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Rage Against The Machine For Christmas Number One? What's The Point?

By Luke Lewis

Posted on 07 Dec 09

 
 

Take that, Simon Cowell! In your face, Louis Walsh! Fuck you, Dannii Minogue, we won't do what you tell us! Mutha-fuck-eeeeeerz!

Over the weekend, Facebook and Twitter were collectively gripped by the hormonal, door-slamming spirit of Kevin the teenager, as a campaign to get Rage Against The Machine's 'Killing In The Name' to Number One for Christmas – ahead of the inevitable X Factor winner's song - went viral.





Riding a wave of anti-Cowell anger, the pro-RATM Facebook group now has almost 300,000 members, and has been mentioned/Tweeted about by such well-known rap-metal afficionados as Lenny Henry, Martine McCutcheon and Andy Scott-Lee.

Yeah, Cheryl so-called Cole! Swivel on that!

After all, there's no better way to stick it to The Man than by swelling the coffers of a major label rock act who've sold over 20 million albums worldwide.

Hang on. I think I've just spotted a flaw in the campaign… can't quite put my finger on it… Oh yeah: it's a total waste of everyone's time and money.

Quite apart from the deep irony of the lyric "Fuck you, I won't do what you tell me" being used to propel a Facebook campaign – the success of which depends on many thousands of people mindlessly doing exactly as they're told – it can't possibly work.

Think about it. Last year's X Factor Christmas release, Alexandra Burke's cover of 'Hallelujah', sold 576,000 copies in its first week. Even if all 300,000 members of the RATM Facebook group bought the track – which of course they won't – it'd still be dwarfed by the inevitable monster sales of Joe McElderry's winning song (yeah, I went there: Joe's a dead cert to win).

Plus, if you really want to rage against the Simon Cowell machine, 'Killing In The Name' is a bizarre song to pick, since it's a Sony BMG catalogue track – just like 'Hallelujah', 'Don't Stop Believin', and all those other tunes which mysteriously crop up on The X Factor time and again.

In case you're unaware of the corporate link, Sony BMG have exclusive rights to Simon Cowell's artists. His own label, Syco, is owned by Sony. He's hardly likely to be soiling his high-waisted trousers over the prospect of a few thousand extra download sales of 'Killing In The Name'. He's probably got shares in the company.

Plus, politically, the campaign is at best misguided, at worst vaguely offensive. Rage Against The Machine wrote the song about the racism deeply embedded in American society – the police officers who "burn crosses" are closet members of the Ku Klux Klan. Lynch mob scum.

You can't imagine Zack de la Rocha – a man so committed to leftist social activism he has worked closely with Mexico's Zapatista National Liberation Army, and once declared US Presidents should be shot as war criminals – would be too delighted to discover his howl of anti-establishment rage had been co-opted by a bunch of bored Brits on Twitter.

More to the point, why do we care which song goes to Number One at Christmas? Partly, I suspect, it's a collective yearning for the pre-digital, prelapsarian musical landscape, before X Factor distorted the charts, and we were all united by cosy communalities like Top Of The Pops and, er, Mr Blobby.

But there's an element of false nostalgia here. When were Christmas Number Ones ever good? Before reality TV took over in the noughties, we had embarrassing novelty records, such as Bob The Builder's 'Can We Fix It?', and Michael Jackson's 'Earth Song'. Go back further than that and it's all Renee And Renato and Shakin' Stevens.

Is that better than The X Factor? Has a noble tradition really been ruined here? Or was there, in truth, not a whole lot to 'ruin' in the first place?

Mostly, though, what irks me about the 'Killing In The Name' campaign is the fact that the song is seventeen years old.

I'm all for a bit of us-and-them, adversarial Cowell-bashing – I despise the X Factor as much as the next hypocrite who is nonetheless glued to it every week – but is there no other track from the past decade that we can hold up as emblematic of 'our' values', as distinct from the cynical, gaudy world represented by Cowell and co?

Tim Chester: Why Luke Lewis is wrong - we SHOULD make RATM Christmas Number One

Could it actually happen??! We're following both songs' progress

 
 
 
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