I’m a grumpy git, I know. I never watch Comic Relief and I find Pudsey the giant eye-patched teddy bear more sinister than endearing. For me, there’s nothing more nauseating than being lectured by multi-millionaire lowest-common-denominator celebs, telling me to give as much as I can.
(Just before anyone calls me selfish and uncaring, I do actually give a lot to charity; I simply don’t publicise which ones or how much. But I’d bet that I match or beat a lot of limelight-loving celebs in terms of percentage of annual salary, and time.)
So, now that I’m back up on my high horse and safely strapped in, let me carry on with my rant. Oh, it wasn’t a rant yet? Don’t worry, I won’t let you down.
Charity is, of course, a good thing. But it’s even better when it’s dignified and sincere. Impressive as it is for David Walliams to swim the Channel for Sport Relief, I’m not going to be overly inspired to dish my dosh for Davina weeping away and talking about her numb “undercarriage” while going on a bit of a bike ride. That’s not charity work; that’s having enough time on your hands to do something fun and personally challenging in the vague name of doing some “great work for cheridee”.
But the main thing I want to talk about here is the rise of the charity single. Or, in this case, the awareness single.
When Band Aid brought out Do They Know It’s Christmas back in 1984, it was new and original – and all in all, a darn good idea. Yes, people were getting high and stoned and drunk whilst recording it, but hey, that’s rock ‘n’ roll for you. Bob and Midge created one of the most memorable charity singles of all time, and when USA For Africa released We Are The World the following year, it came off looking like a poor imitation, certainly on this side of the pond.
Since then, a plethora of charity and awareness singles have hit the shelves. Every year, there’s the single for Comic Relief, Children In Need, et al. We hear them so often, in fact, that I wonder whether we’re all becoming a bit immune to their power. That’s why I have a bit of a question mark dangling over my head about the latest one.
Now, then, I have mucho respecto for Jamie Oliver. I think he’s a terrific guy, not least because he has achieved outstanding success in spite of being dyslexic, suffering a lot of humiliation at school as a result. His classmates used to sing “special needs” to the tune of Let It Be when he was taken out of class for supplementary tuition – and that makes my blood boil on his behalf. But I just slightly pursed my lips when I watched his charity single for Food Revolution Day.
Did you miss it? It was on 15th May. Told you we were all suffering from charity single fatigue.
In essence, it’s not a bad idea. Written by Ed Sheeran (whom I also like), its purpose is to promote compulsory practical food education in schools, because a large number of the world’s children are eating garbage and facing serious health risks as a result. Throughout the song, various celebs, from Alesha Dixon to Hugh Jackman (Hugh Jackman?! How did they land THAT A-lister?!) ask us to sign the petition to be presented to 10 Downing Street.
“I urgently need help to make a real difference,” said Oliver, talking about the petition. “We're currently facing a global obesity epidemic, with 42 million children under the age of five either overweight or obese across the world.”
That all sounds very worthy. Actually, let me rephrase: it IS very worthy. I just wonder whether it’ll fall on deaf ears. Yes, yes, Paul McCartney is sitting there (as usual) singing “revolution”…but people have been wondering if he’s just jumping from bandwagon to bandwagon over recent years. Remember Meat-Free-Mondays a few months back? No? Then that sort of proves my point.
As for the Food Revolution song, I suspect a lot of people will A) wonder how they got Hugh Jackman; B) marvel that Jamie Oliver plays the drums quite well; but mostly C) wonder why on earth Jamie also agreed to rap. In fact, the Naked Chef specifically said that he didn’t want to be in the video because he didn’t want it to be “naff” (his words). But it looks like he was talked into it…and – sorry, Jamie – I fear that some people will indeed think it's a bit naff.
Look, don’t get me wrong; I hope it does well. But with a lot of people becoming increasingly anaesthetised to whichever important cause we need to support this week, I fear that the age of the charity single – or in this case, awareness single – might be over.
Ashley is a copywriter, editor and blogger