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Praise for recording artists who sing to improve reality

February 18th, 2010

MTV broke down and faced its reality last week when it officially dropped “music television” from its logo. It should come as no surprise, considering MTV lost touch with its original focus on music as reality television became increasingly popular. Over time, “The Situation” and his GTL routine replaced Carson Daly and “TRL.”

In the same week, the video “We Are The World 25” was released, featuring musicians of all ages and genres – those whose fame came from MTV and those whose videos circulate on YouTube. 

“We Are The World 25” was recorded as a fundraiser for Haitian relief 25 years after artists recorded it for the first time in an effort to raise money for Africa. 

The video was released last Friday and had more than 3.5 million views on YouTube after two days. 

I recognize that MTV can’t compete with YouTube for music video viewership and reality shows are a successful alternative.

 Even so, there is an unreal and talentless quality about many of the successful reality shows on MTV. It concerns me that our pop culture is being redefined by a seriously distorted “reality.”

Oppositely, the “We Are The World” videos, old and new, capture the culture of the time in which each was recorded, presenting the fashion, icons, musical style and suffering in the world at that time. 

The videos showcase great talent and bring awareness to meaningful causes.

More than 80 artists collaborated on the newer version of the song, which was written by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie. The lyrics remain relevant and inspiring. 

While the cause is certainly worthwhile, the song and video are also a testament to the power of celebrity and the way that power can be used for positive public influence.

“We Are The World 25” brings together the diverse styles and talents of rappers, country singers, pop performers and musical legends, some of which participated in the original recording of the song. 

Justin Bieber replaced Lionel Richie in the opening of the song, and female artists including Fergie, Jennifer Hudson and Celine Dion, replaced Tina Turner, Cyndi Lauper and Diana Ross. Miley Cyrus and the Jonas Brothers represent teen pop sensations. An Auto-Tuned Lil Wayne juxtaposes the crooning of Tony Bennet. 

Footage and a recording of Michael Jackson from the original video split a screen with Janet Jackson in the new version creating a short duet during the song. Even American Idol’s Randy Jackson sings in the video, as well as actor Vince Vaughn. 

The video symbolizes the unification of diverse people and talents for a great cause. It is work that is deserving of praise and public support. 

The success of this fundraising effort depends on people paying for something they can get for free. 

Hopefully, the same large audiences that support popular reality shows will appreciate the true talent that is exhibited in “We Are The World 25” and the value of supporting Haitian relief efforts. 

Donations can be made at world25.org. Proceeds from song and video downloads on iTunes benefit the We Are The World Foundation, founded by Lionel Richie and Quincy Jones earlier this month.