The "We Are the World II" (aka, "We Are the World 25: For Haiti") video premiered less than two weeks ago, during the opening ceremonies for the ongoing Winter Olympics. Yesterday and today the always interesting "Chart Beat" section of Billboard magazine interviewed several radio programmers about their thoughts on the charity single.
"Chart Beat" is essential reading if you ever hope to understand why radio sucks, or the often perverse logic of program directors. The radio people's thoughts on the disappointing "We Are the World" remake are fascinating because they reveal the topsy-turvy world they inhabit. They all gave lukewarm support to the record the first week and are now fading its airplay out. Remember their reasons for doing so--and what they actually liked about the single--next time you're stalled on traffic on the 10 furiously pushing your preset buttons around the radio spectrum wasteland and cursing the day Indie 103.1 went off the air (O Jonesy, where are thou!).
From Billboard (emphasis added and our comments on italics):
WMC (FM 100)/Memphis (Adult Pop) - John Roberts, program director: "We feel that "We Are the World 25" is an "event" song deserving to be showcased for a short period of time because it's topical for our target demo; its cause (benefiting Haitian earthquake victims), the timing of its recording (following the Grammy Awards) and its debut (during the Olympics), as well as its superstar lineup.
It helps that our format is well-represented, with solo lines from Fergie, Pink, Miley Cyrus and Adam Levine of Maroon 5. The inclusion of other relatable stars such as Rob Thomas, Jason Mraz, Jordin Sparks and Orianthi only makes the song more relevant to our listeners, along with, of course, the other celebrities in the video, such as Randy Jackson, Vince Vaughn and Jeff Bridges. [that is correct: THEY WHOLEHEARTEDLY APPROVE OF VINCE VAUGHN'S WTF "CAMEO"]
Given all these factors, this past week we slotted the song a couple of times per day. For the remainder of this coming week, we'll back it down to one play each day and by the weekend it'll likely be gone completely." [i.e., they liked it so much and it's so relevant to their listeners' interests that they will be phasing it out some 38 months before they phased out "Umbarella" (ella, ella, ella)]
[More radio programmer 'logic," after the jump.]
WKTU (103.5)/New York (Pop/Dance) - Rob Miller, program director: [I] "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)." [Oh boy, so many wrong things here--the "rappers are often very talented but our demographic is just not that much into them" argument, the revelation that humans can't be trusted with musical choices, the paragons of easy listening...]
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." [No, Charese, you just had a temporary lapse of good taste. But the other programmers are getting superwet about Maroon 5 solo spots, so you're just gonna get Snoop as part of a choir. At least they didn't park him somewhere inconspicuous, crazy-uncle-style, like they did to Brian Wilson.]
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.
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?" [Oh, that's right, that's what was missing--more Taylor Swift and John Mayer! On the other hand, Vedder's constipated moaning would have been far more entertaining than Janet inaudibly duetting with the ghost of MJ.]
KOST (103.5)/Los Angeles (Adult Contemporary) - Stella Prado, program director: ""We Are the World 25" is an awesome idea to help Haiti.
It's amazing to think that the original song was composed and recorded 25 years ago. Our audience is loving the new version because it brings back a special memory.
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To that end, I love that Quincy Jones and Lionel Richie were able to bring Michael Jackson's voice back." [Again, next time you're stuck in traffic, think of this local radio gatekeeper who thinks this obvious, morbid stunt is a great idea!]
KIIS (102.7)/Los Angeles (Pop) - Julie Pilat, assistant program director/music director: "I love the combination of legendary artists and music's brightest rising stars. I thought it was special that they left Michael Jackson in. Jamie Foxx singing like Ray Charles is hilarious. Will.i.am's ad-libs at the end - "they need us, they need us, they need us" - feel like they come straight from the heart and really resonate with me as they echo. [Jamie Foxx singing like Ray Charles is annoying, inappropriate, odd, and many other things that are only hilarious if you're laughing at and not laughing with. Do we really need to laugh at a charity single?]
Despite the song's length, I wish there could be more of an alternative influence. U2, Kings of Leon, Green Day or Matisyahu would've been a treat (although several such acts are already tied to so many philanthropic projects)." [Matisyahu? Really? Actually, that's the best idea any of these radio wizzes has come up with in years! Now, if we could only get him to impersonate Ray Charles...]