Music has been proven to alter brain waves and heart rate, affect plant growth, mend a broken heart and — most importantly — to raise money for charity. This time around, Japan is in need, and iTunes, the Morning Benders and Sava’s Café have stepped up to the plate with fervor.
It’s true that we very rarely have the sound satisfaction of seeing our cash directly translate into a concrete place of assistance, thus doubts can arise. We may have doubts about our money providing tangible relief, but it is such a devastating occurrence that even the possibility makes it worth it.
Mainstream music’s biggest names have responded to the devastation from the 8.9-magnitude earthquake near the east coast of Honshu, Japan and the ensuing Pacific tsunami with Songs for Japan. The album contains 38 previously recorded popular songs for $9.99 (found on iTunes’s homepage), and all proceeds go straight to the Japanese Red Cross Society to be used for immediate relief and eventual recovery support.
Songs for Japan features 30 altruistic artists including U2, Norah Jones, Kings of Leon, Rihanna, Black Eyed Peas, Adele, Bob Dylan, Justin Bieber, Eminem and Bruce Springsteen.
It seems that a lot of the songs on the compilation, like “Imagine” by John Lennon and “Hold On” by Michael Bublé, were chosen for their lyrically inspirational tone. However, there are some that don’t fit the philanthropic shoe.
For instance, it escapes me as to how Rihanna’s “Only Girl (In The World)” suits the album’s purpose, with lyrics like, “Take me for a ride, ride / Oh baby, take me high, high / Let me take you by surprise / Oh make it last all night, night.” Does she want the disaster to last all night long? Can’t be that … the connection to Japan is lost on me.
But in reality, if “Only Girl” and other irrelevant songs on the album boost the number of purchasers — down the line will contributing to relief — then I’m not opposed.
There is one album that I admittedly like better and is also assisting Japan through the power of music: Japan Echo. The Morning Benders, a somewhat small-time band from Berkeley, Calif., came out with their seventh EP a week after the disaster took place. One hundred percent of their proceeds are being donated to Japan Society’s Earthquake Relief Fund.
Japan Echo has eight tracks full of remixed indie-pop rapture. One can purchase this album for incremental prices spanning in generosity from five to one hundred dollars, with all levels of donation appreciated by the Morning Benders.
This humanitarian EP feels much more connected to the Japan tragedy than Songs for Japan, as band member Chris Chu was born in Japan and has “always had a deep love for the country and people,” according to a statement he made on the album’s release. Even further attaching the Morning Benders to the island nation is the fact that they were scheduled to play their first Tokyo show when the disaster hit.
Japan Echo gets superbly funky with “Excuses” (RAC Remix), “Hand Me Downs” (Wild Nothing Remix) and “Better In Blue.” These eight tracks aren’t just a rehashing of old songs but will bring a pleasing electronic soundscape for do-gooders to dance to.
More locally, on Ann Arbor’s beloved South State Street, Sava’s Café held “Jam for Japan” last Wednesday. There was a live performance by Derby Mama, Future Genies, Leap Year and Buttonsphere, and even the college students at the event dished out their treasured pocket money. Sava’s raised over $10,000 as of 12 a.m. on Thursday, when they still had two more hours of benevolent partying to go.
Even if I prefer listening to Japan Echo or local bands over sweet potato fries, I’m beginning to realize that all of these attempts are hitting different demographics (in some cases Bieber Fever hooligans) and have serious value. If you have contributed to bettering the lives of the Japanese survivors in this way already, continue to enjoy the tunes. If not, jump on it and get jammin’ for Japan.