“Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent,” Victor Hugo wrote in 1864 — approximately 120 years before Band Aid was a thing. Songs have long been powerful vehicles for social change, either through the messages contained in their lyrics, or as high-profile celebrity fundraisers. Early folk tunes carried rebellious subtexts designed to drive listeners to action (or at least keep the faith) and later songs by the likes of Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan were imbued with the sound of change.
As music transitioned from a performance-based medium to a primarily recorded one, mega-production benefit singles became the splashiest way to make a statement through song. Some became instantly hummable anthems, and others feature the vocal stylings of Jean-Claude Van Damme. Hey, it’s all for a good cause.