Last Friday night, during the opening ceremonies of the Winter Olympics, a new version of 'We Are the World' was unleashed upon, well, the world, in an effort to raise money for Hatian earthquake relief. The original song, released in 1985, raised money and awareness for humanitarian aid in Africa. That original song went on to become a powerhouse of cultural significance. The new version? The cause is clearly just, but it's significance to popular culture remains to be seen. So, we decided to make a verse by verse comparison for each artist in the original version to those in the remake and see how they match up.
- Lionel Richie vs. Justin Bieber
Normally, we'd be a bit cynical here -- a 15-year-old teenage Canadian pop star taking over for Richie, who was riding high with 'Can't Slow Down' at the time of the original. But there is something haunting about Bieber's voice opening the song, plus Richie hand-picked Bieber to replace him. We were considering calling this a push until we also remembered Lionel was also directly involved in introducing the world to Nicole Richie.
- Stevie Wonder vs. Jennifer Hudson
We'd be happy to hear Stevie Wonder sing the phone book, which we hear were actually quite useful back in 1985, so Hudson didn't stand much of a chance here. The Oscar-winning actress uses her "listen to my vocal range" singing voice, which reminds us of her attempt to stand out during Hollywood Week on 'American Idol.' She didn't get the memo that only Cyndi Lauper and Celine Dion were allowed to do that.
- Paul Simon vs. Jennifer Nettles
Nettles' gritty voice hits the mark. Simon's performance was fine, but it's hard not to think that poor Paul is about to be eaten by a Sasquatch when Kenny Rogers enters the frame.
- Kenny Rogers vs. Josh Groban
The aforementioned Sasquatch (the white shirt he's wearing doesn't help) lays down some "hey, this is important"-type vocals, while Grobin just sounds like he's singing in his ironic 'I'm F**king Ben Affleck' tone. It's now impossible to distinguish Groban's serious voice from his pretending-to-be-serious voice.
- James Ingram vs. Tony Bennett
The biggest shock in this match-up is that Tony Bennett actually appears in the 2010 version. For that reason alone...
- Tina Turner and Billy Joel vs. Mary J. Blige
Blige appears ready to attend a 'Watchmen' costume party immediately following the recording session. The interesting thing about Tina Turner, who looks ready to break into 'Private Dancer' right there (and it would have been glorious), is that she hands it off to Billy Joel. It seems an odd pairing until you remember that Turner appeared with Bryan Adams in a duet of 'It's Only Love' on his 'Reckless' album. After Adams, this duet with Joel seems a lot less odd.
Advantage: Turner and Joel/1985
- Michael Jackson vs. Michael Jackson
In the second most odd moment of the new 'We Are the World,' archive footage of Michael Jackson is used from the original -- with his sister, Janet, superimposed on to the screen. It is oddly reminiscent of Jim McMahon in 'The Superbowl Shuffle.' In 1985, Jackson was already starting to look a little different. In 2010, the 1985 version of Michael Jackson is a welcome sight.
- Diana Ross vs. Barbra Streisand
Now this is interesting: Two dueling divas from, roughly, the same era. Ross makes no attempt to memorize the words, reading from her lyric sheet. Streisand looks way too happy to be there, even though she's probably not happy at all. If this is a true battle of divas, the winner has to be the one acting like a diva.
- Dionne Warwick vs. Miley Cyrus
Warwick, through the Psychics Friends Network, once envisioned that, someday, there would be a man who sang a country hit called 'Achy Breaky Heart.' And, she envisioned, one day, that man's daughter would some day sing her part in this tune.
- Willie Nelson vs. Enrique Iglesias
Nelson once sang a duet with Enrique's father Julio called 'To All the Girls I've Loved Before.' That has little to do with this comparison, but the fact that Nelson gave an honest rendition with this man's father on a song with lyrics like, "To all the girls I once caressed/And may I say I've held the best..." speaks volumes.
- Al Jarreau vs. Jamie Foxx
Jaime Foxx has an Oscar for playing Ray Charles (hold this thought) while Al Jarreau sang the theme song to the Bruce Willis television show 'Moonlighting.'
- Bruce Springsteen vs. Wyclef Jean
The Boss, in all of his 'Born in the U.S.A.' glory, overdoes his part to the point where he sounds like he's passing a kidney stone. (Full disclosure: We love Springsteen, just not on this song.) Springsteen is from New Jersey; Jean is from Haiti and sings a lyric in Haitian Creole.
- Kenny Loggins vs. Adam Levine
Neither artist really stands out on their given part, though Loggins did sing the theme song to 'Caddyshack,' so...
- Steve Perry vs. Pink
Poor Pink. It's not an easy task to take over for the Journey front man who's been immortalized in every karaoke bar in the world. Plus, Perry once sang a duet with Kenny Loggins called 'Don't Fight It' ... and Loggins sang the theme song to 'Caddyshack.'
- Daryl Hall vs. BeBe Winans
Both give soulful renditions. We can't help but think John Oates always got the worst of this Hall & Oates "duo." Name one song that Oates sang. How is this a true duo? John Oates is at the 1985 recording, so why doesn't he get to be front and center with Hall? We feel Hall was in a position to pull some strings for his "partner" and chose not to do so.
- Huey Lewis vs. Usher
Poor Lewis and Usher. They were both given the thankless role of being the warm-up act for human dynamos Cyndi Lauper and Celine Dion, respectively.
- Cyndi Lauper vs. Celine Dion
It's shocking how similar these two are in their respective videos. Shocking because, in human history, it's not often these two show up in the same sentence. Both nail the "Whoa, Whoa, whoa!" and both clinch their fists in triumph or, possibly, agony. Dion was given her own room. Lauper was perched between Lewis and Kim Carnes. The look on Carnes' face is priceless. "I have to follow, that?"
- Kim Carnes vs. Fergie
Just like Huey Lewis and Usher, these two are only here so Lauper and Dion can catch their individual breaths and belt out one more "Yeah!"
Advantage: Lauper and Dion
- Bob Dylan vs. Lil Wayne
The biggest surprise when comparing these two versions is that Dylan and Lil Wayne sound eerily similar. But Dylan didn't need an electronic voice manipulator.
- Ray Charles vs. LL Cool J., Will.i.am, Snoop Dog, Busta Rhymes, Swizz Beatz, Iyaz, Kanye West.
After hearing the most shocking change between the two songs, somewhere, in this studio, Jaime Foxx had to be shaking his head while thinking, "You know, this rap just isn't quite right." He was probably also thinking his version of Charles, that won him an Oscar, may have proved the better choice here.