This is a surprise: Last week Gloria Estefan (and her producer husband, Most Powerful Showbiz Latino Emilio Estefan) gathered every single Latin star in Miami and recorded her Spanish translation of "We Are the World."
After the recent disappointment of the "We Are the World 25: For Haiti" (i.e., "We couldn't get most heavy-hitters or legends, but hey--look! It's Vince Vaughn!") we weren't expecting much from the stunt.
Boy, were we wrong.
Here's a little Top Ten list of how awesome "Somos El Mundo" really is:
10) They don't waste any time bringing in Jose Feliciano! That's right--the 1985 version was not afraid to pull a Ray Charles (or a Stevie Wonder) and "Somos El Mundo"'s producers (Emilio Estefan and Quincy Jones!) were not afraid to play their own blind guy with a big, distinctive voice card right away. Take that, Jamie Foxx-doing-shtick!
9) Before you have time to recover from that--holy shit! Is that Vicente Fernandez??? El muddafokkin' Rey?!?!??! Wearing a black t-shirt?!?!??!?!?! (Well, you didn't really expect him to walk around Miami in the charro outfit, did you?). In any case--major win and serious wow moment before the minute mark.
[More awesomeness, after the jump]
8) Estefan and Jones were really smart about logistics: they did the group recording right after one of the dozens of Latin Music award shows, so they had most heavy-hitters on hand. Whomever they couldn't get in Miami, they convinced to get to a studio and record their solo lines to be edited later.
7) Look at this lineup: Gloria Estefan, Chayanne, Thalía, Luis Fonsi, Shakira, Juanes, Juan Luis Guerra, Ricky Martin, Luis Miguel, A.B. Quintanilla, Cristian Castro, Johnny Pacheco, Jon Secada, El Puma Rodriguez, Paquita la del Barrio, Willy Chirino, and what seems to be everyone else who has come anywhere near the ever-more-preminent Latin charts in the last 30 years.
6) The English version pulled teenymuffin Justin Bieber for the little girls. "Somos El Mundo" scored American Idol tiny hearttrob of cuddling David Archuleta!
5) Gringos got Vince Vaughn? "Somos El Mundo" gives you Andy Garcia! (who's also a mean Latin percussionist).
4) The WTF momement: look! It's Taboo from the Black Eyed Peas! You know, the weird looking one who's neither Will.i.Am, nor Fergie, nor Other Black Guy! The one who mostly stalks around the stage like a gypsy ninja while the others look futuristic and shit? He's in "Somos El Mundo" too. It's a big mundo after all.
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3) Everyone involved seems super sincere and they appear to be having genuine fun doing their charity bit (compare with the stuffy atmosphere and general vibe of careerism of the English version). This shouldn't be surprising: the "We Are the World" concept is by nature heavy-handed and oversentimental. Most Latin musicians can do that day-in, day-out, earthquake or not.
2) Ok, the biggest surprise. Pitbull! Yes, he of the National Anthem of the Republic of Cocaine. The same one. He's brought in to do the rap bit near the end (go to 4:50). You know what? He KILLS it. SHREDS it. Duets with the whole choir of pop stars, plus a Haitian gospel choir and two guitarists, one of which is Carlos fucking Santana. Pitbull nails it in a way that the underused rappers in the English version were never allowed to. We might have to reconsider our opinion of the bald Cuban who likes to count with his fingers over a stolen beat.
1) Bottom line: "We Are the World" is supposed to soar, and "Somos El Mundo" really, really soars. The first four minutes build up to the last four, which come as a moving, gospel-style release. It's a joyful noise, the way these kind of extravagant gestures of public solidarity are meant to be.