Band Aid 30: Inspirational or Insulting?

30 years since the release of the original single, Band Aid 30 released the forth charity rendition of ‘Do they know it’s Christmas?’last week with the intention of raising millions of pounds to help the Ebola crisis in West Africa.

Despite entering the charts straight at number one yesterday, the charity single has been subject to an exponential amount of public criticism. Bob Geldof and his star-studded supergroup have been branded ‘egotistic’, ‘smug’, ‘patronising’ and even ‘offensive’ by a colourful array of journalists, politicians and celebrities. Considering sales of the record have sky-rocketed (making it the fastest selling single of 2014) we wanted to find out what the public really thought of Band Aid 30. Did they think the single promoted a positive message? Or did they feel it caused more harm than good?

As anticipated, the panel had mixed opinions about the single.

Many of the panel had a positive opinion of the single. They felt that it brought much needed attention to the Ebola crisis and was an effective way to raise money for the cause.

‘I think it’s a great idea for a fantastic cause’ (Tim, 48, Bangor)

‘I do think it brings the Ebola crisis to life for people all over the world, so we can try and beat the dreaded disease’ (Barry, 48, Llanelli)

The song itself (which retains most of the original lyrics, but has a few new alterations) was iconic for many members of our panel. Whilst many felt that that no cover would ever exceed the original version, a large amount of the panel preferred the 2014 edition to the Band Aid 20 single that was released in 2004. Almost all of the panel agreed that the majority of the acts featured on the single were appropriate. They liked that young British stars, such as One Direction, Ed Sheeran, Ellie Golding and Bastille, were involved alongside familiar voices from the original record, such as Bono.

‘The artists featured are very good. They’re recognisable, they’re big names. Everybody knows who they are’ (Gemma, 23, Paignton)

‘I think there’s a good mix of artists on there […] you need to get the youngsters in it as well as middle aged people’ (Alan, 42, Ealing)

‘It’s tradition now. It was good to see some of the original faces in there’ (Lady Jennifer, 31, London)

However, there were complaints about the lesser known artists (successful online bloggers and vloggers) who were featured on the chorus of the track. People argued that they did not recognise them and therefore did not find the single particularly representative of the music industry. In particular, there was a call for more ‘music legends’ to be featured on the track, who would appeal to the older generation.

A common critique of the track was it’s lack of originality. Lots of the panel claimed that they were bored of the tune – they had liked and bought the original, so why would they want a cover of it? These people felt that the single would have been more appealing if it had been a completely new song, written specifically for the Ebola crisis.

‘It’s kind of been there, done that!’ (Nicki, 44, Sutton)

‘I know it’s for a good cause, but it’s boring’ (Tom, 26, Croydon)

‘I wish somebody would write something equally as good, which might be a difficult task, but I think it would be more popular’ (Christopher, 52, Nantwich)

Bob Geldof and Midge Ure have rewritten some of the song’s most recognisable lyrics to make a nod to the actual crisis at hand, yet it is these new lyrics which received the most criticism from the press and our panel. People thought that the lyrics unfairly generalised the conditions in the few countries affected by Ebola to apply to the whole of the continent. Other respondents commented that the assumption made in the song that Africans could not celebrate Christmas did not take into consideration the fact that several of the countries mentioned were actually Islamic.

‘I don’t like the new lyrics – I think they are really patronising’ (Chloe, 31, Bromley)

‘It barely contains any images of what’s going on in Africa’ (Elizabeth, 52, Sherborne)

‘Some of the lyrics basically referring to the idea that Africans won’t have Christmas this year – it doesn’t put the right message across’ (Jen, 26, Louth)

With this in mind, lots of people were concerned that Band Aid did not have the right intentions. They felt that it was egotistic and just a chance for celebrities to raise their public profile. Furthermore, they had doubts about how much of the money raised by the single would actually go towards helping the Ebola crisis. These members of the panel said they would prefer to donate directly to charities, such as the Red Cross, where they knew their money would be put directly to good use.

‘I think it’s a ego thing’ (Mary, 66, Sheffield)

‘I don’t think we should all rush out and buy a single because some celebrities have given up their precious time’ (Tom, 25, Truro)

However, many of the panel defended Band Aid 30 against the negative backlash. They felt that any campaign which had raised money to help care for Ebola patients and protect others against the disease could not be a bad thing. Therefore, they hoped that the single would still be able to raise a significant amount despite the negativity surrounding it.

‘If people are joining together and buying the song and it’s raising money, then I really don’t see there’s anything wrong with it’ (Emily 27, Leeds)

‘Anything for charity is a good thing’ (Christine, 50, Crewe)

‘I know there’s been a lot of criticism, but actually it’s raising the profile and raising loads of money, so actually it can only be a good thing’ (Winston, 48, Bournemouth)

Even amongst those who had doubts about the Band Aid 30 single, a large amount of the panel claimed they planned to buy the single or had in fact already bought it. Whether people loved it or hated it, it seems the Band Aid single is destined to inspire debate this Christmas.