The review of We are the world: the night that changed pop, a documentary available on Netflix which retraces the salient moments that led to the birth and creation of one of the symbolic songs of the Eighties such as We are the world.
It takes time, dedication, whole nights and days to record an album. Wild sessions, exhausting days, where chords find space in between breaths, and voices let melodies and exciting notes flow freely. Yet, for the artists called to record We are the world time was not an element to take into consideration. Everything had to manifest itself in the space of one night: the magic had to happen while the clock ticked and the tiredness increased. Against the heat, against the enormous egos of competing artists, following the directions of Quincy Jones and Lionel Richie, We are the world had to come to life; he owed it for the charitable cause, for the record sales, and for the impact that three minutes of songs would have on the collective imagination.
Yet, as we will point out in this review of We are the world: the night that changed pop that desire to be amazed, dancing emotionally to the notes of such a historically and sentimentally impactful song, instead lives on a certain simplicity that weakens any possibility. And so, theillusion of being there, of experiencing an event that is precluded to us due to confidentiality, timing, personal and geographical factors, leaves room for an annoying sensation of something little exploited, because it is not very engaging, not very immersive. Those same doors that kept prying eyes away continue to keep away the passionate gazes of their spectators, showing and telling nothing more than what we already knew, we had already listened to, we had already learned to appreciate.
We are the world: the night that changed pop – the plot
The year was 1985. Hunger in Africa is an increasingly devastating scourge and the time for action is becoming ever shorter. And so, in the space of three days, Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie wrote a song that was recorded on January 28, 1985 in a recording studio in Los Angeles. But the two artists were not alone: assisted by Harry Belafonte and Quincy Jones, Richie rallied the most incredible team of musicians ever seen since Woodstock to record a performance in favor of Africa: the magical night of We are the World was born. That night now becomes material for documentary reconstruction, supported by the stories and testimonies of those who experienced that night first on their own skin, and then on their own voice.
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Story of shots and little of emotions
What did the release of “We are the world” the passage of time has established it; thanks to a documentary like the one available on Netflix, it would have been nice and fun to discover what had happened inside the A&M studios in Los Angeles. It is the power of cinema, or documentaries, that of make your audience travel illusorily back in time, letting him peek through an imaginary keyhole at what was and what he had only imagined. With the documentary directed by Bao Nguyen (and produced by Richie himself) it was possible to feel part of something unique and unrepeatable; virtually being there, alongside Michael Jackson, Bob Dylan and Ray Charles. Yet something is missing in the flow of the work; the beating heart of the story is missing, a fast-paced rhythm that allowed a flow of emotions and surprise to flow. Everything is limited to the connection of unpublished footage, alternating them with the memory of those who, like Bruce Springsteen or Cindy Lauper, experienced those emotions firsthand, returning them in immortal high notes and verses. The rest is left once again to the viewer’s imagination, to that which is left unsaid and unshown which leaves a bittersweet taste on the tip of the tongue.
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It almost looks like one pat on the back that Lionel Richie intends to give himself, and to those who helped him in this event, We Are the World: the night that changed pop. The story of that night, carried out mainly through an assembly work that links together unpublished footage and other more well-known ones, attempts to excite through the jokes and the human solidarity that insinuated itself between those walls, and then slipped right where it thought it find your strengths again. There’s something about it self-congratulatory and boastful self-confidence in the space of the connections We are the world.
It is not enough to show the tiredness that prevails during the moments of recording, the attempts to improve a song destined to mark the world of music, the memories of iconic artists, and the vacant looks of Bob Dylan: to capture the hearts of one’s spectators it was necessary to add dynamism emotional to documentary work, lingering on moments of tension and misunderstanding. By doing so, the filter of perfection and forced friendship that seems to envelop this production would have been reduced (and limited). But this was not the case, just as the possibility of showing in concrete terms what the gain of this song meant in the fight against hunger in African territory was lost. Once again the singers, the shows for the world, the egos of the protagonists, and less and less the conditions of poverty that this event aimed to combat are shown again at the center of the screen.
“Leave the ego at the door“: yet what is betrayed during We are the world: the night that changed pop is precisely the motto of producer Quincy Jones left written outside the recording studio. Moving silently in every sequence is Lionel Richie’s ego which terrifies a story that could offer and give so much, but gave little in terms of spectatorial identification and emotional bonds. Beyond fandom, beyond admiration for a given artist, what We are the world: the night that changed pop goes to retrace is the re-presentation of what wasforgetting what it could move in the hearts of its spectators, giving old emotions in new forms and contents.
We conclude this review of We are the world: the night that changed pop by underlining how the documentary produced by Lionel Richie is unable to fully exploit the potential hidden within it, limiting itself to the re-presentation of more or less unreleased films, accompanying them with the memory of who experienced the recording of the iconic song firsthand. Everything lives on the surface, without therefore lingering in the soul.
Because we like it
- The use of unpublished material.
- The testimonies of artists such as Bruce Springsteen and Cindy Lauper.
- The little space dedicated to the initiatives carried out thanks to the sales of this song.
- Lionel Richie’s ego.
- A sense of rhetoric that undermines the human sector characterizing the moments told.