It was announced this month that Bob Geldof was to assemble singers to make another incarnation of "Do They Know It's Christmas". This is the fourth ‘Band Aid’, and was an attempt to raise funds to combat the Ebola crisis that has consumed three countries in West Africa: Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia. Christened Band Aid 30, acts young and old including Ed Sheeran, Ellie Goulding, One Direction, Bono and Sinéad O Connor gathered together in West London to record the single. It was then premiered on the X Factor, however it has been plagued with controversy since its release. So then, should you buy it?
The controversy seemed to begin with singer Adele. Geldof had announced that the singer would contribute, but "The Mirror" reported that she had "snubbed” the campaign. Neither she nor her agent answered the phone, and she failed to turn up. She released a statement saying that she had chosen to make a private donation.
Bryony Gordon wrote in The Telegraph that Adele was correct to ignore the rock star turned anti-poverty campaigner. She had preferred to make a donation to Oxfam and avoided the publicity surrounding the record, as other celebrities, "expect to be congratulated; as if before they flashed their expensive whitened teeth, we had no idea Ebola was a problem". Gordon also slammed Geldof's reported comment that Adele was, "too busy raising a family or something", as if she were being attacked for raising her toddler. Geldof has since said that the reports of him calling Adele are "nonsense", and that he doesn't even have her number.
Another act to refuse participation was Afrobeat artist Fuse ODG, a first generation Ghanian-Briton, who found himself unable to accept the lyrics and claiming them a misrepresentation of "New Africa". He complained that the image portrayed of Africa in the lyrics was unfair, especially of a, "resource-rich continent", home of 7 of the top ten fastest growing economies.
This criticism, it has to be said, is fair. The lyrics are condescending- asking how a continent home to 500 million Christians will know it is Christmas, or claiming that there's death in every tear.
Others have focused on Bob Geldof himself and the artists involved, saying that if their tax affairs were compliant, that there would be no need for such a charity song. Such a claim was leveled against the Irish singer on Sky News. "Complete bollocks", was Geldof's colourful response. He continued with an emotional plea saying that the disease was, "so much bigger than us". Bono was also a target, with Gordon's article stating that he is someone who, "avoids Irish taxes while simultaneously telling the Irish Government to spend more on foreign development."
Geldof, however, is correct. This "inhuman" disease has ravaged these African countries- tax compliance/avoidance pales in comparison. As regards Bono, one cannot deny that he was worked tirelessly for the third world. He himself has said that U2 is run like a business. With some big corporations allowed to use the "double Irish" loophole to avoid millions of tax until 2020, the argument against the rock band hollows significantly.
Looking at the bigger picture, the central message may be getting lost. Its economic growth and vast potential aside, 5,000 people have died of the disease in Africa, Gordon's dismissal of the artists' participation as pleas for positive PR can come across as crass, and the complaints about tax seem petty. Though Gordon may write articles criticising the campaign, what has she done to raise funds for fighting Ebola? She makes no mention in her November 18 article of having made a donation, referencing those expected to buy the single as "impoverished plebs".
Despite the attacks, the single has been successful- the fastest selling single of 2014, it seems. It had made more than a million following five minutes of exposure on the X Factor, according to Geldof.
So should you buy the single? Well, if you find the arguments criticising the campaign fair, perhaps a private donation would be better. 99c on iTunes is not a vast sum, and if you find the slating unfair, it's a cheap way to fight the begrudgers.