LONDON — At precisely 10:30 p.m. here in London — two and a half hours before the start of Friday night's (January 22) "Hope for Haiti Now" telethon — Rihanna was finally in the same room as Jay-Z, Bono and The Edge, her three collaborators on "Stranded (Haiti Mon Amour)," the song they had recorded just three days earlier in studios all around the world.
The four, backed by Jay's cracking live band and a full gospel choir, were about to perform the song together for the first time, in front of a studio of television producers and, really, the entire world. But not a single one of them was nervous. Rather, they saw it as a tremendous opportunity — not just to help the victims of last week's devastating earthquake, but to remind them that they will never be left stranded, not even after the TV cameras leave and the focus of the globe shifts elsewhere.
"I got the call three days ago to be a part of this. Bono and Jay-Z called me up, they wanted me to be a part of it, and, of course, anything that can help Haiti, I want to be a part of," Rihanna told MTV News on Friday night. "This song is really important. Lyrically, Jay-Z gets really, really deep in his verses, more than I've ever heard him get. He gets really real. I know a couple of people he's singing about. We have mutual friends that suffered loss, they lost their family, they lost friends, and it really hits home. So this is really a song for Haiti, letting them know we are not going to leave you stranded; we are going to do every last thing to help you. You are not alone."
Her voice trembled slightly as she spoke — just more proof of how deeply this tragedy has affected her. Like she said earlier in the week on "Oprah," where she performed a haunting version of Bob Marley's "Redemption Song," she's from the Caribbean nation of Barbados. It's not a stretch to say the footage coming out of Haiti hit her close to home.
"When I first heard about it, I was at home, and I kind of didn't believe it. I was in such shock. An earthquake in Haiti was shocking to begin with. And [one of] that extent; a 7.0, that's huge, that's unheard of," she said. "And being from the Caribbean, I was in shock for a long time. And when I started looking at the pictures, at the footage, seeing that little boy get beaten up for food, seeing people trapped under the rubble, kids not knowing where their parents are, bodies just getting dropped outside of the hospitals, that just made it really real.
"It made me want to do something about it, I wanted to help, because we all have to help," she continued. "And now my role is to encourage more people to help, to join with me to help."
iTunes customers can exclusively pre-order the "Hope for Haiti Now" full-performance album ($7.99) and the full two-hour video telecast ($1.99). Pre-orders will be delivered in the days following the telethon. Individual audio performances will also be available for purchase and download for 99 cents each in the days following the telethon. Apple, the record labels and the artists will donate their share of the proceeds to Haiti relief funds managed by "Hope for Haiti Now" charities, including the Red Cross and Wyclef's Yele Haiti foundation. Performances will also be available for purchase in the days following the event through Amazon's MP3 service and Rhapsody, through distribution provided by INgrooves.