Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Raging against Simon's machine

Well, the numbers are in and it turns out that Sunday's result was nowhere near as close as everyone expected. Joe McElderry, the definitely heterosexual winner of X-Factor, was clear favourite for a month before the final - Olly never stood a chance.

But despite the judges' confidence, it's possible that the other predetermined outcome of the X-Factor isn't quite so guaranteed. A Facebook campaign to beat Joe to number one is now in full swing, and it may end up crushing Joe's dreams of festive chart-topper.

Established by imaginative rebels Tracy and Jon Morter, the Facebook group "Rage Against the Machine for Christmas No 1" was created to teach Simon Cowell a lesson about monopolising the charts. Lots of people, including regular readers of this blog, have been quick to join the group and pledge their commitment to keeping Joe off the top spot. But what will it really accomplish?

For a start, the Rage Against The Machine track is on the Sony BMG record label, the same as Simon Cowell's ever-expanding menagerie of pop puppets. So you may be attempting to convince yourself that you're sticking it to the man, but you're really giving him a reach-around - in essence, robbing Peter to buy Paul's download. Either way, Simon's getting a nice fat bonus this Christmas for continuing to drive up record sales.

Maybe it's all about making the point that Simon's acts are just temporary blips on the overall musical landscape? As if Rage Against The Machine can look forward to a resurgence of interest, given that 'Killing In The Name' only managed to scrape its way to number 23 when it was originally released in 1992. It's doubtful that the O2 will be holding any of its Michael Jackson vacancies for their big comeback tour.

But "it's a victory for proper music", they'll cry. Forgetting that Christmas Number One is traditionally the place where music goes to die. If a vote for RATM represents a vote for anti-establishment rock rebellion, why stick them in the history books alongside Bob the Builder, Mr Blobby and St Winifred's School Choir? It also doesn't say much for the song itself, given that these same 'music fans' would download the sound of Su Pollard hammering rusty nails into her own shins, if they thought it was rebelling against Simon Cowell's empire.

More to the point, if these 'fans' are so determined to fly in the face of convention, why do they even give a shit about who's Christmas number one anyway? It's possibly the most trite, meaningless accolade in music - the sales equivalent of being damned with faint praise.

And is it really a victory for real music, if the reason people are buying it is to cast a vote against something else? In an article on the Guardian Blog, Tim Jonze argues that this campaign is an example of democracy in action. If so, then it's the same kind of democracy that treated us to four extra years of George Bush. John Kerry hardly won any votes on his own merits as a candidate. In fact, a broken suitcase full of fish heads could have scored almost as many votes, simply by virtue of not being George Bush. That's not democracy - that's conscientious objection.

Ultimately, these newly converted RATM fans are simply trying to find a movement that gives them a sense of connection and togetherness. New Facebook groups pop up all the time, but here's one with half a million passionate followers. Could this be the key that we're all missing? For all its sweary, counter-culture rebellion, this song represents a coming together of people from all walks of life in a shared act of community. Now that's what I call Christmassy.

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