UK Christmas Number 1 2009 – Rage Against The Machine

Anyone who’s been my ‘friend’ on Facebook for a while may have seen my almost annual rant about the X Factor. Right since it began I’ve seen it as an overblown karaoke competition, with the winners being generally fairly average (at best) performers whose success relies on the massive hype of the X Factor, and the huge financial backing of SyCo/Sony Music. Not only that, but it’s always struck me as a cynical attempt by Simon Cowell to control who gets to number 1 at Christmas time in the UK.

It therefore struck me as one of the most hypocritical things I’ve ever heard in my life to hear Cowell describe Jon and Tracy Morten’s Facebook campaign (to get Rage Against The Machine’s “Killing In The Name” to number 1 instead) as “quite a cynical campaign geared at me which is actually going to spoil the party for these three [X Factor finalists].” I was totally speechless for days! What an idiot that guy is.

Not only that, his fellow X Factor judge Louis Walsh was quoted in the Irish Times as being even more idiotic saying “this is taking the fun out of the race for Christmas number one”! For god’s sake, The X Factor over the last 5 years has taken every ounce of fun and excitement out of the Christmas number one race; this campaign has, in fact, put all the fun and excitement back in!

What Jon and Tracy Morten, and all the real music fans on Facebook, have done is quite an achievement and they should all be congratulated on it. I’m aware that there was a similar campaign last year but, for some reason, it didn’t take off like this year’s. I have no idea why that was, perhaps it was due to the overriding mediocrity in this year’s X Factor contestants, or perhaps the number of people who’d just had enough had reached a critical mass. Perhaps though, it was just the inspired choice of a Rage Against The Machine track that fitted so well with the “Rage Against The X Factor” motto chosen.

Whatever it was, I hope that it makes a difference and that it can be followed up with next year.

I’ve only really cottoned on to RATM over the last few months, primarily due to Colin Murray playing “Renegades of Funk” late one Friday night but I’ve now realised that, while I don’t like everything they’ve done, some of their work strikes of utter brilliance. However I can easily see why anyone who’s what I’d call a “passive listener”, that is, someone for whom music is just a distraction, not someone who really gets engaged in the music, finds “Killing In The Name” to be much like noise. It’s a track that demands concentration to be enjoyed. Personally I love it, it has a fantastic groove and I don’t need to mention the message in the lyrics. I’m pleased that it has found a wider audience, even if many of them aren’t interested, but more than that I’m so incredibly pleased that it has broken the stranglehold that the crap coming from the X Factor has held over the Christmas number 1. I’ve also been particularly impressed with the way RATM themselves have taken the whole situation.

Ultimately though, I am so, so glad that the X Factor boat has been rocked, ever so slightly. Perhaps this is the event that will make people wake up and see the X Factor in the same way as I’ve always seen it; a glorified karaoke competition, with winners who are incapable of sustaining a career any longer than the time it takes for Cowell and his cohorts to get bored with them and on to the next year’s event! Perhaps this will, in its small way, contribute to the downfall of this sort of crappy reality TV show, I certainly hope so; I’m sick and tired of nearly every TV program I see asking for people to phone in and vote for some numpty or another. Isn’t it time the TV stations got back to providing real, educational entertainment rather than just trying to make a fast buck from premium rate phone lines!

As one final note though, I have to give masses of kudos to Will Young . The winner of the inaugural Pop Idol competition, basically the forerunner of The X Factor, has gone on to massive critical and commercial success, primarily due to his innate talent, his personality and his choice not to continue being a pawn in a game played by people like Simon Cowell and so on. He’s shown what’s needed to succeed from that sort of start, and it clearly takes a lot more than just being able to hold a tune that someone else wrote!

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