YouTubers discover Band Aid’s ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas’

Earlier this year Patricia Karvelas invited me onto ABC Radio National’s Drive program for a casual chat about things I’ve been looking at online. It’s a regular segment where a guest throws up a couple of things that have grabbed their attention.

I spoke about my love/hate relationship with YouTube reaction videos. If you’ve not come across these, they generally follow this pattern. A Millennial YouTuber sits in front of a camera and films their reactions to a musical video they’ve never seen before.

The reactions are always over the top, and the viewer always seem to be someone who has managed to get into their twenties or thirties without having heard any music that was made more than five minutes ago.

At the time I appeared on RN Drive a series of these vloggers had just discovered Madonna’s Vogue video. Incredulously they responded to never having heard the double platinum selling single that the Material Girl has been performing for the last 30 years. At the end of the video they usually give their seal of approval to the song.

These videos drive me crazy, but I can’t stop watching them when they pop up in my feed. Sure you may not heard of a song before, but I grew up in the 1980s and was well aware of music from the 1920’s to the current charts.

We didn’t have the internet, we only had one television station and two radio stations – YouTubers who made reaction videos seem to have grown up in a cave, or recently arrived from Mars.

The latest cultural artifact to get the reaction video treatment is Band Aid’s 1984 charity single Do They Know It’s Christmas. Bob Geldof and Midge Ure brought together a throng of talent to raise money and awareness about a devastating famine in Ethiopia. Six months later they put on Live Aid, a gigantic unprecedented live concert that was broadcast around the world.

One after another the vloggers react to the video which features some of the biggest performers of 1980s, and most of the time they can only recognise just a few faces.   

As most of the vloggers are American they often ponder if the British single was inspired by USA For Africa’s We Are The World? It wasn’t, it came first.

So let’s dive in.

Dereck Reacts

If there was an award for most emotive reactions Dereck would have it in the bag. He’s a big player in reaction video business, you can even buy his branded merchandise.

Dereck is familiar with the song, but has never seen the video. He recognises Boy George, Phil Collins, George Michael, Sting and Bono, and labels Tony Hadley from Spandau Ballet as “this guy, but I can’t remember his name.

Dereck gives the track his seal of approval repetitively saying “it’s so good, and then gives it his official stamp. He loves the keyboards and says the drums slay.

He says he’s unfamiliar with songs writers Midge Ure and Bob Geldof, impressively mangling both their names as Midge Urr and Bob Gandolf. He later notes it broke the record for longest time at number 1 in the British charts, the record was previously held by Wings with their hit Mull of Kintyre, which Dereck pronounces as Kintiree.   

Celebrity Recognition: 5/10  Reactions: 9/10 

Raymond and Keylow

Buddies Raymond and Keylow ponder how 30 people can be in a group, before realising it’s a collection of well known singers. They only manage to recognise George Michael but determine it’s an “all-star team”.   They’ve never heard the song, but like it’s message of “feed the world”.

Celebrity Recognition: 1/10  Reactions: 4/10 

Devin Reacts

Devin notes that the song was released eleven years before he was born, and upfront says he won’t attempt pronouncing Geldof or Ure’s names.

He has an impressive range of reactions from dance moves to playing an invisible keyboard. He not only watches the video, he also has the lyrics up. He doesn’t clock who any of the singers are, not even Sting, who has the line “the bitter sting of tears.”

When it gets to the chorus Devin realises he has heard the song, and his reactions ramp up quite a bit.

Celebrity Recognition: 0/10  Reactions: 10/10

Mr Lboyd Reacts

Mr Lboyd, who was born in 1986, says the singers have amazing voices, especially that guy with the pink hair (it’s Boy George). He says Bono looks familiar but has no idea where he’s seen him before.

After seven singers pass by he asks if a collaboration or just a really big band like Wu Tang Clan? When it reaches the line ‘Feed the World’ he wonders if it’s a charity single.

Celebrity Recognition: 0/10  Reactions: 2/10

Rob Squad Reactions

Jay and Amber are unfamiliar with the song but quickly recognise Boy George and George Michael, and Phil Collins and ask if it’s a super group like USA for Africa?

They don’t pick George Michael, and say “I don’t know who that is”, when Simon Le Bon from Duran Duran takes the lead.

Celebrity Recognition: 2/10  Reactions: 4/10

The Jayy Show

Amusingly Jayy announces, “For a minute I thought that guy was Bono from U2” (it was). The other singers are not familiar to her, but she thinks the song was beautiful and sweet. Jayy does much better recognising celebrities taking part in USA for Africa.

Celebrity Recognition: 0/10  Reactions: 3/10


“I love Boy George” Tysheen declares as soon as the Culture Club singer appears. She picks Phil Collins and George Michael, and is the first person to recognise Sting, and even Jody Watley. Tysheen wonders why today’s celebrities aren’t making more charity records.

Celebrity Recognition: 5/10  Reactions: 6/10

Random thoughts after watching the clip 7 times

Paul Weller is quite short. Nobody recognises Heaven 17’s Glenn Gregory, Paul Young, Marilyn or Paula Yates and only one person picks Bananarama. All the verses are sung by men! Were Kool and the Gang and Jody Watley just in the UK at the time? George Michael and Simon Le Bon have the same haircut. Jon Moss has a lovely blue shirt.

Graeme Watson

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