Written by Inderpal Matharu, Charles Smith & James Cantwell
‘Where is the love?’ is the unanswerable question, asked by many. As the world is full of turmoil, the rerelease of the timeless classic comes as no surprise; with Will.i.am saying that the remake was inspired by the recent tragic events in the world. The power, popularity and persuasiveness of music, opens our eyes to the worldwide suffering.
“Where is the love?” This is the kind of unanswerable question which can be painted with the same brush as ‘What is the meaning of life?’or ‘Does God exist?’, purely because there is no way to answer it. How can something which is is not a physical entity have a location placed on it? How can an emotion be located? The most powerful emotion.
However, it is so powerful, that when it is not ever-present, it can lead to the death of many, many innocent people. As we sit behind the screens of our expensive electrical devices whilst in our central heated homes, we are reminded throughout the rereleased video that the wider world is in pandemonium. Utter chaos. Whether that be in the ‘Land of the free’, in the Western world, or in the Middle East, where most young people of today only recognise as a land of conflict.
The opening lyric sung by Will.i.am opens with the most basic, but most true statement that can be said – “People killing, people dying”.The objective nature of the lyric already starts the mind thinking as to who are the people who have died, who are the people that have killed? Staring murder in the face through mass media programming in our daily routine, we tacitly look through the suffering of those in reality.
The simplification of loss of life has resulted in our complete carelessness to life itself – to the extreme where dependent children die traveling for safety, but are dehumanised because of their misfortune of location, pigmentation or religion. Some might have deemed the music video’s opening image of three-year old Alan Kurdi too abrupt, but the video and song itself have given a true hard hitting stance on the world today with the aim of shocking the viewer into an empathic action.
Little do we know that this is just an appetiser for the masterpiece that follows. The pure genius that has been crafted with the involvement of some of the most influential people in pop culture. People who have helped shape modern-day music such as Mary J Blige and P. Diddy are recognisable to many, and if you close your eyes and listen, Jessie J’s voice is unmistakeable. But the influence that these people have over the public is subjective, and can mean nothing to many.
What can never be taken as subjective is the emotional distress and pain etched in the eyes of Sandra Sterling. As Will.i.am sings “Mama mama mama tell us, what the hell is going on, can’t we all just get along?”, Sandra Sterling’s face appears. The mother of Alton Sterling,who was shot and killed by police in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Sandra is a ‘mama’ who has had to go through the ultimate loss of burying her child. Every single child in the world looks to their guardian for answers, for guidance and for support, because in their eyes, they are the people with all the knowledge.
But when Sandra Sterling’s child was taken from her, by the people who are sworn to protect the nation, the question that comes to mind is “where is the love?”. Who has the answer to that? Which guardian can answer that? When lives are being taken with no explanation, who can tell us why we are all not getting along? Not even the stars in the studded video line up, such as Kendall Jenner (which social media had elevated to an elite pedestal),can enlighten us as to where the love is, even with all of their fame and fortune.
The video depicts people from all walks of life, military personnel as well as priests and a member of the Jewish community. All people who have experienced oppression, hate speech and heat in their direction at the time of the initial release of the Black Eyes Peas “Where is the love?” in 2003. 13 years on, the powerful message has again been relayed to the world… War and conflicts that exist continue to cost the lives of many; with recent time offering the war in Syria, the Paris terrorist attack, the Brussels bombing, the Turkey violence and the Orlando shooting as examples of conflict. The song was justifiably rereleased to not only make people aware of the continued suffering in the world, but more-so in response to the lack of change.
The revamped version questions current attitudes to conflict, death, discrimination and ‘the values of humanity’. The video itself could play without lyrics with an emotional portrayal of scenes of war and the ruins left behind; with strong associations to #Blacklivesmatter and victims of police brutality.
Verse 5: Game depicts this:
Rather than embedding a message, it takes our individual sentiments of pain and harmonises them.
But it is not simply a case of from this point onwards the world falling under a blanket of peace and harmony. It is a case of opening our eyes to the struggles the human race has been going through, the injustice that has been shown and the inhumane state that people are living in. “Where is the love?” is about bringing to light all of the struggles, no matter how big or small, no matter ethnicity or religion, creed or colour. It is about showing us that all some people have is hope. Nothing more and nothing less. Pure hope, through the sheer human spirit and determination. The hope that if the question “where is the love?” is asked enough, that it might actually be answered.
The website ‘www.wheresthelove.com’ has direct links to 4 separate charity foundations. Notably for the youth, everyone deserves the right to an education, and it is this education that will teach people to be better, to do better, and to spread the love. Money is also being raised for black people killed by the police, and also a link for the charity ‘Assist the Officer’ which was started when the five Dallas police officers were killed in public riots in the USA. These are placed as large, obvious icons on the website before any credits are given because that is the true message of the song: helping those who have been hurt unimaginably, without excuse or reason. The kind that does not compute with the brains and conscience of the families affected by actions that are carried out when there is no love shown. “If you don’t know love, then you don’t know God”.
Beautiful. Eloquent. Poetic.