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    Feed the world tripe

    So I’m at one of my hang-outs, and the manager goes, “Sean-chan! There’s a new version of ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas?’ out–Band Aid 20. Want us to put it on?” He means on the DVD player that feeds the three televisions around the bar. Band Aid 20? Well, jeez, why not?

    It’s even more awful than I could have imagined. I mean, okay, I was a pre-teen when Bob Geldof was birthing the first version, and it wasn’t much later that “We Are the World” and “That’s What Friends Are For” were saturating the airwaves with showy benevolence. So maybe they were more horrible than I remember–not that I think of them all that fondly.

    But, man, this was…was…you had Dido singing in that placid, contented “I-ayyyyyyeeee wanna thank yew” Ebba Forsberg half-yodel, seemingly unaware that the lyrics were about starving people who have not managed to sell several million albums. You had Robbie Williams (wearing a shirt, unfortunately, but no matter–I can play back the “Rock DJ” video in my head at will) grimacing through a couplet or two. Naturally, you had Bono rasping away for a bit–that man can smell an opportunity for notice-me professional compassion the way a vulture zeroes in on the closest pick-cleanable carcass.

    But the most amazing part was when a close-up of the shrunken face of a suffering child was faded into the head of some plump, pampered pop singer–I don’t think it was Des’ree, or Heather Smalls, or Caron Wheeler, because I probably would have recognized them, even if I haven’t clapped eyes on them since college. Anyway, as my mother would say, Boy, I’ll tell you–no shame! And naturally, we had to climax with wide-angle shots of the contributors assembled, choir-style, to show how sincere they were. After all, if all those cool people were willing to coordinate their booking schedules to be filmed in the same studio at the same time, well, it must be something important they’re on about, right? It was a full-force reminder of why it’s so outrageous to hear celebrities grouse about how callous and crass the general public is. Give me the Human League cluelessly pomposing about the Lebanon any day.

    Added in the morning: I see through Amritas that others have had the displeasure already, too. Like some of the commenters, I found David Carr’s last paragraph a little misdirected–poor Africans are deserving of more, not less, sympathy because they’ve been seized on by self-righteous Western celebs, in my view. But the contempt the song itself deserves can hardly be overstated. Did I mention the rap in the middle?

    Added on 17 December: Okay, I’ve now seen the video again, and it looks as if the dissolve from the child’s face may not have been to one of the Band Aid singers but rather to an African woman blooming with health thanks to the transformative powers of rock-star self-promotion. A small but significant ethical improvement.

    4 Responses to “Feed the world tripe”

    1. Amritas says:

      There’s rap in the middle of the remake? I should have guessed.
      When I first heard that Human League song, my reaction was, “What the -?”
      To paraphrase their first big hit, “Don’t you want that, baby?” My answer is “noooo.”

    2. Sean Kinsell says:

      Seriously, buddy, this turkey has to be seen and heard to be believed. It makes that star-studded version of “What’s Going On” a few years ago look like a model of discretion.

    3. John says:

      The manager calls you “Sean-chan”? How much time do you spend there, anyway?

    4. Sean Kinsell says:

      It’s not a place with much personnel turnover, and the guys behind the bar have known me for six years. You get to know people.
      But I think the greater factors are that we’re gay and he’s about fifteen years older than I am. I don’t think it’s unheard of in groups of straight friends for one of the men who are regarded in a sort of younger-brother way by the rest to be addressed as “Take-chan,” but older gay guys almost invariably use the diminutive with younger friends, and those who are very outgoing and matey use it with men their own age, too.
      As you can imagine, I don’t go out of my way to make friends with the outgoing and matey, so my buddies around my age call me “Sean-kun” or just “Sean,” and a fair number of the younger guys call me “Sean-san” when we’re first introduced. Interesting that I’ve never thought about this much before.