Glee Teaches Bob Geldof a Lesson in Charity Work

Watching this week’s episode of “Glee” and seeing its rendition of the classic ’80s charity song, “Do They Know It’s Christmas,” brought to mind the debacle that was Bob Geldof’s last attempt at re-creating his Band Aid group.

For those that grew up without access to MTV, VH1, or any other music television outlet prone to replaying holiday music videos on a 24-hour cycle following Thanksgiving, Band Aid was a charity group created by Geldof and Midge Ure in 1984 to raise money for poverty in Ethiopia. Major recording artists joined together and recorded “Do They Know It’s Christmas,” with proceeds helping the cause at hand.

Phil Collins, Bono, Simon Le Bon, Sting, George Michael. Essentially every singing superstar of the era joined forces for a cause, and the end result was a melody that withstands the test of time. It’s nearly impossible to watch the music video and not try calling out each star’s name as they pop up on screen. Spiked eggnog drinking game, anyone?

Charts were topped. Records were set. Charities were funded. And then came Band Aid II. Don’t feel bad if you can’t remember that 1989 blip on the radar. Kylie Minogue might be the only name from that odd lineup to still have a worthwhile career today. Production value was lacking, as was a clear reason for revisiting the project in a clear carbon-copy style. When the 20th anniversary of the 1984 gathering came around, Gedlof decided it was time to take another crack at things, this time with a strong list of talent.

Band Aid 20 saw the return of Bono, who was joined by Chris Martin, Robbie Williams, Snow Patrol, and a decent list of music stars, many with British roots, as was the case in 1984. Unfortunately, the success of that original project couldn’t be recreated, no matter how many talented singers joined the cause.

What was missing? A BBC critic pinned it to a lack of magic. “While the original carried atmosphere, this just feels bland,” they wrote. It wasn’t until this week’s episode of “Glee” that any sense of spirit got injected back into the do-gooder anthem of the ’80s. In fact, Fox’s hit musical series has knack for adding a revived enthusiasm to songs of yesteryear, from Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” to “Total Eclipse of the Heart,” and now “Do They Know It’s Christmas.” While the fanciful high school characters might not bleed originality, they do force an enthusiasm on the viewers that a producer like Geldof could not tap into.

Perhaps “Glee” creator Ryan Murphy should have consulted with the Broadway League this year. Much like Geldof, the League attempted to rally stage’s biggest stars and re-create a moment that helped boost New York City’s spirit shortly after the 9/11 attacks. Following the horrific day, an ad campaign, made to re-boost tourism in the city, featured Broadway stars singing the Kander and Ebb anthem “New York, New York,” followed by Nathan Lane asking people to “See a Broadway Show.”

On the 10th anniversary of that fateful day, Broadway actors including Joel Grey and Bebe Neuwirth joined in Times Square to re-create that iconic moment. “It wasn’t the most upbeat event,” wrote. It is a seemingly innocuous comment, but a telling one when considering the caliber of stars that joined for this commemoration. A great cause, certainly, but nothing to write home about. Think, Band Aid II. Great cause. Less than stellar execution.

The next time a charity or cause wants throw out originality and recycle a campaign, look to “Glee.” It will have a much greater chance of topping an iTunes download list, a milestone all the cool kids should aspire to.

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