I’m not a big fan of music remakes. If the original version of a song was relatively obscure, I can get down with a remake. But if the OG cracked the top 20, the remake generally sounds exactly like the song you enjoyed ten years ago, except with a new guitar solo or something tacked on. I think remakes of popular songs should be relegated to encore sets at concerts or B-sides of singles. Holiday songs are problematic, though. We would all go insane if there was only one version of “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” played repeatedly over the holidays. I have versions by The Pretenders, Coldplay, Diana Krall, The Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and Mr. Hanky in my collection. (Even with this variety, you’re likely to go a little mental after one too many Christmas classics.) It is with these conflicting thoughts that I listened to Band Aid 20’s remake of “Do They Know It’s Christmas” today.
As I wrote last year, the original Band Aid’s “Do They Know It’s Christmas” is one of the few modern, pop, holiday classics. It was a song that fit the times it was recorded in, and the environment it was recorded in, perfectly. From the first note, you’re reminded of all that was good about the UK music scene back then. Despite that, it remains timeless. It was the first song of the 80s tribute binge. And it is legitimately a great song. The tune was remade in the late 80s, to little attention outside the UK, but Midge Ure and Bob Geldof decided to once again convene some of the top artists in the UK to record a new version on the 20th anniversary of the original. Members of Coldplay, Oasis, and Blur to name three bands convened last week to set the new version to tape. I couldn’t be more disappointed. Where the original captured the sounds of mid-80s British pop music, the new version is dull and generic. The original version had lively momentum that propelled the listener through the song to the triumphant closing chorus. The new version meanders along and completely loses the ending payoff. Being an issue song, the original possessed a passion that made you believe all these big stars were really down for the cause. This year’s effort doesn’t make me think these artists got together for anything more than good PR and a laugh. Arguably the biggest misstep of the new version is allowing Bono to sing the same lines he sang 20 years ago. I don’t object to him being included, since he is the biggest face in European music. However, I don’t understand how they let him sing anything but an exact reproduction of his ’84 shout to the masses, “WELL TONIGHT THANK GOD IT’S THEM, INSTEAD OF YOU!!!!” If he had cut lose again, I might be able to give it a star and a half out of five, but as recorded, this soulless, insipid version garners only half a star. Let’s hope it’s relegated to the dustbin of holiday tunes and the original version brightens your holiday season.