Yesterday, and with only four days to Christmas, I saw the news that Facebook group Rage Against The X-Factor had been successful in keeping Simon Cowell’s latest Enfant Terrible from the Christmas Number One slot, having supplanted it with a song that contains more swear words than the Bible contains begats, by a band (Rage Against The Machine) that were past their sell by date some years previous.
Having sat through the X Factor final (an experience best described as having someone shove warm wax up your nostrils for two hours whilst someone applies a cheese grater to your brain) I have to say that I’m in two minds about this. Part of me thinks it’s a bit of a shame for (winner) Joe McElderry: after all he’s just after a slice of the old Fame Pie that everyone seems to want to bite these days and it’s not like his chances of a long music career are particularly great as they are.
Despite all the hype put forward by the judges McElderry was the clear winner over six weeks ago. After all television has taught us that people over 25 can’t possibly have anything relevant to say (so that was that category off) and can only be seen on Serious Programmes (and not always even then – the last time I switched on the news the presenter was barely out of her school uniform) and a band has never won the show (despite the fact that JLS and G4 should clearly have won during their years), so that only left the girls and little Joe who (lets face it) was young, pretty and could sing a bit.
Even so – we all know from past experience that should his first album not sell by the bucket load Joe will swiftly be cast aside by the corporate SyCo Machine – so the winners song was probably his best hope of getting that all important slice of fame. Gone are the days when a record label would support an up and coming band for a couple of albums, giving them time to grow to their potential: now it’s all about the instant success and making that big buck.
After all: fame is all that matters now. It has (arguably) replaced religion as the opium of the masses – just look to the TV talent shows if you don’t believe me and just watch all the self-deluded entrants desperate for their fifteen minutes. I seem to remember that when I was a kid you had to have to have a talent or skill for something to be famous, to have achieved something and recognised for that fact: now it seems sufficient to be famous and it doesn’t matter why.
Take a look at Amy Winehouse. Back To Black was a perfectly good album in a kind of sub Dusty Springfield way, but it’s her boozing and on/off relationship with her husband that she’s more famous for: and all those sad wannabies on the X Factor? Well, if they’re truly awful then they will have a career for a couple of years as a novelty act and then it will be back to their job in B&Q/Asda/instert dead end job of your choice here.
And of course part of me thinks that there’s something wrong in having a song full of swearing as Christmas number one. I mean, have we forgotten the true meaning of Christmas? (Selling expensive toys that go “Bing!” in case you were wondering – I once told a friend that I didn’t really celebrate Christmas because I wasn’t religious and they asked, in all honesty, “well, what has that got to do with it?”. I dunno – Christ-mass, ring any bells? Nope?)
But then the other side of me thinks its something of a coup. I mean there I was thinking that music had lost all meaning and passion: and here we are rebelling against the system. Raging Against The Machine (so to speak)
Music (at least rock and pop music) owes much of its groundings to rebellion and change. That’s why it was so important in the sixties and seventies – even into the eighties. Here was a young generation freed from forty years of near constant war and recession with a whole new set of liberties to explore – and explore them they did.
But the truth is that it could only last so long. Eventually the new found freedoms become second nature and, fuelled by the explosion of the Community Of Me Me Me, it inevitably became about the success and the money – and with nothing left to rebel against the fires died down a little. It’s hard to imagine it now but in the summer of 1977 with endless strikes, high unemployment and the cold war it really did feel like there was no future, but then came the booms of the 80s...
So seeing a bunch of people get together and care enough about music to stop some computer-written soulless song from getting to the number one slot renews my faith slightly in the passion of music and gives me hope that we still care. Music can touch us all more efficiently than almost any other form of media and it’s good to see that its still true today.
But surely there are more important battles to be fighting? Shouldn’t we be forming Facebooks to oust Gordon Brown from power? Shouldn’t we be campaigning for an end to poverty, child abuse or to stop Santa from superheating the planet as he whizzes around the globe at light speed and causes global warming?
But then Global Warming doesn’t have its own TV show, Save The Whale never released a video with Madonna and the Bengal Tiger doesn’t allow people to compete to be a part of its rich Hollywood lifestyle.
If only the Dodo had thought to become famous before it became extinct...