Who could have predicted that it would be rapper Lil Dicky to front what is possibly the most ambitious crossover in a song since 1985’s “We Are the World”? And who could have predicted it would be… like this?
Lil Dicky, whose real name is David Andrew Burd, released his newest song “Earth” on April 19th: a collaboration of 30 celebrities, not only traversing musical genres with the presence of artists like Justin Bieber and Zac Brown, but adding actors Leonardo DiCaprio and comedian Kevin Hart into the mix, as well as Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid.
The song, which was released three days before Earth Day, is a charity single benefitting The Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation as well as its goal to both educate people about climate change and raise money for various environmental causes.
The music video is also beautifully animated by RYOT, and has already amassed several million views on YouTube since it was initially uploaded on April 18. Aside from Lil Dicky portraying himself and a few other exceptions, the song features almost every artist as some type of animal or plant affected by climate change.
Bieber, for example, is a baboon (not a beaver, what a missed opportunity!), followed by Ariana Grande as a zebra and Halsey as a lion cub. Also included are Ed Sheeran as a koala, Shawn Mendes as a rhino, Katy Perry as a pony, and many more.
For any song that’s related to a save-the-world type cause, you’d think it would be entirely free of expletives. Well, many of Lil Dicky’s songs feature NSFW themes and this is no exception (rappers Snoop Dogg and Lil Yachty portray a marijuana plant and HPV). Though some of the jokes involved are admittedly funny in context, I think that quite a few people could be turned off by lines such as “We forgive you, Germany.”
In the world of music, it seems like the largest crossovers happen for charity. 1985’s Live Aid, the same year’s song “We Are the World” and even the 2010 remake “We Are the World 25 for Haiti” have all resulted in loads of money being donated to charities.
Simply because these songs feature worthy causes and remarkable talent does not make them immune to condemnation, however. The 2010 remake of “We Are the World” was met with scathing reviews upon release, with criticism for its overuse of Auto-Tune, choice of artists, and the song’s rap.
It was also the subject of a Saturday Night Live skit in which Quincy Jones, portrayed by Keenan Thompson, assembles a third group of musicians for “We Are the World 3: Raising Awareness of the ‘We Are the World 2’ Disaster”.
“Earth” has also received some criticism early on, though not quite as horrendous: Pitchfork’s review said that the song “has this very specific canned quality to it as if everyone was committing to this half-baked bit under threat of blackmail. It sounds less like a charity single and more like a theme to a downmarket Disney clone made explicitly to launder money for an offshore criminal enterprise.”
Interestingly enough, there is some crossover in artists between “We Are the World 2” and “Earth”: Justin Bieber has the opening verse on both songs, and Snoop Dogg, Miley Cyrus, Adam Levine, Zac Brown, and John Legend were all a part of “We Are the World 2” in 2010.
After watching both videos, I can say with utmost certainty that “Earth” is better. However, the instrumentation throughout and the entire chorus consisting of “We love the Earth, it is our planet; we love the Earth, it is our home” comes off a bit cheesy and lackluster in comparison to the ridiculously high production value in the rest of the song.
Because of this, I don’t think it comes close to the original version of “We Are the World” despite the “Earth” roster’s talent indicating the potential to do so. The former’s lyrics are better and more meaningful, there’s a distinct lack of novelty, and I flat-out prefer the arrangement. And I mean, say what you want about Michael Jackson, but dude had pipes.
Here are all the artists featured in “Earth” in order of appearance:
Justin Bieber – Baboon
Ariana Grande – Zebra
Halsey – Lion cub
Zac Brown – Cow
Brendon Urie – Pig
Hailee Steinfeld – Common fungus
Wiz Khalifa – Skunk
Snoop Dogg – Marijuana
Kevin Hart – Kanye West
Adam Levine – Vulture
Shawn Mendes – Rhinos
Charlie Puth – Giraffe
Sia – Kangaroo
Miley Cyrus – Elephant
Lil Jon – Clam
Rita Ora – Wolf
Miguel – Squirrel
Katy Perry – Pony
Lil Yachty – HPV
Ed Sheeran – Koala
Meghan Trainor – India
Joel Embiid – Africa
Tory Lanez – China
John Legend, Psy, Bad Bunny, Kris Wu – the “We Love the Earth” choir
Backstreet Boys – the Credits
Leonardo DiCaprio – Himself
Though I didn’t love the song musically, Lil Dicky definitely deserves some credit for being one of the only rappers in recent years to use his platform for objective good. I absolutely agree with the message of the song, too: pollution, global warming, and general human carelessness all need to be addressed, and aren’t taken seriously enough in today’s society.
For more information on saving the planet, here’s the link in the description of the “Earth” video.