Saturday the 16th saw the broadcast of Band Aid 30 on the X Factor Results show; Bob Geldof’s latest charitable act is attempting to raise money for the current epidemic of the Ebola virus in West Africa. The song saw the appearance of pop sensations such as One Direction, Sam Smith, Ellie Goulding as well as Mercury prize-winning Elbow, Chris Martin and Bono, who makes his third contribution to the Band Aid recordings. The release was met with mixed views, some arguing that the lyrics were controversial and that the video paid too much attention to the stars of the song as opposed to the epidemic itself. Others reacted positively, illustrated by the whopping £198,000 raised for the cause thus far.
The original Band Aid was released in 1984 and was met with a lot of controversy over the line “well, tonight thank God it’s them instead of you”. After the negative reaction to this line, the latest release was changed to: “well, tonight we’re reaching out and touching you”. One Guardian journalist commented that surely touching the Africans will increase the risk of spread of the disease, not help the cause as the song sets out to do. Another lyric change included “the greatest gift they’ll get this year is life” in the 1984 version which has been replaced by “a song of hope where there’s no hope tonight (ooh)”. I can hear calls of ‘surely this defeats the point of the cause’? We are raising money to give the people “hope”, not take it away from them.
The video that accompanied the song also received some battering. There is only one point within the video that depicts the cause for which the song is raising awareness – the rest of the video is primarily focused on the various stars as they arrive at the Sarm West Studios in Notting Hill and each sing their line. Critics have argued that in order to raise more money and awareness, surely the celebrities should not be the primary focus of the video; can people really know what they’re donating to if it isn’t shown?
However, others have argued to the contrary. By participating in this charitable act, the various stars bring with them their fans, the people who buy the single. Popular acts such as One Direction have such an unthinkably huge fan base that if every one of their fan girls bought the single, they would break record selling history as well as raising a ton of money for charity. In recognition of the increase in popularity of YouTube stars, Band Aid this year also involved British Vloggers Zoella, Alfie Deyes and Joe Sugg. Zoella alone has over 6 million subscribers to her channel, Alfie Deyes over 2.9 million and Joe Sugg 3 million subscribers. Think about the amount of money that would be raised if every single one of their subscribers bought the single! Ebola would run away scared! By appealing to a wider audience and in recognition of the changing of the times, Geldof is highlighting and appealing to the main point of Band Aid: to try and stop this deadly disease in its tracks by raising as much money as possible.
So what is the verdict? Is Band Aid for the good, or is it for the bad? Before I reach a conclusion, I’d just like to let you know a few facts about the cause, see how much you really know. Did you know that currently the average case fatality rate is 50%? Did you know that the current outbreak stands at 14,413 separate cases? And did you know that an infected person cannot stay with family members or be touched by another person who is not wearing a protective suit in fear of further contraction? I don’t think in the comfortable little bubble that we live in we can ever really begin to imagine how it feels, on the brink of death, to not even be allowed a hug. Just last week, stories were reported of nurses and doctors dying from the disease after touching and helping those infected. It’s a sad truth that just by caring these wonderful people risk their lives everyday.
Can we really complain then if the lyrics aren’t quite to our taste? If we think the video is stupid and tacky? Or if we don’t agree that our favourite act was not allowed a chance to participate in the single? As Bob Geldof rightly said, “it really doesn’t matter if you like the song, what you have to do is buy the thing.” Christmas is about peace and love, not a deadly epidemic and mass destruction. So this Christmas I don’t think we should bah humbug about this questionable music whilst we’re planning our Christmas dinners and excitedly wrapping presents. Instead, let’s do something in the spirit of Christmas. Let’s buy the song and sing our hearts out.