Rage against the Christmas Number One

Attention: open in a new window. PDFPrintE-mail

Features - Articles

If you’d have said the words ‘Rage Against the Machine’ this time last year, the general public probably wouldn’t have any idea what, or who, you were talking about. The band’s most famous song, ‘Killing in the Name’, is a classic hit in the alternative scene, and became even bigger when it was released as a track on Guitar Hero.

The Facebook campaign to stop the X Factor winner - which turned out to be Geordie boy Joe McElderry - from claiming the Christmas number one, was meant to be a message to Simon Cowell, and all manufactured popular artists, that just because you have a good songwriter concocting song after song for you, or the fact that you’ve won the latest reality television show, doesn’t mean you automatically get the top spot in the charts.

The idea, started by Jon and Tracy Morter, resulted in ‘Killing in the Name’ selling more than 500,000 digital copies – the most copies that have ever been downloaded in a first week in the UK charts. Joe managed to sell 450,000 copies of his single, which usually would have allowed him to grab the Christmas number one.
This mindset of ‘sticking it to the man’ isn’t new, and is often shared by the majority of people, especially in areas such as politics. So why has this campaign, dealing with something that in the big scheme of things isn’t that important, caused such controversy?

Branded as “dreadful” by McElderry himself, saying the song is “just shouting”, and Simon Cowell being quoted saying that the campaign was “stupid”, many think, or have accepted, that the X Factor winner always gets the Christmas number one. People seems to ignore that fact that other artists, with more festive songs, or seemingly more deserving, have a chance. Isn’t the fact that the X Factor winner has a £1 million recording contract, and will have a successful album, enough?

This boycott hasn’t just made a statement to the record companies, it’s also done huge amounts for a good cause. The Facebook group set up a JustGiving page to raise money for Shelter, a charity for homeless people. Nearly £93,000 has been raised so far, and guitarist of Rage Against the Machine, Tom Morello, has said that all proceeds from the single would be added that total.

There were at least eight other Christmas singles out, some by well known artists such as The Killers, and smaller artists, like Kevin Devine. Just because Joe is only 18 and doesn’t deserve to be ‘robbed’ of Christmas number one is not a good enough reason for him to win the race. He’s in the music business, one of the most competitive and harsh industries to be involved in.

Although ‘Killing in the Name’ might not have been the best choice of song to boycott the charts with - considering that both artists are part of Sony Music - it’s certainly done its job. People have shown how much power they have over the music industry, as they are the consumers who are making these artists as popular and rich as they are.

Various groups have popped up on Facebook already for Christmas number one 2010, with bands from Nirvana to Rick Astley, the latter which was attempted last year by the Morters. To some people, it might seem pointless, stupid or even moronic, but to others, it’s showing that they have the power to affect the music industry. Whatever your view on the music, you can’t deny that this campaign has raised a lot of money for a good cause.

For more information on this campaign, or if you wish to donate to Shelter, follow these links: