Jay-Z slams 'We Are the World' remake: 'Some things are just untouchable'

One face you won’t spot in the all-star “We Are the World” remake that premiered on Friday night is Jay-Z’s. Turns out, there’s a reason he didn’t want to participate. “I know everybody is gonna take this wrong: ‘We Are the World,’ I love it, and I understand the point and think it’s great,” Jay told MTV News in Dallas this weekend. “But I think ‘We Are the World’ is like ‘Thriller’ to me. I don’t ever wanna see it touched.” He went on: “I know the plight and everything that’s going on in Haiti. I applaud the efforts…but ‘We are the World’ is untouchable like ‘Thriller’ is untouchable. Some things are just untouchable. It was a valiant effort, but for me, it’s gonna be untouchable.” Instead, Jay-Z suggested that it might have been a better idea to record an entirely new song for Haiti relief — like, for instance, “Stranded,” the tune he performed last month at the Hope for Haiti Now telethon with Rihanna, Bono, and the Edge.

Do you think Jay-Z has a point here? Was the original “We Are the World” so timeless that any attempt to remake it would inevitably pale by comparison? Did Jay use the word “untouchable” enough in that quotation? Sound off in the comments, below.

(Follow the Music Mix on Twitter: @EWMusicMix.)

More from EW.com’s Music Mix:
“We Are the World” remake debuts during Olympics opening ceremony: What did you think?
‘My Sharona’: the real Sharona remembers late Knack singer Doug Fieger
Tonight’s “We Are the World” update: Watch footage from inside the recording

John Mayer is very sorry about his explicit sexual and racial comments; do you believe him?
Janelle Monae walks a funky ‘Tightrope’ with Big Boi

Photo credit: Johnny Nunez/WireImage.com

Comments (263 total) Add your comment
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  • Keith

    He’s absolutely right, and leading off with Justin Bieber was the worst part! Oh and the Autotune! At least the A-Listers had the sense to stay away from that catastrophe!

    • Shannon

      I agree…and who had the thought to put that girl from the pussy cat dolls in it?? The song is horrible.

      • Tess

        No kidding! I saw the video and was surprised to see her in the first place, then she was pretty much in the whole thing! Is she sleeping with Lionel Richie or something?

    • mishka

      “leading off with Justin Bieber was the worst part!” My thoughts exactly! I wonder what Lionel and Quincy were thinking of!
      I listened to WATW 25 only one time and althought I enjoyed Barbra, Celine and Pink bits, I will not buy the song on itunes. I rather send money to Unicef, Red Cross or Yele than get the song on my ipod.
      They should have just re-release the original, which is a zillion times better and is definitely untouchable. HOVITO said it all.

      • Sherylwrites

        “leading off with Justin Bieber was the worst part!” My thoughts exactly! I wonder what Lionel and Quincy were thinking of!”
        They were thinking that tweens have the money to buy this bad remake.

    • Rush

      Auto-tune software didn’t exist in 1985.

      • Mecca

        It did it was just called the talkbox

      • Sanch

        Autotune didnt exist? Check out Zapp and Roger!, Do you really think anyone actually creates anything today, that hasnt already been done?

      • LMC

        Yeah if autotone exisited they would have used it on a bunch of people in the first video (can you say Bob Dylan)

    • Moe

      I used to like Jay-z and his music until i found out he is a Mason…lost all respect for him at that moment. Go “F” the devil.

      • LusciousDC

        Moe..get a grip. Oh I know, somewhere back in the day a Mason did something to you or one of yours and now you hate them all. STUPID!

        Back to Jay-Z’s comments..He’s definitely correct..Somethings are UNTOUCHABLE.

      • walkergal

        lusciousDC…AAAHHHAAA…great comment. WTF was he talking about?

      • Jean claude pagal

        I’ve always like Jay-Z, his passion for music and ambitions are incredible. He’s absolutely right “We are world should not be touched”.

