Tuesday, 15 December 2009

The X Factor v's Rage Against the Machine for the Christmas Number One


For those of you that aren't aware we are in the middle of a battle for the Christmas Number One.  The X Factor winner who's name escapes me, lets call him Bob, and a viral internet campaign started by someone somewhere to get Rage Against the Machine's 'Killing in the Name Of' to number one has created the hottest contest for the 'coveted' Xmas number one spot in the UK in years.  Do I care?

Well on twitter it's been hard to not form an opinion as people have been talking about it a lot.  X Factor generates a lot of tweets, when it's on, as people share their opinions about each act as they perform and there's been an awful lot of tweets tearing a strip off of X Factor as a program.  Now I have an opinion or two on X Factor so lets get them out of the way first.  Bob seems like a nice young man and he can sing a damn site better than me, but I have no time for the show.  The music is not for me and will never sit in my iTunes library.  And yet I watched a lot of it this year.  Why?  Two reasons.  Once you start watching a competition of any sort it's hard to put it down, you start investing in the personalities whether you want to or not.  Secondly, Simon Cowell.  He's sort of everything I hate.  Smug and self serving.  Awful.  But he's tapped into something the British public has lacked for a long time.  A TV show that everyone can sit down and watch with their family across generations.  That's not a bad thing and it's hard to knock X Factor for that.  Sure, in my opinion the end product is trite and totally disposable, but that's how pop music has been for at least twenty years.  I respect that some people will like the music, but like I said it's not for me.  However there's another argument that says that people will just buy the song because they are driven to do it by Cowell the shepherd.

Rage Against the Machine though are a different story.  I love them.  And 'Killing in the Name Of' is one of my favourite songs. I can remember dancing to it, off my nuts, in The Wag club in central London years ago, it is an awesome tune.  However do I want it to be the Christmas Number One on the basis of being bought to stop 'Bob' from Newcastle having his little moment of Geordie glory?  I mean don't get me wrong I get how the 'Fuck you, I won't do what you tell,' me lyrics tie in with the not doing as Cowell tells us theme but I'm tempted to turn that back on its head and point it at the perpetrators of the viral campaign.

However, I've seen that cropping up a lot too on twitter.  Both campaigns are equally likely to attract the sheep amongst us as people flock to one side or the other.  Except now we have a third option, to support neither and stay aloof about the whole thing.  And people will flock to that too.

I've been musing over this for days and when I do that it usually leads to a post like this and I guess if I'm being honest I see the 'inner sheep in myself'.  Which doesn't really answer the question of whether I buy the RATM single or not but it does raise questions about how easy it is to be influenced by others.  Except I think that's ok.  Some of the time.  I have plenty of opinions about all sorts of things, particularly the internet, music and sport.  But the wider debates about the X Factor being the dirge of creativity leave me a bit cold and as awful as I think Cowell is, he's not a Nazi.  There will always be creative people making unbelievable music in lots of different genres, I firmly believe that.  Indeed I hold onto that when I watch something like the X Factor.  It's been around for nine years or more in one format or another and it hasn't killed creativity and arguably it may have inspired some kids to go out and buy a Queen album this year, or dare I say it, even a Beatles album.  Surely not a bad thing?  There will always be a place for entrepreneurs like Cowell who are clever at making money out of the public.  I firmly believe that too.

So what am I going to do?  Well the X Factor single by 'Bob' is not an option purely on grounds of my music taste, although the charitable link doesn't make it a complete no go.  As tempting as it is to buy 'Killing in the Name Of' I already own it.  I've already shown my support for RATM, they don't need another 99p from me.

So that leaves me in the third camp, but I'm not sure I'm comfortable there either.

I don't really care what the Christmas Number One is to be honest and haven't done since the late 1980's but if there's one song available this Xmas that deserves your attention then go find what that is and buy it.

I'm going to buy 'Many of Horror' by Biffy Clyro.  They're my band.  (I'm not in them, just to be clear, but hopefully you get the sentiment.)  They're dear to my heart, mean the world to me and it's a beautiful new song from their latest album.  Go find something that means the same to you and buy that instead.