Raging For Xmas – December 15th 2009

The Christmas number one chart battle between politico-angst rockers Rage Against the Machine and vapid X-Factor muppet Joe McElderry is the biggest story in music right now and, as you might have guessed, here at recordstore towers support is firmly with the Rage camp.

There’s been tantrums, controversy and misinformation strewn across the world wide web since the campaign to get ‘Killing In The Name’ to number one this Sunday was first mooted as the pro-X-Factor cheerleaders begin to feel the warm stench of a number two may be coming their way. So, because everyone else is chucking their two pence into the arena of internet debate I thought I’d blog a little analysis of the criticisms levelled at the campaign.

What’s in a label?

So both songs are coming from the Sony family- the big bad evil major label. The people that started the campaign via facebook know that, the majority of people buying the song know that. But who the fuck cares? This is NOT about sticking it to Sony or THE MAN – it’s about getting a different song than an X-Factor finalist to the number one spot.  As one twitter statement I happened across read “the rebellion is in the song not who or which record company owns it, plus RATM put their profit to good use”.

Rage Against The Machine themselves struggled with the ethics of signing to a major label but when given the offer from Epic (a subsidiary of Sony) guitarist Tom Morello commented, Epic agreed to everything we asked — and they’ve followed through…. We never saw a conflict as long as we maintained creative control”. He went on to challenge those that saw them as hypocrites for maintaining left-wing economic and political viewpoints whilst signed to a major corporation by saying, “When you live in a capitalistic society, the currency of the dissemination of information goes through capitalistic channels. Would Noam Chomsky object to his works being sold at Barnes & Noble? No, because that’s where people buy their books. We’re not interested in preaching to just the converted. It’s great to play abandoned squats run by anarchists, but it’s also great to be able to reach people with a revolutionary message, people from Granada Hills to Stuttgart”. This campaign was not started by RATM but now they are aware of it you can be sure that as a band who have lent their profits and support to numerous humanitarian and revolutionary causes over the years they’ll be donating money from this single’s success to something worthwhile – if they don’t then feel free to give them hell.

Meanwhile, Simon Cowell’s Syco label (home to all the X-Factor winners until Cowell and the public gets bored of them) is also part of the Sony empire. But the naive out there have suggested that because of this all the campaign is doing is lining Cowell’s pocket. Now Cowell doesn’t own Sony so where has this little nugget come from? He may have shares in the parent company but are you honestly telling me that a few thousand downloads sold in one week (or even the extra copies of McElderry’s single that are sold as a result of this publicity) are going to make that much of a difference to him?

This isn’t about money. It’s about the statement it makes: that millions of pounds in TV exposure may make a powerful tool but when dissenting voices join together they can make an equal impact. Some may scoff that this is hardly an important cause for people power to suddenly take effect but if the members of the public who have joined the facebook group that began this quest take a minute to check out Rage Against The Machine and the views they hold then maybe we’ll see some real changes in the world.

Oh the irony!

The doubters have been quick to point out that the famous statement from ‘Killing In The Name’ states “fuck you I won’t do what you tell me” – which is, ironically, exactly what those that sign up to the facebook page are failing to adhere to. The naysayers suggest that this is all just another form of manipulation designed to provoke sheep into following the herd. But here’s the thing – X-Factor with all its TV, magazine and online exposure, is as guilty of audience manipulation as anything devised by this campaign. But look at it this way – what the facebook group have offered is not forced, it’s a choice. You buy one or the other (or neither – you have free will). In the week that Simon Cowell has suggested he should be thanked for killing off the race for Xmas number one with his previous X-Factor drones, a group of free-thinkers have stood up and offered up a choice that wasn’t there before. We all know who the real villain is.

Don’t pick on the wee Geordie

A couple of walking tits have tried to suggest that the Rage for Xmas campaign is nothing more than an attempt to bully a poor innocent 18 year old boy from the North East of England. Now a) the campaign was set up before he won and b) if anyone is guilty of bullying it’s the X-Factor format and the way it ridicules some seriously mentally challenged individuals in front of both a live audience and millions of viewers around the world. The organisers of this whole shebang have consistently maintained that this is not a dig at any one individual (and that includes the deluded lord of self publicity Simon Cowell). It is an attempt to change the tedious nature of the pop charts whereby whatever hyped up TV talent show wannabe we are offered we lap up like Tiger Woods in a room full of strippers.

3 is the magic number

Still more grumblers have suggested that the campaign is guilty of chart fixing by encouraging the buying of more than one download. Did they say the same thing when X-Factor fans voted more than once for Joe to win the show? Do they complain when a band gets a number one single by selling a CD, 2 7-inches and a download format of their single (essentially forcing the fan to buy the chart bound track four times)? Do they fuck. Chart manipulation has been part and parcel of the music game for as long as chart compiling has existed. Sony haven’t made any physical copies of the single available (but Joe fans have both options) so RATM fans are doing whatever they can to get their song to number one. Me? I’ve already downloaded it twice and I’ll do it twice more before the week is out.

No you’re stupid

Cowell has come out (about time) in the press as saying that this RATM campaign is both “cynical” and “stupid”. This coming from a man who has released records from such credible musical behemoths as Zig and Zag, The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers and The Teletubbies. Not a cynical way to bleed money from children and their parents then Simon? Oh, and getting RATM fans to also give money to Shelter whilst they’re busy with their cynical chart manipulation – stupid is it? Tell that to all the homeless that are helped from the thousands raised. You utter, utter nipple.

Mummy what’s a sex pistol?

This isn’t the first time that Rage Against The Machine’s ‘Killing In The Name’ has been the subject of controversy. In 1992, on its initial release, the song was played uncensored on Radio One during the Top 40 countdown leading to over 100 complaints and in 2008 the song was played over the speakers of an Asda in Preston, Lancashire prompting several customers to protest. However, this is the first time the song has really hit the public consciousness making it this generation’s answer to ‘God Save The Queen’. Will it end up missing the top spot due to some underhand chart rigging like its predecessor? You’ll have to wait until Sunday to find out.

A couple of final thoughts

I read this comment which, although a little po-faced, sums up the campaign and the fools that criticise it very well:

“It’s about reminding people that they have clout as a collective. Why are we so passive nowadays, as though everything from climate change to the corporate rape of the developing world is just fate? What a gift we have in the web, a network of true, uncensored, individual voices. People in China are risking imprisonment and torture in pursuit of the thing we take for granted and even scoff at. And on come the derisive, sarcastic bastards who find the whole thing, on all sides, quite absurd. Their assumed intellectual superiority leads us to the conclusion of, y’know, do nothing. Yeah. And when the world finally does go to hell in a McDonald’s-sponsored handcart, you fucks will be the first to complain.”

But overall remember – it’s just the Christmas number one and just a bit of harmless fun. If it raises awareness of other issues or makes a bit of cash for charity then all the better. But, you know, there are a lot more pressing concerns in the world than whether an aging bunch of rockers beat a rather dull Geordie who looks dead behind the eyes to the top of the UK singles chart.

Now – fuck off and do what I tell you – buy Rage! Xmas is shit anyway…….



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