    • Sarah

      I don’t have a problem with remakes, but this…this was horrible!! The execution was real bad. The rap, justin bieber, auto tune..hated it..but what i really really hated was wyclef’s gargling!!! That was some annoying Sh!t man…I couldn’t stand it.
      Another thing I hated was that this song is only about the children of Haiti. I understand that they want to raise money for them, but there are millions of children that are suffering around the world as well, so why just dedicate the song to Haiti! They should’ve made it about all the children in the world so that this song can be played whenever there is a crisis, though donate the profit of this single to Haiti!!
      you get what i mean…

      • Amanda

        I agree with the wyclef gargling thing too…. i had to rewind it back a little bit to make sure that that noise came from a human

      • Jen

        To be fair, the original was made for African aid…so this isn’t that much different.

      • Corey

        Wyclef was singing in french. He’s a first generation Haitian-American.

      • cari

        @Corey: It doesn’t matter. It only made what was terrible a million times worse.

        The part where they all were singing was halfway decent, but out of respect for the song and Michael Jackson, they should’ve remixed it if they really wanted to use it for Haiti relief. A remake is out of the question.

      • DominionSeraph

        @Corey: Singing en francais is not gargling. Queue up some Natasha St. Pier, Alizee, Jenifer Bartoli, and Kate Ryan for how it’s done right. For an example of how to seamlessly weave French into an English track, look to 3:50 of Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance.”

        God, what a bad remake, all in all. In order: Justin Beiber was weak and his voice sounded processed. Nicole Scherzinger and Jennifer Hudson were good. Jennifer Nettles was good too. Josh Groban sounded like he has something stuck in his throat. Tony Bennett was awful. Mary J. Blige was very good. Janet’s soft duet with Michael was sweet. But Barbara Streisand was jarring after that softness.
        Miley Cyrus was good, if a little lacking in range. The transition to Enrique clashed styles. Blah blah Jamie Foxx, Wyclef (ugh), Maroon 5 dude.

        Pink: Awesome.

        BeBe Winans — oversinging.
        Usher was good.
        With Celene, I didn’t like the arrangement of her middle section. It was dead compared to her start and finish. Fergie shouldn’t be the one cranking it up.
        Again, Nicole Scherzinger good (and hot).
        Nick Jonas — I think he was auto-tune’d.
        Toni Braxton’s my girl. Awesome.
        Mary Mary. Not impressed.
        Lil Wayne? I’ve heard parodies of auto-tuning with more musical merit.
        Pink, awesome again.
        Akon’s style doesn’t fit the song.
        T-Paine: More auto-tune.
        Jamie Foxx: stupid and auto-tuned.

        The rap section doesn’t fit. It’s bad, too. Good rap is all about the artist’s style. It doesn’t translate to 5 or 6 singing together; you lose the individual talent.

        Jennifer Hudson overemphasizes on her second appearance.
        Don’t know who that is with Eve, but the part seems like a useless addition.
        Somebody shoot Kanye. Enough already.
        More gargling.
        What the hell is Will.i.am doing?
        And then a horrible, stuttering ending.

    • hannah

      Are these artists so limited that they couldn’t write another song?

    • renee

      agree cause it sucked cause most of the hot singers 2day are studio singers we really aren’t that crazy about when you really get down to it

    • Duh

      Am I the only one who sees the irony of Jay-Z bashing a remake? I’m not a fan of his (and don’t know all of his songs) but almost all of his most famous songs sample other great songs and IMHO make them worse. PS I do agree with him though, the remake of We Are the World is terrible!

      • Sam

        there’s a pretty big difference between building a hip-hop track around a 4 second sample from ‘annie’ and doing a paint-by-numbers pop remake of a pop song. also, when it comes to creative sampling v. just grabbing the hook from an already popular song and letting the sample do all the work, i think you’re confusing jay with p. diddy.

    • Keith Davis

      I agree!!!! It sounds very trash. I mean its ok but it cant backup the original! Usally nothing is good as the first!!!

  • graeme

    Agreed. And it makes me want to puke that they had Justin Bieber lead it off (who won’t be around 2 years from now), T-Pain on AutoTune, and Jamie Foxx channeling Ray Charles (even Jennifer Hudson looked at him like he was an idiot).

    People like Celine, Barbra, Pink, Fergie, Adam Levine, etc. brought some class to it, but it didn’t work.

