Am I alone in silently hoping Band Aid 30 bombs? I mean, how ill-conceived does a charity single have to be for Adele—who demands a $20 donation for her favourite cause from every backstage guest at every show she plays—to turn it down? Organisers made over a hundred phone calls to her people, but were left without so much as a “Naaaaah” from the porky popstrel, according to Bob Geldof.
Geldof, never one to take rejection gracefully, proceeded to bitch about the Skyfall singer to The Sun. “There are voices here that are at least parallel to Adele. Sam Smith is her male equivalent,” he boasted. It’s not often you sympathise with the girl who, without that voice, would be just another bitter, overweight control freak. But when you think about it, she’s made the right decision.
Because with the possible exception of One Direction, who presumably felt they had no choice but to say yes, Band Aid 30 is a roll call of the smuggest, most obnoxious and most over-exposed snoozefest merchants in the music business, including Geldof, otherwise known as the world’s leading purveyor of middle-class guilt, the depressingly ubiquitous Bono, Sinéad O’Connor and, of course, Chris Martin.
And it’s not even a new song! It’s a rehash of the dreadful 1984 original—probably the most grating charity single in history—with a few last-minute tweaks to the lyrics, because Ebola’s all the rage at the moment. We Are The World it is not. After a few listens, I don’t so much want to Feed The World as stuff a ball-gag into Bob Geldof’s hectoring gob.
Another person who turned down the opportunity to sing on Band Aid 30 was Blur’s Damon Albarn, a man not normally lauded for perspicacious views. “There are problems with our idea of charity,” he said. “Especially these things that suddenly balloon out of nothing and then create a media frenzy where some of that essential communication is lost.
He’s got a point. An infamous 2010 investigation by the BBC implicated Band Aid in a story that showed how Western aid had been diverted to pay for Ethiopian warlords’ AK-47s. In the end, they couldn’t prove Band Aid money was involved: Geldof kicked up an enormous stink, sued the BBC, and had his objections upheld by Auntie’s internal finger-waggers. No need to be afraid? There is when a ticked-off social justice warrior lawyers up.
But Albarn is indisputably right when he says that throwing cash at the birthplace of humanity has not worked well in the past: even if Geldof’s money didn’t go to warlords, plenty of Western money did, and still does. Geldof himself isn’t at all popular in Africa: dozens of prominent African campaigners have pleaded with him over the last three decades to, well, sod off. And the billions still spent by charities such as the Gates Foundation in Africa have had patchy results, to put it mildly.
It’s true that Geldof has become one of those people the world loves to hate, but, in this, I am happy to echo popular opinion. Because it’s easy to see why people are suspicious about his motives: not only are his intergalactic ego and endless, apocalyptic speechifying both the stuff of legend, but rarely in history has the act of charity been so lucrative for one human being. In the Telegraph in 2010, I noted:
As New Internationalist magazine explains, after restyling himself as the saviour of Africa, Geldof “re-released the entire back catalogue of the Boomtown Rats, issued the complete anthology of his own solo career, fronted a six-part BBC documentary series, ‘Geldof in Africa’, produced by his own Ten Alps company, launched a book and DVD with the same title, re-released his 1986 autobiography and attempted to resurrect his musical career with a British tour.” What’s more, according to the Australian Daily Telegraph, Geldof has been charging up to $100,000 to give speeches on the subject of—you guessed it—poverty.
Needless to say, the first move Geldof made in planning this new single, before even finding out who might be available to sing on it, was a call to Chancellor George Osborne, to ask if he could get a tax waiver on sales. Osborne, to his credit, is said to have paused for a second before sighing: “Oh God, all right.”
Which got me thinking: on the subject of tax, it would be nice if a few of those international megabores started paying their own fair share of tax. Then perhaps we could afford to leave international aid to David Cameron’s do-gooding Lib Dem subordinates and be spared the aural torture of any more interminable, transparently self-serving charity singles. I mean, Geldof’s always banging on about “peace”. How about he stops bringing out these terrible records and gives us all some?