OK, I was wrong. Two weeks ago I said it could never happen. No internet campaign, no matter how potent, could hope to break the festive stranglehold of the Simon Cowell/X Factor hit factory. The #RATM4Xmas movement was doomed to failure.
Now look. ‘Killing In The Name’ is Number One after all, after selling 50,000 copies more than Joe McElderry’s ballad ‘The Climb’. The Rage campaign has mobilised almost a million members: an astonishing figure. Along the way, over £60,000 has been raised for Shelter – and I’ve been called an ‘assclown’ more times than I care to mention.
What can I say? The campaign turned into something bigger, and more noble, than I initially gave it credit for. What started out as a pushy Facebook viral has become a heartwarming Christmas story that none of us will ever forget (as much as you can call a song ‘heartwarming’ when it’s about the Ku Klux Klan and features 16 ‘Fuck’s in a row).
Such was the campaign’s unstoppable momentum, figures as high-profile as David Cameron (pro-Joe) and Sir Paul McCartney (pro-RATM) waded into the debate. It has brought the country together – even as it polarised it.
I guarantee almost everyone reading this will be discussing Rage Against The Machine with their families over Christmas dinner – a surreal state of affairs, but clearly one to savour.
More than anything, this thrilling battle for the Christmas Number One has proved that the music industry is not ‘dead’ after all. People still pay for music. They still feel unbelievably passionate about it.
Say what you like about the billions of pounds raked in by the video game industry – no-one will ever care about ‘Call Of Duty’ the way they care about Rage Against The Machine. And that’s something worth celebrating.
The triumph of ‘Killing In The Name’ is also a victory, on the most obvious level, for good music over bad. The fact Simon Cowell chose ‘The Climb’ as the X Factor winner’s song – a tune that was already a hit for Miley Cyrus earlier this year – demonstrates his contempt for his audience. He assumes they’ll buy any old shit if they’ve seen it on TV. Now, just maybe, he’ll think differently.
Yes, it would be nice for us NME types if the anti-Cowell movement could have rallied round a modern band, a fresh-faced act, rather than one who had their biggest hit 17 years ago. But since so few politically committed, ferocious artists exist right now, Rage was as good a choice as any.
Was this a corruption of the song’s original intent? Maybe. But if only a tiny fraction of the hundreds of thousands of people who joined this campaign were radicalised by it, and will now be inspired to get behind causes that really matter, that can only be a good thing.
Tom Morello – a committed socialist, albeit a fantastically wealthy one – seemed to realise this in the final hours of the chart battle, quoting Winston Churchill (“We will fight them on the beaches”) and his band’s own song ‘Guerrilla Radio’ (“ALL HELL CAN’T STOP US NOW!”) via Twitter, and generally taking on the role of hectoring Field Marshal.
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For those of us who were inspired as teenagers by Morello’s combination of fierce intelligence, eloquence and musical skill, this was exhilarating stuff indeed.
And yes, I’ll admit, I’ve learnt a personal lesson. Rage Against The Machine’s 2009 chart triumph is a victory for collective action and positivity over cynicism. And that seems as worthy a Christmas message as any. Mutha-fuck-eerz!