Over the weekend the song These Days by UK pop group Take That made it to number one on the UK Official Singles Chart. So why is that good news? Because the song took the number one spot from Band Aid 30’s Do They Know It’s Christmas?
Do They Know It’s Christmas? was first released in 1984 to raise money for the famine in Ethiopia. It was re-recorded twice (first in 1989 and then again in 2004) to raise more money for famine relief. The latest version was released last month and has undoubtedly caused a lot of controversy as it aims to respond to the Ebola outbreaks in West Africa.
While the celebrities involved may have had good intentions, their delivery is shoddy and the result is a condescending attempt at charity. Do They Know It’s Christmas? portrays West Africa as a single, poverty-stricken country in peril. The sensationalist message the title, imagery, and lyrics send is that Westerners need to save Africa because it is a place of famine and disease without any joy or hope. The lyrics read:
There’s a world outside your window and it’s a world of dread and fear
Where a kiss of love can kill you
And there’s death in every tear
And the Christmas bells that ring there are the clanging chimes of doom
Well tonight we’re reaching out and touching you
Bring peace and joy this Christmas to West Africa
A song of hope where there’s no hope tonight
The lyrics alone are insulting and erroneous, but coupled with the video, the whole thing is so patronizing. I’m utterly appalled that the producers of the music video decided to show footage of a female Ebola patient being removed (practically dragged) out of her house as the opening scene. How is that okay? Did they get her consent? Was her family involved? Also, the lack of transparency around donations and proceeds is problematic. Money is being kept in the Band Aid Charitable Trust, but the website doesn’t provide any information on exactly how the money will be disbursed and used.
As someone who has suffered a heartbreaking personal loss to Ebola I support all awareness, aid, and relief efforts, but I cannot comprehend how this whole thing came together and I’m quite disappointed in all the celebrities involved. They had the potential to do much better. They could have used their fame and influence to create something like Africa Stop Ebola which provides accurate educational information and gives all proceeds to Medecins Sans Frontieres (an organization that has been on the front lines of the Ebola outbreaks since March). But then again, celebrities and development don’t usually mix well, right? Share your thoughts below.
P.S. – check out this Band Aid 30 spoof created by the Norwegian Students’ and Academics’ International Assistance Fund