’t strike twice. Insert your own cliche here.
Outside the music realm, there are plenty of examples of brands that try to recapture former glory. In some instances, it works. The VW Beetle. The NHL “Winter Classic” outdoor hockey game. Coke Classic.
But many times, it fails. Most end up being shells of their former selves, relegated to novelty status among hard-core fans.
“We Are The World” part deux, should such a travesty happen, will be exactly that. Hopefully in the short term it does it’s job and raises millions of dollars for people who need it. But 5 years down the road when someone mentions “We Are The World”, everyone one of us will think of this original version.