Chart Beat reached out to stations that have played the update of USA for Africa's 1985 classic. Below are programmers' thoughts on the new recording, which include listeners' reactions, how the 2010 version compares to the original, and their estimates on future airplay.
WKTU (103.5)/New York (Pop/Dance)
Rob Miller, program director
"We Are the World" is such a classic song, and nothing of its magnitude had ever been done before its release in 1985. It seemed so much more inescapable when it was released back then; all radio stations in different formats played it over and over, MTV supported it and there were even "We Are the World" T-shirts. The original was so powerful, and set the bar so high, that it's tough years later to recreate the magic.
I also feel that even though the first version featured a variety of performers from different genres of music, they seemed to blend together a bit better than in the new version. When you have Josh Groban and Barbra Streisand singing on the same song as T.I. and Lil Wayne - all extremely talented in their own rights - it's a bit more of a drastic contrast.
Radio airplay has probably been hindered by the rap portions and the fact that there wasn't a major push by a label to service the single. To play the song, stations have had to do what I did: search for it online after it was played during the Olympics and then put it on your station over the weekend (when most stations don't even have a live staff anymore).
The song is at No. 2 on the Hot 100, it was introduced during the Olympics and it includes some of the biggest artists in music. It's a no-brainer to give it a few spins on KTU and let the audience decide how they feel about it. We may only play it for a few weeks, but at least we've done our part to raise awareness for the song and help the Haitians living in our community and their relatives.
KSCF (Sophie @103.7)/San Diego (Adult Pop)
Charese Fruge, program director
"We Are the World 25" gave me the chills the first few times I heard it. I think everyone was curious to hear the new take with newer artists.
I really love LL Cool J and Snoop Dogg doing their thing. (Oh my, am I showing my age?!) Different, but powerful.
I think the new roster did a great job of recreating the original with enough familiarity to have the right affect on anyone over 30, and yet enough diversity to bring an entirely new generation to the table.KRUZ (97.5)/Santa Barbara, California (Adult Pop)
Matt Stone, program director
Response from listeners has been both positive and negative. Lots of calls for it. Lots of calls against it. People are torn because of the fact it is for Haiti, but most don't like it because of the Auto-Tune and rap.
In my opinion, the original is much better. Artists I wish were on the new version include John Mayer, Jack Johnson, Elvis Costello, Lady Gaga, Eddie Vedder, Joss Stone, Norah Jones, Green Day, Weezer and Rob Thomas.
The use of Michael Jackson's vocals, however, in the cover is fantastic.
WZPL (Z99.5)/Indianapolis (Pop)
Scott Sands, director of operations/programming
We've been playing "We Are the World 25" several times a day since its debut. I think it has definitely been one of the rare "event records" of the past ten years and listeners were certainly interested to hear it at least once. However, in purely unscientific web poll research, most listeners have told us that they don't like the remake. So, we'll probably start to pull back on it this week and take our listeners' temperature again before the end of the week.
Honestly, I don't think the song should have been remade. I applaud the mission behind the song and think it's great to help raise so much money, but the original was just too special a moment in pop culture to attempt to recreate. Call me cynical, but today's artists are just too image-savvy and seemed to view this more as a public relations opportunity for themselves than a historical opportunity.
Again, just my opinion, but I think the 2010 artist selection is very weak compared to the original. There's just not the same star power representing today's biggest icons.
The new performance itself also seems flat. Although some artists sound genuinely passionate, others seem like they hammed it up, and I think the end result sounds lackluster.
I realize scheduling played a part in some absences, but where was Taylor Swift (ok, Australia), a bigger cross-section of country, John Mayer, Bon Jovi, Pearl Jam or Gwen Stefani?
The best part of the new version is the addition of the rap segment. That shows creativity and new trends in music and pop culture. Plus, those artists really sang with passion.
WBLS (107.5)/New York (Adult R&B)
Skip Dillard, program director/operations manager
Our listeners have been pretty hard on the remake. Even with Michael Jackson's presence spliced in, many WBLS listeners feel that the new version just can't touch the original. It's not easy to replicate one of the most well-known and celebrated songs in contemporary music history.
Personally, I miss Lionel Richie on the new version. Considering he sang the original recording's opening lines, it's unfortunate that his familiar voice is not heard in today's take.
Still, I think any major effort to help the people of Haiti deserves applause.
( Click here for more reaction on "We Are the World 25: For Haiti" from radio programmers).