LOS ANGELES — Grammy-winning producer RedOne has worked with a slew of top artists, including Akon, Shakira, Little Boots, Sean Kingston and, most notably, Lady Gaga. But when he received a phone call from Lionel Richie and Quincy Jones, asking him to produce a remake of “We Are the World,” he was in complete shock.
“I was like, ’Oh my God!’ ” RedOne told MTV News at the Henson Studios, where the track was recorded last week. “This is Lionel and Quincy, you know, the fathers of music, of hits, of music, of charity, of everything. It was big. So that night, before I started working on it, I had nightmares about the whole track. ’They didn’t like it. Oh, they need a new track.’ But, thank God, they loved it.”
Twenty-five years after the all-star recording of “We Are the World” was put together to help combat African famine, a new collection of stars came together February 2 to make their new version for victims of the Haiti earthquake. But RedOne was careful not to change up the original version too much. Instead, he opted to keep the song the same but bring a more current sound to it.
“I just keep the class of the original one,” RedOne said. “But I didn’t want to change any course. I didn’t want to mess it up, because it’s too good. I tried to keep it on the same level and tried to make it sound more now and current. I kept the whole chord progressions, the feeling and the vibe, but brought fresher sounds that are more now.”
Producing the track was relatively easy, RedOne said, considering Richie and Jones had already picked the artists and selected which parts of the song the musicians would sing before bringing the hitmaker onboard.
“Everybody wanted to help,” RedOne said about the stars checking their egos at the door. “I remember Jamie Foxx came to me and said, ’Red, don’t worry about me. I am here. I can wait. Do your thing. Whenever it is my time, I’ll be here. Don’t think about it.’ So that was a beautiful sign. It wasn’t about me as a producer or Quincy as a legend producer or Lionel or any artists. Celine Dion, Barbra Streisand, Akon, Enrique [Iglesias] — everybody was there. And it was amazing and beautiful.”
After a week of fine-tuning the song, RedOne couldn’t be happier with the outcome. “’We Are the World’ is done, and it sounds incredible and the video is incredible ,” the producer promised. “So I think the world will be touched by it, and hopefully people will be touched that much to help, because that is the whole purpose for the song.
“It is so easy to forget about them for a little while,” Red said of keeping Haiti in people’s minds. “But music goes on and on, so all the money that is going to be generated can be for Haiti, and it’s a beautiful thing. We try to raise the money to build, like, seven cities and help the children and schools and things, so it’s a good thing. I think you are going to love it.”
The song, accompanied by the video, is slated to premiere Friday night at the opening ceremonies of the Winter Olympics on NBC. All proceeds will go to the newly formed charity We Are the World Foundation LLC and will then be distributed to Haiti.