Mark Solomons

Is this the worst pop song ever recorded?

There’s only one thing worse than British schmaltz – American schmaltz

  • From Spectator Life
(getty Images)

On a cold January night 39 years ago in Los Angeles, 46 of the world’s biggest egos gathered together to record a song that was, according to Netflix ‘The Greatest Night In Pop.’ The song was the grandly titled ‘We Are The World’, a hastily composed follow up to the monumentally successful British charity single ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas’? Just seven weeks earlier.

At least those appearing in the British version came across as less wholesome and more honest

Band Aid’s effort was hardly a great song but the occasion captured the UK’s imagination and wallets so soon after pictures of starving Ethiopians had sent shockwaves across the nation. But ‘USA For Africa’, as the American supergroup called themselves, was seen as a poor follow-up. A sequel less like Godfather II and more like Weekend At Bernie’s II and the song itself has been described by veteran music journalist and writer David Quantick, this week, as ‘one of the worst records ever made.’

That has not stopped Netflix from its over-the-top description which it plans to inflict on paid subscribers at the end of this month with behind-the-scenes footage including some never seen before. Perhaps this includes the full buffet in the back room waiting for the stars when they’d finished singing about the horrors of famine.

Written by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie, reportedly in one night, it was a lacklustre dirge, barely scanning and without rhyme even if it had reason – namely to raise millions of dollars to show that anything we could do, they could do better. Except it wasn’t better. As an exercise in solipsism it remains unsurpassed. As a musical feat, it will go down as one of the worst songs in the back catalogue of most who performed.

In a recording studio in January, 1985, Wacko Jacko and Lionel assembled a group that included genuinely stellar stars such as Bob Dylan, Stevie Wonder and Bruce Springsteen with lesser known talents including Huey Lewis, Kim Carnes and James Ingram hanging on their coat-tails knowing they would get another number one to their CV.

One imagines their agents and record company PR execs furiously ringing up clients telling them ‘Bobby baby, imagine what this will do to your career’.

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