You know why the new "We Are the World" debuted today on the Billboard Hot 100 chart at No. 2, a whole lotta spots higher than where the original version opened 25 years ago?
Because it's better.
OK, that's probably not the reason, but it's definitely the truth. Jay-Z was wrong: The new one's better, the old one was begging for a redo—and we can prove it. (And we won't even make fun of Kenny Rogers to make our point.)
1. No stupid sweatshirts.
To be clear, there was nothing stupid about USA for Africa. But there was a whole lot cheesy about Kenny Rogers, Diana Ross and others modeling the charity's logo-branded sweatshirts during the 1985 recording session. Instead of looking like the well-meaning folks they were, they looked like they'd already gone rummaging through their swag bags. By contrast, the sweatshirt-free 2010 group is a model of restraint whose members won't fashion-date themselves nearly as badly.
And by the by, noting that Kenny Rogers wore a stupid sweatshirt is not the same as making fun of Kenny Rogers. We get why he was a featured soloist the first time around, just as, 25 years from now, you'll get why Justin Bieber was a featured soloist this time around. (Sometimes, you just have to be there.)
2. Egos got checked at the door.
Quincy Jones famously coined a version of that line at the 1985 session. But really, looking back, whose ego got checked that night? The original backing chorus consisted mainly of people whose job it was to not outshine the star: assorted members of the Jackson clan; the other guy from Hall and Oates; and Dan Aykroyd, who, regardless of his top-billed efforts, did his best work as a sidekick.
The Artists for Haiti, however, walked the walk. The new chorus is packed with A-listers turned bit players for a good cause: Harry Connick Jr., Robin Thicke, Rob Thomas, Brian Freakin' Wilson and more. Suffice to say, if this were 1985, Kevin Jonas would've been handed a stupid sweatshirt, and sent to a back riser by himself. But it's 2010, and he's got company in pretty famous brother Joe Jonas. (Note, we didn't say the star system got checked at the door, which is why Kevin and Joe's more famous sibling, Nick, did get a solo. )
3. Wyclef Jean.
Not to disrespect or discount the commitment of any USA for Africa performer, but no USA for Africa performer sang with the urgency of Jean. The difference is Jean's not just a member of Artists for Haiti, he is an artist from Haiti. And not even Bruce Springsteen's growl can touch that for authenticity.
4. The music video's on message.
What's "We Are the World 25 for Haiti" about? If you didn't know, you could watch the Paul Haggis-directed video, flush with footage from the quake-ravaged nation, and figure it out.
What's the original "We Are the World" video about? From the looks of it, it's about seven minutes' worth of swaying back and forth, accented by headphones, and, of course, stupid sweatshirts.
5. Michael Jackson.
How can new Michael Jackson possibly be better than old Michael Jackson when both versions feature the same Michael Jackson? Poignancy. The 1985 M.J. was a superstar at his peak. The 2010 M.J. is a memory. And a reminder that the ground beneath us all surely does move.
—Additional reporting by Lindsay Miller
The time is now to download the tune and donate to Haiti relief.