Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Christmas Number One

What have we done? What have we done? It seems that we may have killed the charts. Forgive us father for we know not what we do. We only did it because we didn't want another Karaoke Christmas number one but all we have ended up doing is giving more money to Sony BMG and, therefore, Cowell. Who, by the way, is not evil as some have claimed, he is not interesting enough for that. It is banality that ruins through his veins not the dark, slow flowing juices of Beelzebub.

What am I talking about? I am talking about the battle for this year’s Christmas number one. A strangely arbitrary obsession that used to be reserved for novelty records, like Mr Blobby or that slowed down a bit Tears for Fears cover by Gary Joules (It was Mad World by the way, how soon they forget) or Cliff Richard. The Chart is compiled from sales of singles sold in the week before Christmas and is announced my Mark Goodier (does he still do it? It’s been a while since I listened, I can’t imagine that that much has changed.) That was the way it was. It was our little, never fully explained or understood, tradition, like attempting to choke small children by slipping loose change into their Christmas pudding. That was the way it stayed for many years and we were happy with that.
Then something large and dark loomed over the horizon but it was on ITV so we ignored it. Oh the Humanity. Oh our Hubris! Now every year we have which ever easily molded dullington has won the X-factor (other Cowell produced programs are available with similar outcomes. The man has even managed to make Susan Boyle marketable, which is something I suppose. Ignored her mental health but made her marketable) is pretty much guaranteed to get to the, almost mythical, number one slot.

For the last few years there has been some light campaigning to get some other records into this position, Leonard Cohen's original of Hallelujah or, my personal favourite, We're All Gonna Die by Malcolm Middleton. This year however, the campaign has really gained some traction. It started on Facebook and then moved on to Twitter. What is this record that has been chosen to try and take on the might of a Miley/Miley Cyrus cover (say what you like about Achy Breaky Heart but at least you knew how to pronounce her dad's name)? Why, it is a 17 year old rock classic, sort of. It is Rage Against the Machine's Killing in the Name of. Yes! This is the record for us. Let's ignore the fact that they are on Sony BMG, the same company as the X-factor single, and let's ignore the fact that we are going to tell people to buy it despite the fact that the last 2 minutes of the record is a rather angry, foul-mouthed man with dreadlocks screaming “fuck you, I won't do what you tell me”. Despite these things, it is the record for us!

At this point I need to mention, for the sake of balance that I have encouraged people to buy this song on Twitter, sorry. I have retweeted (oh, I feel a fool saying retweeted out loud) a few messages about it. In fact I have also bought it but, in my defence, I have also bought the Tim Minchin Christmas single, White wine in the Sun, as well, so that's all right then.

So for many years Television has been able to influence/rig, you choose, the charts, especially at this time of year but now social media comes of age by being able to do exactly the same thing that irony free people were complaining about. When I looked at the Itunes chart yesterday, Rage Against the Machine were ahead in the race. Does it effect me in anyway? No of course it doesn't. I'm a 35 year old man who likes Indie music that barely charts. And maybe we haven't killed the charts, maybe we have just helped it on its way, greased the slip way if you like. The Official charts company did a pretty good job in killing it off when they changed the rules so that any single track download counted for the Top 40 (is it still called that?) rather than a song that had been released as a single. In the long run it doesn't really matter, the Christmas number one has nothing to do with music, just look at the number of best of albums clogging up the album charts, it's about Christmas presents.

RIP the Charts and Merry Christmas to everyone.

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