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Acting your Rage

Like many other people, I listened to the singles chart countdown live last night for the first time in years. Although I’d been tipped off about the result several hours earlier, I wanted to hear for myself the moment when Scott Mills announced that Rage Against The Machine were Christmas number one.

I hadn’t felt that good since Barack Obama got in.

Although I’m half-joking about the Obama thing (only half, mind), there are a number of similarities. It was a demonstration of people power, enabled by technology, overthrowing a greedy, backward-looking, anti-creative status quo. What wasn’t to enjoy? Quite a lot actually, given the amount of ill-informed nonsense and half-truths being spouted both in the media and elsewhere.

Here’s a few:

  • “Both Joe and RATM are signed to Simon Cowell’s label, so he wins either way” – This simply isn’t true. Rage Against The Machine are signed to Sony, whereas Joe is signed to Syco (Cowell’s label), which is a subsidiary of Sony. To suggest Cowell will make a penny out of the RATM sales is a red herring. But even if he did, would it actually matter that much? The protest wasn’t about corporate fat cats making money (they always have – you may as well throw away just about every CD you own in that case), it was about the British public being robbed of one its great festive traditions, namely the battle for Christmas number one.
  • “The people who joined the Facebook campaign are just as much sheep as those who bought the X Factor single” – This is a particularly fatuous argument. By this logic, any group of people who come together for whatever common purpose are sheep. I’m going to knowingly invoke Godwin’s law here and ask whether those who opposed the Nazis were sheep? A bit extreme, I grant you, but the same principle.
  • “The RATM song is rubbish/Joe’s song is better” – I’ve been doing this long enough to know there’s no point arguing with people’s personal taste. In this case it doesn’t even matter though because the relative merits of the two songs is beside the point. I’d have bought four minutes worth of babies crying if I thought it had a chance of making Christmas number one this year. Killing In The Name was chosen to represent this campaign precisely because it’s angry, loud, and sweary – everything an X Factor Christmas single isn’t.

  • Joe’s worked really hard for it” – Oh please. He’s a nice enough lad by all accounts but he won a karaoke competition on telly and then spent just under a week promoting his single. If you think this is hard work, you don’t know you’re born etc… And don’t appeal to my sympathy. Even Joe had the gumption to acknowledge that the campaign wasn’t aimed at him personally.
  • “It’s stupid and cynical” – Oh really? How stupid? It worked, didn’t it? And how cynical? As cynical as inducing people to pay, week after week, to tell you which is their favourite singer, so that you can then sign up the eventual winner, get them to record a bland and uninteresting cover version, and then have people pay you all over again to own it?  Year after year after year? Now that’s cynical.

Happy Christmas.


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