The lack of progress made at the Copenhagen summit and other generally disheartening news stories did not make for great festive season cheer. However, the victory of Rage Against The Machine over X Factor product and Cowellite minion Joe McElderry in the battle for the Christmas No 1 spot in the charts has restored some of my faith in humanity.
When I was in the crowd at the Reading Festival last year listening to Rage blast out those roaring riffs and classic stickin’ it to da man lyrics I never never never never never never never thought that Killing in the name would be the hit song of Christmas 2009.
This is an unexpected upset to the longstanding tradition of bland, cheesy pop ballads monopolising the giddy heights of the Yuletide singles chart. One music retailer has told the BBC that the result is a “remarkable outcome – possibly the greatest chart upset ever”. True dat. Whilst I joined the ‘RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE FOR CHRISTMAS NO 1′ facebook group many months ago and encouraged others to do so, I did not expect that there was any hope of the campaign leading to anything exciting happening. I am very pleased to have been proved wrong.
Even so, the significance of the Christmas Rage phenomenon should not be overblown. It’s not really a perfect blow against corporate dominance of the music industry when Rage Against The Machine are themselves signed up with a major record label (perhaps some compromise with the system is necessary, eh guys?!). Also: Rage are indeed an extremely political band but I’m sure that the vast majority of their fans like them for the music and rebel chic rather than because they actually agree with the group’s hard Left views. The song’s success does not signal a sudden revolution in the way the music business works or in political attitudes amongst Britons.
However, it is undeniable that the triumph of Rage is an important event in certain ways. It once again points to the democratic potential of the internet. A grassroots effort coordinated over social networking sites and with zilch budget has proved more effective than the largely traditional marketing techniques used by wealthy industry bigwigs like Simon Cowell to get even more money out of UK consumers.
A large number of music fans (many of whom undoubtedly already own the song anyway considering how old it is or could download it for free from naughty file-sharing websites) have also demonstrated themselves to be willing to download a track legally. Perhaps this tells us something about the committment such campaigns can install in their supporters and how bored people are with boring commercial guff dominating the airwaves.
Anyway, it’s raised a bit of money for homelessness charity Shelter, has prompted Rage to declare that they will come to the UK next year to play more gigs, and has been a good laugh. Congratulations to the organisers of the campaign and well-done to the great British public for buying the best song!