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Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Rage against the Christmas number 1

It’s quite a big deal to get the Christmas number one slot in the UK pop charts. Over the years, lots of major artists have had a go at writing something specifically for the Christmas market and no office party is complete unless it’s had a blast of some the classic seasonal tracks by the likes of Wizzard, Slade, Elton John or Wham.

For the best part of a decade, the Christmas top spot has been more or less the property of the winning act from the X-Factor. The show is cunningly planned to climax just before Christmas, leaving just enough time to announce the result, press a few million copies of the winner’s debut single and then line up a series of media opportunities designed to push the ‘cash-in’ product over the finishing line. It is almost impossible for any other recording artist to compete with the massive level of exposure experienced by the X-Factor winner in the run-up to Christmas. Not since the Spice Girls’ reign of terror in the mid-nineties has such a stronghold been exerted on the festive chart.

In recent years, some folk have managed tried to prevent the Lord of Darkness (a.k.a. Simon Cowell) from pushing his latest 15-minute superstar to the top of the charts; last year, a charity record by the choir ensemble 'Military Wives' managed to foil his evil plans. In 2009, some really bright people on facebook ran a successful campaign to get the American rap metal band Rage Against the Machine to number one. Their plan to reclaim the chart for the people worked brilliantly; they managed to stop one Sony BMG act from getting to number one and, instead, put an entirely different Sony BMG act at the top of charts. Now that’s what I call sticking it to the man.

A day or two before the Christmas chart was announced, I heard ‘the Rage’ on Radio Five’s breakfast show promoting their song. The presenters of the show informed us that they had agreed to do a live version of the track, minus the unsavoury language so that folk could make up their own minds about it.

During the interview, they came across as a rather dim and unpleasant bunch of spoiled brats. Their song, if memory serves, was called something like ‘Fuck you mom, I’m not going to tidy my room’. One of them said something about it being a more ‘worthy’ number one because it was "written in an industrial slum", while X-factor winner Joe McElderry’s track was written by "overpaid professional songwriters". So much for solidarity among the musical fraternity; presumably the Rage thought that the labours of mere industry hacks who write for singers like Joe McElderry should not have the same market value as the labours of rock dudes in their forties who dress like teenagers and write their songs in ‘industrial slums’.

After the interview, the Rage launched into their song with some gusto; in fact, rather too much gusto, because the producer of the breakfast show had to cut them off after a couple of minutes because, in spite of a pre-interview agreement to tone down the language, those crazy guys in the Rage started swearing anyway.

I suppose they were making the point that they were like, TOTALLY FUCKING CRAZY ART TERRORISTS who were, like, out to bring the whole shitty music industry TOTALLY CRASHING DOWN with the AWESOME POWER of their music and swearing.

After hearing this performance, I went straight out and bought ten copies of the Joe McElderry single to give to friends and relatives as presents. The behaviour of the Rage had achieved something that I thought would have been impossible; by dint of their sheer buffoonery, they had forced me into the arms of Simon Cowell and his forces of darkness. But sadly, even my last-minute intervention could not stop ‘Fuck you mom, I’m not going to tidy my room’ from becoming the Christmas number one.

This year’s big attempt to derail the X-factor juggernaut is again focused on a charity single, with the Justice Collective tipped to claim the top spot with their cover of 'He ain't heavy (he's my brother)'. With all proceeds going towards supporting families involved in the Hillsborough disaster, the track has an impressive cast list that includes Sir Paul McCartney, Robbie Williams, Gary Barlow, Mel C, Holly Johnson and Gerry Marsden. It's hard to see how it can fail.

And, as far as I know, it hasn’t got any swearing in it.

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