The race for Christmas Number One

[picapp align=”left” wrap=”true” link=”term=rage+against+the+machine&iid=2439489″ src=”7/b/0/f/dc.JPG?adImageId=8526776&imageId=2439489″ width=”234″ height=”351″ /]There are some British Christmas traditions that are truly unique, and aren’t really repeated anywhere else in the world, or if they are were started in Britain. The popularisation of The Christmas Tree, Christmas Cards, and Pantomime in particular are all British exports in the Christmas tradition. However, there is one race that seems to be uniquely British based and that the is the Race to the top of the singles chart at Christmas, the Christmas Number One.

In the last four years this particular battle had been nullified by a TV show called The X-Factor. The X-Factor is Simon Cowell’s TV show format to replace the Idol shows, baring very little difference except the contestants are divided into groups and given a mentor (pretty much no more than a figure head) who is also one of the judges on the show. Each year since they first started releasing their winner’s song in the week before Christmas, the X-Factor has dominated the number 1 position in the UK charts for that week. Shayne Ward, Leona Lewis, Leon Jackson and Alexandra Burke all garnered Number One hit songs from the X-Factor.

So this year, like last, a couple from the South East decided to launch a campaign to try and beat the X-Factor to number one. Last year the couple’s attempt relied on using Jeff Buckley’s cover of  Leonard Cohen’s Halleujah, itself being covered by the 2008 winner Alexandra Burke, in order to topple the dominance of Cowell in the chart. It did work to a degree. People took up the cause, but sadly only 80,000 people purchased Buckley’s version whereas a massive 525,000 purchased the sanitised, hermoginised version by Burke.

So to 2009, and the potential fifth X-Factor number one is looming. What song do you choose? Well of course, you choose one of the most powerful protest songs of the last 20 years, a genre of song that has all but disappeared in this decade. You choose “Killing In The Name” by “Rage Against The Machine”. Of course, you are misappropriating the lyrics and meaning of the song somewhat, because no matter how bad Simon Cowell is, dragging 15 million people a week away from being potential customers of the live music scene and obliterating any variation and diversity in the music industry, Simon Cowell couldn’t be accused of doing this:

WARNING : Vicious police brutality contained in video

It was this particular piece of brutality that led to 4 police officers being trialed, and ACQUITED for the beating of Rodney King, which led to the LA Riots, which led to the song Killing In The Name. Yes, not the most appropriate of songs in the true context, but the name Rage Against The Machine and the potent lyric “Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me” were enough to give this song a little bit of traction.

[picapp align=”left” wrap=”true” link=”term=joe+mcelderry&iid=7243633″ src=”1/3/5/0/X_Factor_Secret_806c.jpg?adImageId=8526737&imageId=7243633″ width=”234″ height=”167″ /]Meanwhile, over at the X-Factor we were down to the final 4 and things were shaping up well for the campaign already. It hadn’t been a vintage year in X-Factor terms, with the talented but unlikeable Danyl Johnson, the charming and likeable but somehow unbearable in her glibness Stacey Solomon, the smug and self satisfied poor man’s Robbie Williams, Olly Murs, and the dull as dishwater but safe as houses Joe McElderry competing in the last few weeks of the show, these four figureheads for a show that has seen much better talent were playing into the hands of a campaign complaining about the dull mediocrity of the talent contest. There was no Leona Lewis, who plays it safe, but no one disagrees has a set of pipes on her that could make even the highest paid musical diva worry. There was no JLS, who managed to tap into that horny teenage girl market with aplomb. There wasn’t even a Rhydian, who could swallow up that menopausal 40-55 Popera women’s market. You know the one I mean. The one who’ll spit with contempt when her kid has purchased her the Susan Boyle album, or will grin through gritted teeth as she gets a copy of Coming Home by The Soldiers suffering the misplaced sentiment only a child can give you.

So things shaped up well for the campaign to at least make some kind of mark. Then, the winner’s single was announced. It was to be a massive, massive misstep. The Climb by Miley Cyrus. A song which was released only in April 2009 in the UK, which had made it to number 11 in the charts off the back of Miley Cyrus’ final swansong as her character which is supposed to be like her, but is anything but; Hannah Montana. A perfect choice, a girl whose fame is directly connected to her position as the child of a one hit wonder country star from the early 90s. What better a song for a potential one hit wonder?

During the auditions for American Idol and America’s Got Talent, Simon saw a lot of young teenage girls attempt to sing this song, and it got Simon interested in it. The bland insipid song talks about the struggles to get where you dream you wish to be, and how sometimes you will fail, but ultimately its not the end goal, its how you get there that shapes you.

