This the fourth incarnation of the charity supergroup Band Aid. Like previous versions, the collection of artists covered the track "Do They Know It's Christmas?," this time to raise money towards the Ebola crisis in Western Africa.
The recording session on November 15, 2014 took place at the Sarm Studios in west London, the venue where the original was laid down in 1984. Co-organizer and writer Bob Geldof said of the recording process, "The singers are just too f--king good to split up and say 'That's your line'... so we're getting them to do the track the way they want to. But it makes editing much harder."
The original single raised £8m for famine relief in 1984. This version has revamped lyrics to reflect the Ebola virus epidemic in West Africa with all proceeds going towards battling the disease. Bono's famous original line "Well tonight thank God it's them instead of you," for instance, was changed to "Well tonight we're reaching out and touching you."
It appeared the performers found it hard to get their heads around the re-tweaked lyrics. "Most of them had the 1984 one in their head, so they were staring at the words and they were singing the wrong lines," laughed Geldof, "and also loads of people making up their own versions as they went along!"
Want to know who sings each line?
One Direction start the ball rolling with: "It's Christmas time, there's no need to be afraid." Then it's: Ed Sheeran: "At Christmas time, we let in light and we banish shade." Rita Ora: "And in our world of plenty we can spread our smile of joy." Sam Smith: "Feel your arms around the world at Christmas time." Paloma Faith: "But say a prayer and pray for the other ones." Emeli Sande: "At Christmas time its hard but while you're having fun." Elbow's Guy Garvey: "There's a world outside your window and it's a world of dread and fear." Bastille's Dan Smith: "Where a kiss of love can kill you." Angelique Kidjo: "Where there's death in every tear." Coldplay's Chris Martin: "And the Christmas bells that ring there are the clanging chimes of doom." Bono: "Well tonight we're reaching out and touching you." Seal: "Bring peace and joy this Christmas to West Africa." Ellie Goulding: "A song of hope where there's no hope tonight." Sinead O'Connor: "Why is comfort to be feared, why is to touch to be scared." Bono: "How can they know it's Christmas time at all." One Direction: "Here's to you." Olly Murs: "Raise a glass to everyone." Bastille: "Here's to them." Sam Smith: "And all there is to come." Rita Ora: "Can they know it's Christmas time at all."
Other singers such as YouTubers Zoelaa, Alfie Deyes and Joe Sugg, were invited by Bob Geldof to join in on the chorus.
Olly Murs told Billboard magazine that no one knew what part they were going to sing even after they left the studio. "We all just sung the song once or twice around," he said. "We just waited to see the video and saw our parts then."
The song went straight to #1 in the UK, shifting more than 312,000 copies in its first week. The tally was the highest weekly total of any UK single in 2014. It also topped the chart in 62 other countries.
Several African artists have claimed the song actually reinforces negative stereotypes of their continent. Emeli Sandé, who is half Zambian, revealed that she and African artist Angélique Kidjo edited their lyrics, but those changes didn't make the final cut.
This version of the song was produced by Paul Epworth, whose client list included Adele, Bruno Mars, John Legend and Lorde. The song's original producer Midge Ure was included in the effort and credited as Executive Producer. In our interview with Ure, he explained: "I put the arrangement all together before handing it across to a cool new producer."