It’s hard to tell who’s more excited about the premiere of “We Are The World – 25 For Haiti”: RedOne (the track’s producer), Paul Haggis (the video’s director), the more than 80 artists who participated in the recording or fans.
One thing is certain, however. The most talked about “top secret” project in years will have plenty of eyeballs (and ears) trained on it when it makes its debut tonight during the opening ceremonies of the Winter Olympics in Vancouver.
The updated version of the 1985 charity song that spurred a decade of benefit projects features vocals by a huge variety of singers including Janet Jackson (standing in for her late brother Michael), Miley Cyrus, Josh Groban, Justin Bieber, Pink, Mary J. Blige, Barbra Streisand, Celine Dion, Jason Mraz, Rob Thomas, Usher, Julianne Hough, Robin Thicke, Orianthi,Freda Payne, Tony Bennett, Wyclef Jean, Brandy, Melanie Fiona, Faith Evans, Jonas Brothers, Ann and Nancy Wilson, will.i.am, Gladys Knight, Harry Connick Jr., Jennifer Hudson and Jamie Foxx.
Also on hand to add a 21st century spin to the iconic track, which was written by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie, is a squadron of hip-hop’s biggest names including Kanye West, T-Pain, Bizzy Bone, Kid Cudi, LL Cool J, Snoop Dogg, Drake, Busta Rhymes and Lil Wayne – who handles the section of the song performed by Bob Dylan in the original.
Adding to the anticipation, RedOne and the song’s organizers Quincy Jones and Lionel Richie announced earlier this week that several stars not present at the Feb. 1 recording session at Henson Studios in Los Angeles, and whose identities are being kept secret until the premiere, have since hit the studio to add their voices to the mix.
RedOne, who has unquestionably had a hand in the meteoric rise of Lady Gaga among others, explained he was stunned (and more than a little terrified) when he got the call to produce the remake.
“I was like, ‘Oh my God! This is Lionel and Quincy, you know, the fathers of music, of hits, of music, of charity, of everything,” the Grammy-winning producer told MTV News. “It was big. So that night, before I started working on it, I had nightmares about the whole track. ‘They didn’t like it. Oh, they need a new track.’ But thank God, they loved it.”
While the final mix has been closely guarded, MTV.com posted this video featuring several of the participants recording their individual portions of the song.
Just as overwhelmed by his invitation to be a part of the historic project was the man tapped to film it for posterity – director Paul Haggis of “Crash” fame. Haggis explained that despite the wattage of the assembled participants, the drama was at a minimum.
“You hear these stories about people checking their egos at the door,” the director told MTV News. “They came and stood forever and were glorified extras a lot of the time. They just stood in the corner and waved.
“It was hot and it was crowded. When there’s chaos, there’s friction. Where there’s friction, there’s drama, and I knew I’d have fun things to shoot. Unfortunately, there wasn’t as much drama as I expected. People really got along very well.”
Haggis shot the event in 3-D, and Richie told MTV new technology used will even allow fans to put themselves “into the ‘We Are the World’ family from the computer.”
Two versions of “We Are the World – 25 for Haiti” will be released: the three-and-a-half minute version that will premier tonight during the Olympic ceremonies and a seven-and-a-half minute version that includes the full recording.
All proceeds from sales of the song and the video will benefit We Are The World Foundation LLC and will be used to assist victims of the Jan. 12 earthquake that devastated Haiti.