Yes, the same bland bollocks that saw such sugary saccharine inspirational songs as “That’s My Goal”, “When You Believe”, and “A Moment Like This” become number 1 off the back of X-Factor.

Then Louis made an amazing statement during the live final. “You’re going to be Christmas Number One with this song” he said to little Joe, the man who ultimately won the contest. That didn’t help matters.

So Joe won, and his insipid ballad was to be released. Of course, during this time 500,000 had signed up to the Facebook group to get Rage to number One, increasing to over 800,000 people during the week of purchasing.

People didn’t care that Rage’s label were Epic, Joe’s was Syco, and they were both umbrella’s under the Sony label. They didn’t care who profited from the campaign, it wasn’t a profit stopping exercise, it was a point to be made. We are going to give the Christmas Number One some life, and by doing so flipping a massive finger at Simon Cowell and The X-Factor in general.

The race began Sunday. Midnight. Rage had two chances. Sales headstart in digital, because the X-Factor winner’s song would only be released digitally at 9pm, and Killing In The Name was already available, and physical CD sales weren’t available till Wednesday for Joe’s CD.

It was on. Facebook and Twitter flickered to life. The press picked up on the campaign, with gossip rag merchants with a stunning inability to understand journalism like Polly Hudson from the Mirror, and that face faced one from News International’s rags, who looks nothing like the picture on the banner mast, backed the very market that keeps their jobs alive by lambasting the campaign. Rage Against The Machine heard about the campaign and got involved, promising profits to the charity Shelter, that the Facebook campaign had backed (to the tune of over £100,000 when you include Gift Aid so far). They even had an ill fated performance on Radio 5 Live to show for it. They were asked not to swear… Hmmm, what in the lyrics “Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me!” Don’t you understand there 5 Live producers? Joe McElderry fans got dizzy by the idea that becoming the X-Factor winner didn’t instantly give you Christmas Number 1, making all kinds of bizarre claims, like that the Government will order Joe to number 1 to protect public order, and that RATM would be forgotten about in 5 years unlike Joe, forgetting that only one X-Factor contestant, let alone winner has had a music career last longer than 18 months so far.

Sure, plenty of people jumped on this bandwagon, and purchased the song for the sake of it, and sure, what was actually happening was that people were raging within the machine. However, the point was the principle, and the principle was to  take a British tradition back from the clutches of Cowell. Sunday night, 6:45pm came. The chart was being announced, and yes, the internet had won. Rage Against The Machine were Christmas Number One. No matter to Joe either, he’ll still get his number one, but that’ll be next week when the battle is over. He won’t be damaged ultimately, not by this campaign anyway. Just ask Leon Jackson and Steve Brookstein which shoulder he should really be looking over, cause its Cowell that is his real danger right now.

And just for the statistics. 500,000 copies of Killing In The Name sold, that was 62.5% of the group of 800,000 people who joined the Facebook group.

450,000 copies of The Climb sold. That was just 7% of the estimated 6.4 million votes that got Joe to be the winner of the X Factor, as he took 64% of the 10 million registered on X-Factor Final weekend.

So, the irony of this campaign isn’t lost on anyone. But you have to organise to make a point. There wasn’t any chance for the British people to make their point without rallying behind a single song. There wasn’t any point in the British people all buying the song they wanted to get to number 1 when the market was fractured around something so strong.

Ultimately this is a great example of the British people at their best. The 20, 30 and 40 somethings that aren’t going to roll over like their children and just buy whatever their told to, unless there is a point to be made by buying it. This was anarchic rebelling at its British best, its just terribly shocking that the purchasers of the Climb, the teenagers and youngsters of this country are no longer the cynical rebels that we believe them to be.

Sadly, this won’t work again. There will be so many copy cat groups now that it’ll be impossible to organise around one song. Of course, anyone with any sense knows that the 2010 challenger to the X-Factor’s dominance can only be one song, if we want to take this anarchy to the limit…

And thats how it should be, from every year till X-Factor is over. The previous year’s winner should beat the current one to Number One with the single the British public denied the Number 1 spot the previous year.


About plkrtn
Lostpedia SysOp, blogger, occasional writer for TVOvermind and consumer technology geek.

One Response to The race for Christmas Number One

  1. Dan Meyer says:

    Admirable, thanks for sharing this information. Looks great on my iPhone, but on the Blackberry Pearl’s browser your site comes out a little weird.

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