Band Aid 30 sales go 'bonkers' but is it patronising and clumsy?

Bob Geldof's Ebola charity single, Do They Know It's Christmas, launches with £1m sales within minutes

The latest Band Aid single raised more than £1m for charity within five minutes of its launch last night, but some critics say the song is "patronising and uncomfortable".

Bob Geldof has been busy rounding up British pop stars for the 30th anniversary edition of Do They Know It's Christmas? in a bid to raise money to fight Ebola in West Africa.

Ed Sheeran, One Direction, Rita Ora and Chris Martin were among those who recorded lines for the charity single, which debuted on X Factor last night.

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BBC Radio 1 named it as the 'track of the day' this morning, while Geldof said sales of the "epic production" had "gone bonkers". But others are not so comfortable with the connotations of the track.

"Pop music, however well-intentioned (and no song was ever more well-intentioned than this one), can be so incredibly clumsy," says The Guardian's Bim Adewunmi.

She describes Band Aid 30 as "patronising and uncomfortable", fuelled by "a paternalistic way of thinking about Africa, likely exacerbated by the original (and the second, and the third) Band Aid singles, in which it must be 'saved', and usually from itself".

In the Daily Telegraph, Neil McCormick notes that the video's jump from Third World scenes to smiling first world celebrities will "always strike an awkward note, and emphasises the reason why some people can't stand Band Aid".

He describes the song as "very oddly constructed" with "awkward lyric changes" – "thank God it's them instead of you" has been changed to "we're reaching out and touching you", for example.

But this song is not for the victims to sing along to, its purpose is purely to compel donations, says McCormick.

"I doubt any of the many millions who have benefited from Band Aid's charitable funds would find cause to complain about Geldof's efforts to alleviate suffering, or get worked up debating the underlying ethics of Western charity," he says.

Indeed, Geldof himself has said it "really doesn't matter if it turns out to be a lousy recording; what you have to do is buy this thing".

But Blur frontman Damon Albarn has warned that throwing money at a crisis does not always solve the problem.

"Our perspective and our idea of what helps and our idea of what's wrong and right are not necessarily shared by other cultures," he told Channel 4 News.

"There are problems with our idea of charity... it starts to feel like it's a process where if you give money you solve the problem, and really sometimes giving money creates another problem."

In the Daily Mail, Ian Birrell makes a similar point about the original Band Aid single, which raised £8m for the famine in Ethiopia. He claims the heartfelt efforts of the project unwittingly did more harm than good.

"Band Aid kick-started an age of celebrity activism – and with it the idea that simplistic campaigns and slick slogans can solve complex global problems," he writes. "Sadly, the truth is rather different. Interventions of foreign do-gooders often end up hurting, not helping, the world's poorest, most vulnerable people."

  • Do They Know It's Christmas is available for download, priced at 99p. A CD version costing £4 will be released in three weeks.

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