Monday, December 21, 2009

Why This X Factor Against the Machine Stuff Is Missing The Point

So... where to start?

At this point it might be old news that Rage Against The Machine have wound up at top of the UK Singles chart for that much heralded Christmas number one (they'll likely end up doing the same thing in the Irish chart this week coming). Joe McElderry has gotten his pop career off to an interesting start at the least.

There has been plenty of discussion about how this is a "victory" for "real music" and shown that silly Simon Cowell who is boss. I'm not quite sure to start with this and I've already had a few sneaky rants here and there about the stupidity of of it all. But surely now that it about to become old hat why not blog about? That is just how on the button I truly am!

First of all get the gist on the story here without much of the inherently snobby writing that has marred much of the newspaper coverage of this (more on that later).

It is nice that some interest has been sparked in the charts after the dullness of X Factor claiming the top so many years in a row. I love pop music and am always interested in the charts because it is always great to see what isn't and isn't selling. I've never liked "campaigns" to get a certain song to chart. The chart should work off of people buying songs they like and want to spend their money not what they are told to buy. This has underpinned my problem with this RATM business.

The RATM side argued that X Factor fans were "sheep" buying the song because Simon Cowell et all had manipulated the charts every year for the last 4. This is just ignoring the fact that obviously hundreds of thousands of people bought the song they liked by a singer they had watch on tv for a few months and grown to love. Of course. But if you see on Facebook that someone tells you to download a song to make a point you do. "Fuck you, I won't do what you tell me" indeed.

To get too worked up about how blind people were to go along with this is missing the point. And the fact that the band will donate their profits to charity is nice and almost (almost) takes the sting out of the fact that BOTH The X Factor track and RATM are on Sony and therefore they've doubled their end of Xmas single sales. Nice one.

The real disappointment about this is how it boiled down to people pointing fingers at Simon Cowell as some kind of Grinch figure out to ruin the music world for everyone. Of particular interest is the NME cover story where many musicians lambast Simon for what they see as ruining the music industry.

But surely Simon is not to blame? Ultimately he is a businessman selling a product. And people are buying. Simon at least is getting people to get out and buy music. and with things the way they are for the music business someone who can knock that? Many will moan that the music is awful/cover versions/not credible but at the very least people are willing to buy it and that has to count for something.

Also for all the blathering on that the X Factor dominates, in reality it is merely reflecting the tastes of those who are consuming popular music. Plenty of artists performed on the results show this year and didn't have it reflect in their sales. Janet Jackson is a great example. Her single didn't dent the top 40 despite a high profile slot on the results show the same night as Lady Gaga who who climbed to number one following her performance. Gaga was already enyjoing huge success with "Bad Romance" before her appearance and this performance was clearly the last part of a huge push for the song. X Factor is offering up the platform and the final bit of promotion to tie in with the radio play and public interest in acts they obviously like. Its why Alexandra Burke and JLS have connected with the public with post show releases and become successful and Leon Jackson and Eoghan Quigg haven't. The fact too that the show clears well past 15-16 million viewers at the moment and the winner clears around the 500,000-200,000 (depending on their popularity) in sales in the first week suggest there is a huge chunk who never go on to buy the winner's single and shows that just because people watch the show does not mean they will buy the song which is the main crux of the RATM argument against the series.

Instead of getting worked up about one successful music business man and the hit TV show he oversees it would be much more interesting to look at other things going on with popular music and the record industry. Why is radio so insisting on playlisting and not supporting new artists or follow up singles by acts who have one hit? Why is that somebody like BBC Radio 1 can effectively make or break an artist with a flick of a playlist? Why is that nobody is bothering to make a comprehensive fast paced music TV show with a broad range of genres? Why do we still insist of calling one form of music real and the other manufactured? How about realising that anyone releasing music commercially in any way is playing into the same system? It is about time we looked at how little value we place on music instead of giving someone who can still find profit in the system. Jealousy is never a good look.

And ALSO, why can't we have proper pop tunes with a festive feel? Many hate the "manufactured pop" of the 90s but its hard to argue with tracks like 2 Become 1 and Too Much from the Spice Girls or Stay Another Day from East 17. Genuinely huge pop acts who remind you of their success in a given year with great pop songs that are both festive but stand on their own. It would be great to see the X Factor do something like this or even take on an original track. The best track to come out of any reality TV show this decade is still Sound of the Underground by Girls Aloud. Surf guiter, distorted bass and a big chorus it is a proper piece of superstar pop and not the typical "here comes the key change ballad".

Sigh. All I know is that this should have been Christmas number one:

1 comment:

  1. I understand where you're coming from for the most part but what I find most ironic is that those who set the campaign up used facebook. I wonder how much facebook earned from advertising revenue on their page that attracted 500,000- 1,000,000. It's like they tried to avert support for a major conglomerate by using another as their medium. It's hypocracy but goes to show you those that try to 'fuck the system' are buying into another populist ideal. Being anti-conformist is to conform with another populist ideal.
    At the end og the day if you like Joe buy his single even if it is a product of the global multi national edifice that is Simon Cowell, Syco, Sony, ITV, Youtube, itunes etc.. or be non conformist (how alternative...losers) and buy rage and support sony, itunes, facebook etc...
    I bought neither I wanted Cliff Richard to be number one again with Mistletoe and Wine. He was number one when I was born 21 years ago, thought it would have been a good way to celebrate.
    - Mike