Some quick thoughts on Band Aid 30

Band Aid 30

So there’s a new, reworked version of “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” that’s been recorded to help in the fight to stop the spread of Ebola in West Africa–and it just happens to coincide with the 30th anniversary of the first version of the song, which was the work of Bob Geldof and Midge Ure (one of my personal musical heroes).


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Overall, I really like the new version, which I didn’t really expect. I know it’s not the greatest song in the world–and both Geldof and Ure are its harshest critics at times–but it was groundbreaking for its time in 1984, when the goal was to help fight hunger in Ethiopia.

The Independent | Band Aid 30 lyrics: Reworked Ebola-themed ‘Do they know it’s Christmas?’ revealed

Upon repeat listenings of the new version, I’d have to say the two weakest links are Sam Smith and Chris Martin. Smith has an interesting vocal quality, but needs to hone the actual skill of singing. In his first line, his “Christmas time” sounds more like “Christmas dime.” I have no freakin’ clue what he’s slurring in his second part during the bridge–that’s a mess and I can only assume that was the best take they could get in the limited time they had to record the song (which happened this past Saturday in London). I know Smith is one of the hottest artists on the planet right now, but I just don’t get it. The blandness of his songs doesn’t do anything to cover up the many flaws in his vocal style either.

And Chris Martin’s voice is just grating as usual–like nails on a chalkboard. Of course, I’m one of the biggest anti-Coldplay folks in the world so I’ll admit to bias on that one. Sinead O’Connor’s vocals are kind of weak, too, but there’s a hint of desperation in them that kind of fits the song so I’ve become accepting of them.

Everyone else does a real nice job. I’m a huge fan of Elbow and frontman Guy Garvey’s part (at the 1:26 mark of the video above) is fantastic…wish he got more to do, actually.

In my opinion, though, the real star of this latest version of “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” is Rita Ora, who amazingly only had 90 minutes to record her parts so she could get back to her filming commitments on UK’s version of The Voice. I’m not sure if it was planned going into the recording or if Ure and Paul Epworth picked up on it while producing the track, but she got some prime spots to shine here. Ora sings the first line as the beat kicks in after the One Direction/Ed Sheeran introduction, and then she gets the soaring vocal that leads wonderfully into the “feel the world/heal the world” chorus (as opposed to the original’s “feed the world”). Plus, she gets a little lead part during the chorus. It’s subtle in the mix, but once you see it in the video, you can pick it up with your ears.

BuzzFeed has a post identifying who sings what in the 2014 version.

This post originally appeared on Tandem With The Random host Brian Kelley’s personal blog.