The battle for this year’s Christmas Number One does represent an unlikely dichotomy. In the red corner, classic FUCK YOU I WON’T TIDY MY BEDROOM DO WHAT YOU TELL ME rap-rock anger from Rage Against The Machine, re-appropriated by Facebook campaigners as a rallying cry against the banality of the mainstream music industry. In the blue corner, the gleaming, fresh-faced winner of this year’s X-Factor, who will no doubt sell hundreds of thousands of copies despite the fact that they’re set to release a Miley Cyrus song that no-one over the age of about 12 will have heard of.
I’ll start by briefly pointing out that there are far more appropriate/more Christmassy/funnier/better(!) songs which could be chosen to take on the X Factor – my pick would be ‘Sabotage’ by the Beastie Boys, for the lolz. But never mind, let’s talk talk cold, hard numbers. Making the loose assumption that this year’s X Factor single will be at least as popular as Alexandra Burke’s cover of ‘Hallelujah’ was last year, the RATM campaigners will need to aim to beat a figure of 576,000 copies sold (if not more). As it stands right now, the Facebook group has over 611,000 members, meaning that, in theory, if each member of the group buys at least one copy, ‘Killing In The Name’ could make it to Christmas number one. Of course, that’s a big ‘if’ – I’d say they’d be extremely lucky to get even half that number actually buying the single, and thus seem destined to lose. But even if they do win, it would seem a hollow victory in my opinion – the fact that Simon Cowell has created something that has made hundreds of thousands of people pledge to go out of their way to try and stop it makes it feel like he’s already won before a single record has been bought.
That hasn’t stopped him throwing a hissy fit about it though, claiming that having a number one single will “change these guys’ lives”. Really Simon? Try telling that to Michelle McManus. Or Leon Jackson. Or Steve Brookstein – who has even jokingly hit out at Cowell’s response to the campaign. The small number of lasting success stories from the Pop-Factor-Idol-Academy stable of shows is telling – it’s not the instant number one single that has the potential to be life-changing, it’s whether or not you’re marketable afterwards. The likes of Girls Aloud, Will Young and Leona Lewis, yes – the aforementioned winners and others like them, not so much.
Perhaps that’s why Cowell so desperately wants to defend this year’s winner – because, to be honest, no matter who wins, I struggle to see lasting success for them. Previous male winners have tended towards early success before burning out and dropping back into obscurity, and if Stacey wins she effectively has to compete with both Leona Lewis and Alexandra Burke – thus having every potential to get left by the wayside. As such, this number one single could be the winner’s big chance for glory – but that doesn’t mean Cowell can act like he has some sort of right to ensure the winner gets an immediate number one single. The contract offered to the winner is a record deal, not necessarily a ticket to overnight stardom – and while the show’s ubiquity almost ensures popularity in the short term, it’s not something that should be taken for granted. Besides, we all know the real ‘winners’ of this series are actually Jedward – and even they will be forced back to reality once the novelty wears off.
As for the battle for number one, in financial terms Sony Music Entertainment is the winner, being as it’s the parent company of both Cowell’s record company Syco, and RATM’s record label Epic. Which is, why, in the end, you should probably just buy this instead of ‘Killing In The Name’ (or as well as, if you insist):
It’s by HUNKS + Friends (basically a collection of ace indie bands), it’s called ‘The Magic Of Christmas’, and yes, it’s as cheesy as a packet of cheesy Wotsits covered in cheese. But go on, it’s for charidee and everything!