“Cynical” and “stupid” were two words Simon Cowell’s used to describe the Facebook campaign which aims to dethrone the Christmas single from his show The X-factor, before insisting that his hair did not attract felts like Velcro and he was proud of his work as an undercover Soviet agent between the years 1949 and 1975. For four years in a row Cowell has supplanted the traditional garish and bland Christmas no.1 in the UK charts with an altogether more insidious breed of musical roadkill, giving such X-factor alumni as the anonymous Shayne Ward, Leona Lewis, Leon Jackson and Alexandra Burke a platform success they would later squander – okay, the Blog has heard Leona Lewis is a success, but the Blog is also unequivocally uninterested in her music, despite the big Avatar furore cooking up.
The group began with the intention to stir up a mass-purchase of arch-protest song “KILLING IN THE NAME” by the arch-protest band Rage Against the Machine. As much as this Blog would like to see an unestablished band being touted with ending this circus regime from Cowell – or even better a Christmas song that’s actually good – we will settle for RATM because we, as you can probably tell, are fed up of Cowell’s crossmedia gashgore machine. As little care as we have for the Christmas chart, let alone the diminutive UK sales chart, we feel that there is something positive in the mass-purchasing of a protest song owned by the same company as the X-factor song. That’s right, even a pro-active campaign to thwart music industry big shots ends up lining their pockets. But it’s the thought that counts, right?
Given as we are to cynicism ourselves, we also see the irony in a campaign encouraging a mass-purchase of one single in protest of mass-purchase of a single – although the latter is dressed up in lights and Cheryl Cole (we finally found out who she is!). But we are loathe to shovel them into the same shithole. RATM is and was always about mass protest and people power, a fundamental fact people seem to forget, usually those interpret lines such as “Fuck you I won’t do what you tell me” as existentialist. Which is by all means a fair enough interpretation: you can have your little John Wayne boots and play in your fucking sandcastle. But RATM’s spirit transcends the individual and it remains one of the last unifying songs in alternative canon amongst an increasingly fragmented sphere of music. You ask people to get behind Belle and Sebastian and they’ll tell you to feck off. Too right, as well.
The Blog was not too concerned with this campaign however until we heard Cowell’s opinions on the matter. Forgetting the aforementioned “stupid” and “cynical,” Cowell also had the jiffy arrogance to claim that the campaign would “spoil the party” of the three contestants, as if the no.1 spot of the UK chart is roasting chestnuts by an open fire just waiting for the X-factor victor to knock on the door with a bottle of cherry and recommend they canoodle for the rest of the winter evening, watching whatever forgettable Dickensian drama the BBC waste the Blog’s License Fee on. It’s not a pre-determined contest*, so why should the X-factor victor be winner be default? Cowell seems to suggest that the X-Factor is an incredibly important facet of the national character, as if the cliffs of Dover will submerge in the Channel, or Bedford will be engulfed by sandstorms should the party be breached by those outside his influence.
*Although if it is, I’ll gladly supply your name to the Police – so put some effort into your ‘talent’.
If anything, forgetting the music, the campaign is simply a gesture towards the established order. The details, trivialities somehow become less important, as they always do with people movements. It goes without saying that little of the 700,000 approximate members of the group care for the UK singles charts but the Blog thinks the chances of something other than a unifying protest song from yesterdecade picking up enough steam to knock the X-factor off course is unlikely.
Some claim that the protest won’t harm Cowell’s finances, and they would be right. But they too are missing the point, for Cowell’s investment in the X-factor is not merely financial. His formats thrive on their own self-importance and a Christmas no.1 is the de facto prize for 12 weeks of really hard work (auditioning, giving interviews, telling people your dreams, singing). If the dominance of the Christmas no.1 is challenged and Cowell’s shows are undermined then its cultural relevance becomes threatened and thus Simon Cowell’s reputation as music industry maestro is under threat. Has anyone realised that he already has enough money? He doesn’t need anymore. Now he’s just playing around, experimenting and trying, in his own macabre way, to affect peoples lives positively. Hence why he’s suggesting ludicrous phone-in elections – the like of which are a staple of dystopic sci-fi – because he truly believes what he is doing is good. And that is why it needs to be an equally self-important campaign that thwarts the X-factor and challenges its monogamy to our society. The more extreme the opposition to the X-factor, the more evident it becomes that a lot of people are fed up.
Of course, being an internet movement, the campaign is easily targeted by derisive cynics, of which the Blog can understand, even relate to. But Killing In The Name represents a time when the musical sphere was less fractured and music could be a unifying force rather than a divisive shatterpoint in the conversation. So shut up, take stock and buy the single. You may be able to exercise your democratic ability to criticise the Facebook campaign, but you must feel bloody hollow afterwards. What’s more, the campaign is closely tied to the charity Shelter. What’s more appropriate than that; this Blog rates!
RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE FOR CHRISTMAS NO.2 – the original!
NOTE: Yes, yes, I’ve reposted this from a now demolished sister-blog, I know it’s old.