Sony the ul­ti­mate win­ner in rage against the X Fac­tor ma­chine

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Opinion - Brian Boyd on mu­sic

T he great irony of the Rage Against the Ma­chine vs The X Fac­tor race to be the UK Christ­mas No 1 is that both the gorm­less Joe McElderry and every­one’s favourite alt.met­a­la­n­ar­cho-rock­ers are signed to the same la­bel (Sony).

So even if you’re be­hav­ing like a de­cent, up­stand­ing mem­ber of so­ci­ety and buy­ing RATM’s Killing in the Name, the money is all go­ing into Sony’s cof­fers. This is some­thing the pre­vi­ously un­heard of Jon Morter and his wife Tracy might have thought of be­fore they set up their Face­book and Twit­ter cam­paigns to en­sure that this year’s UK Christ­mas No 1 would be any­one but the X Fac­tor win­ner. There are a lot more de­serv­ing tracks out there, such The Blue Nile’s Fam­ily Life, the best Christ­mas song ever writ­ten.

“Fed up of Si­mon Cow­ell’s lat­est karaoke act be­ing Christ­mas num­ber one? Me too. So who’s up for a mass-pur­chase of the track ‘Killing In The Name’ as a protest to the X Fac­tor bol­locks,” reads the mis­sion state­ment on Morter’s Face­book page – which, as of last Wed­nes­day evening, had more than 100,000 “fans”.

Killing in the Name was cho­sen be­cause of its de­fi­ant lyrics: “Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me.” The UK sin­gles charts are an­nounced on Sun­day, and it sure looks likely that RATM will score a hi­lar­i­ous victory, even if the prof­its are all go­ing the same way.

It would be a most un­likely victory, sim­ply be­cause 19 mil­lion peo­ple tuned in to watch the al­ready ex­tremely ir­ri­tat­ing McElderry win the karaoke-fest. And with quite a pro­por­tion of those pun­ters emo­tion­ally en­gaged with the soap-popera and there­fore highly likely to buy its prod­uct, the chances for a 19-year-old ex­ple­tive-rid­den­dus­trial metal track hi­jack­ing the top spot seemed smaller than Si­mon Cow­ell’s mod­esty.

Once upon a time, the race for the UK Christ­mas No 1 was an amus­ing di­ver­sion. It was the time for “nov­elty” hits such as Two Lit­tle Boys, Ernie (The Fastest Milk­man in the West), Long Haired Lover from Liver­pool and that aw­ful Grandma song. More re­cently there’s been Gary Jules’s in­spired cover of Tears for Fears’ Mad World.

For the past four years, how­ever, it’s been a con­tin­ual pass­ing of the ba­ton for the X Fac­tor win­ner, from Shayne Ward to Leona Lewis to Leon Jack­son to Alexan­dra Burke. The songs have been maudlin cov­ers with generic orches­tral back­ing and vo­cals so pro­cessed you can prac­ti­cally hear the stu­dio but­tons be­ing pressed. And they all have that ap­palling “truck driver’s gear change”, when the song swings up a key for the fi­nal cho­rus. It’s got so bad that book­ies now have a spe­cial Christ­mas No 2 cat­e­gory.

It’s even worse over on the al­bum charts. Most of this week’s top 20 al­bums are ei­ther by pre­vi­ous X Fac­tor con­tes­tants (Lewis, Burke, JLS) or by acts who have re­cently ap­peared as mu­si­cal guests on the show (Su­san Boyle, Michael Bublé, Westlife, Rob­bie Wil­liams).

With mu­sic TV so frag­mented, the op­por­tu­nity to per­form in front of some 16 mil­lion view­ers (the av­er­age X Fac­tor au­di­ence) is too much to re­sist, even for gazil­lion­aires like Paul McCart­ney. You can take your whole sev­en­fig­ure world­wide mar­ket­ing/ pro­mo­tion bud­get and set fire to it: guest­ing on The X Fac­tor can pro­pel you into the charts. And even the most un­likely of acts who are as­so­ci­ated with the show (even, like RATM, in a con­trary fash­ion) will see a big spike in sales over the com­ing weeks.

Which is why you’ll be able to sing along to (we hope) this year’s UK Christ­mas No 1 when Rage Against the Ma­chine play Ox­e­gen (and dozens of other fes­ti­vals) next year. Every­one’s a win­ner.

Bat­tle of the Sonys

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