    • Belle

      They made a big mistake by having Justin Bieber lead off. At least have the first person to sing have a strong voice. His voice is pretty horrible. Sure good for 8-12 year olds but everyone else it is like nails on a chalkboard. Oh yeah, and what is with the LilWayne and the computerized voice? Was he channeling Roger from Zapp? I love Tony Bennett but his vocals didn’t go with the song.

      • jem

        I agree. They already hit the teen market by including Miley Cyrus anyway, and she’s a way better singer than that Beiber kid. I agree about Lil Wayne too.

      • hannah

        When that little kids voice changes he won’t be so cute.

    • j

      yes! completely agree. i didn’t even know who justin beieber was (and i’m ok with that) and seriously, jamie foxx needs to stick to acting. as for the rap part, i thought it was out of place and even a little disrespectful. i’m with jay – i get the sentiment and the effort, but this remake just didn’t work and really didn’t need to be done in the first place.

    • Val

      I loved that they had Barbara and the others but I have to say having Tony Bennett didn’t help, he wa not that good! The rap part was a bit off, but let’s look at who they are trying to target!?!?!? We need for the young kids today to really look and find something worth fighting for and if this helps then I am all for it. They seem to care about anything else and if “stars” lik Lil Wayne and T-pain help get them involved then I am all for it!!

      • Corissa

        I’m a 18 year old and I loved it. I don’t care what you guysn say. I love the old and the new song but I think this one would catch my generations attention more than the other. Obviously people who were alive when the first one was made are goingto be mad but for the one who weren’t it was touching to me.

      • Adrian

        That says alot about your generation Corissa. You and people your age suck. And you can’t spell. Hell in a hand basket, get off my lawn.

  • Chaz Winterbottom

    “We are the world” untouchable? I don’t know about that. Balls out corny? That’s more like it.

    • ALM

      I’m with you, Chaz. WATW ’85 was corny bandwagon-jumping after the Band Aid single (which has been re-made at least twice). I also think these comments are rich coming from a man who makes his music by “sampling” others’ originals. WATW 25 isn’t great art, but I like it, and respect the sentiments behind it.

    • Yes

      I agree that it is not untouchable. And if the original people wanted to re-do it, let them! I also thought it was funny that someone who uses other people’s music to create his own would have an issue with this.

    • Cardsgal

      Put me in with you guys. Not everything MJ touched was gold. The original version of this song was cheesier than brie and far inferior to “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”

      • Andre Da Costa

        That’s because its what you call a ‘demo’ (not final, still in development, still being worked on). The demo was just to provide an idea of how it should sound with key elements such as the rhythm and melody for the artiste to practice. BTW, MJ came up with the lyrics the night before gathering and he was the first one at the studio at 9:30 PM to record his part.

    • renee

      chaz i don’t know how old u are but ‘we are the world’ is kind of untouchable. it wasn’t just a song, not even a special song like thriller. it was a special moment in time when this country came together. came out of their homes and offices and stood and held hands and sang this song. i’ve experienced certain amazing moments in my life, this is one of them. it was funny and touching and ‘i know where i was when.’

      yeah, someone else has touched it but it’s untouchable, translation, it’s hard to match the original. marvin gaye’s national anthem is one. whitney’s is another. no one will sing respect like aretha or nessum dorma like pavorotti. if y’all don’t get it, feel bad for you. you’re missing out.

      • Val

        I totally agree with you but I do think that Michael would be proud of what they tried to do with this song. Like you said, this song was monumental but that is the point. I don’t know all of your color but when you think of a country like Haiti, where no one seems to care because of their color (and no value to whites!), a song like “We are the world” is a good song to re-create for this purpose. Do I think they could have done better, yes, but the song is not that bad and it does send a possitive message for us all (as Michael intended the first one to do).

    • jeremy

      kick rocks chaz you clearly know nothing. the original we are the world was made of legends when music took talent to be successful. you are SO cool for going against everyone else. get back to watching Jonas idiot

  • Thad

    AGREE with Jay-Z!! Should have been left alone and a new song created. The new version is an embarrassing homage to the original and kinda belittles the original.

    • Sally in Chicago

      When I read that they were resurrecting the song with a new cast of singers (81!) I thought — oh no. They could have kept the original song with new visuals.
      I totally agree w/ Jay-Z…make a new song…with the talent in that room, you mean they couldn’t have knocked out a new song?

