Sony the ultimate winner in rage against the X Factor machine on music

Fri, Dec 18, 2009, 00:00

REVOLVER:The great irony of the Rage Against the Machine vs The X Factorrace to be the UK Christmas No 1 is that both the gormless Joe McElderry and everyone’s favourite alt.metal anarcho-rockers are signed to the same label (Sony), writes BRIAN BOYD

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 Factorwinner. 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 Namewas 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-ridden alt.industrial 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 Liverpooland 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 Factorwinner, 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 seven- figure worldwide marketing/ promotion budget and set fire to it: guesting on The X Factorcan 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.