Twenty-five years after the release of "We Are The World,"its remake "We Are The World - 25 For Haiti" makes its debut toastonishing results. In less than a week, the song reached No. 1 on iTunes and Billboard'sDigital Songs chart. The video also claimed the top spots on video rankings foriTunes and Yahoo! Music.
The song was written by Lionel Richie and Michael Jackson in1985 and recorded by dozens of legendary recording artists billed as USA ForAfrica. Quincy Jones served as the producer.
RedOne, who has produced Lady Gaga's biggest hits, wascalled in to modernize the classic song.
On Wednesday, I met RedOne at the historic Hensen RecordingStudios in Los Angeleswhere both versions of "We Are The World" were recorded. In an exclusiveinterview he discussed getting the call to work on the track and admitted tofeeling so much pressure to uphold the integrity of the song that heexperienced nightmares.
"I had nightmares about it that night when Lionel calledme," RedOne said. "He said, 'We want you to try this. We've having problems.We're not getting it.'"
RedOne dreamt that his repeated attempts to please Richieand Jones were unsuccessful.Though the video was streamed online more than 7,000,000times within three days of its release, it has been met with criticisms frommusic fans and even Jay-Z who argued that the original version was"untouchable."
Some questioned why the song featured Auto-Tune and newcomerJustin Bieber's positioning in the song's opening.
In defense, RedOne said they were very conscious of theiconic status of the original song and approached the 2010 version with respect."We tried to keep the song as close--in terms of quality--withthe other with all respect of the other one," RedOne said. "Every person hadtheir own identity from the original, from Bob Dylan to Ray Charles to StevieWonder. All these stars, Michael [Jackson].Of course we are using [artists from] 2010...If we are going to use T-Pain, howdo people know T-Pain? You got to give him his identity which people[recognize]. If you are going to use Kanye and will.i.am, you got to usewhatever they are. You can not change it. You have to be authentic." As a producer, RedOne has learned to deal with adverseresponses to his work. "That is the beauty of music," he said. "It's always a challenge.When they called me I was shocked. I thought, We are remaking 'We Are The World.'But at the same time, I said, 'I'll do whatever it takes to do the best I can do tohelp--not me or the artists--to help Haiti.' So that's the only focus that I'm focusing on.So thank God it's selling. The good thing is it's the No. 1 video. It got theattention. On iTunes it's the most selling single. That's what we wanted."
In the remainder of part one of this two part video interview, RedOne also discusses his first meeting with LadyGaga, and touches on his early talks with Gaga about her next album.
- Michael Jackson