      • Mo

        Agreed. Yes “We are the World” was completely cheesy, but it raised a lot of money and brought a lot of A list singers together to do something positive. That’s always a plus. This mess is the worst though. Anytime you get T-Pain in on a song, it has automatically lost its credibility.

    • AcaseofGeo

      Of COURSE Jay-Z thinks they should’ve used HIS song instead, so HE gets ALL the credit for creating the savior-song for the world. Of course. I could write more but I erased it not wanting to sound tooooo pessimistic.

    • Val

      You’re an idiot! I cannot believe that JayZ passed up an offer to be on this track with all of the other stars: Natalie Cole, Gladys Knight, even all the other rappers, because of princple! Please don’t be so simple!

  • Diana

    I’m right there with him. The reasoning behind it is applaudable but this is just one piece of music that should never be redone.

    • thin

      Agree completely.

  • sam

    why would they use a fad like auto tune? it will sound silly in 10 years. but, i don’t have a problem with the idea of a remake. execution was horrible.

  • Sarah

    Completely agree with Jay. And I agree that the lineup for this song was horrendous. Justin Bieber? Julianne Hough? wtf?

  • Nick B

    I never cared much for the original. It was just too cheesy and corny, even if it was for a good cause. But at least it was performed well. This new version is just awful. Justin Bieber? Autotune? Wyclef’s gargling? This song is a disaster. It is just one big mess of a failure. What a joke.

    • Shannon

      lol @ wyclef’s gargling…that was the point when I turned the song off.

      • RebeccaWilson

        That (the gargling, Autotune and rap)was the absolute worst part of this disaster, far and away!

  • Nathan

    Couldn’t agree with him more, especially after having seen what a complete mess the remake is.

  • Seattle Kevin

    “Auto Tune will sound silly in ten years?” Auto Tune sounds ridiculous NOW! Just a way for untalented folks to sound “good.”

    • sam

      i agree, but some listeners must like it now – it is being used so much.

    • Niz

      Or a way to just make “noise”

  • Princey

    Completely agree with Jay. I get where they were going but they could have given more thought to the artists who participated. Love old school hip-hop but the rap section was not happening and that goes for the autotune too. It might have been better had they started from scratch with a whole different song. It was just bad all around. Appreciated the effort and sentiment though.

  • Frank from MusicNerdClub.com

    Only more proof that Jay-Z is the man. I’d rather listen to one original, ambitious tribute that Jay-Z and company delivered than one unoriginal, derivative, well-intentioned failure that is “We Are The World 2010″. In an ideal world, Jay-Z’s song would sell way more for Haiti.

    • Jason

      While I agree, Jay-Z is the king of sampling, so it will never be totally original. But, you’re right. The re-make was terrible.

  • Toni (@ImStillToni)

    THANK YOU JAYZ!!! I wholeheartedly agree with him and so many of my friends YELLED at me for voicing the same opinion – MJ wanted to remake WATW this year…BEFORE HAITI. It should have NEVER been remade “for Haiti” at all…these musicians, especially Lionel Richie, destroyed the global legacy of this song just for a natural diaster in ONE country? MJ would NOT have been pleased and I, for one, am disgusted by it!

    • Cardsgal

      MJ would have been right there next to Quincy, for better or (likely) worse.

  • John

    I definitely agree. It is a classic song and should not have been remade. It’s a prime example of laziness. Late remake the song instead of spending time on making an original song. That song was for that time and for Africa. Why not do something special for Haiti that will be remembered for years to come Like “We Are The World”? Now look at the result of the remake. Ridiculous.

    • shorty

      I respect Jay-z opinion conerning the remake, but everyone is missing the point of the song. Why do some people have to be so negative about someone or something that trying to make a postive impact on the world. My subject listen to the song instead of look at the people!

      • April

        My thoughts exactly. Jay-Z not taking part is enough to say that he wasn’t happy with the remake.

  • Tarc

    The remake was utter garbage. I feel damged it was so bad. They’re going to need a third version to hlpe the victims of listening to the second one. I love many of the participants, but, seriously, so very horrible – utterly unlistenable.

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