You Know What (Not) To Do

on Sunday, December 13, 2009
Undoubtedly, you will have come across the current campaign to get Rage Against The Machine to get the Christmas #1 slot in the UK Singles Chart. Organised via a Facebook group, the organisers are seeking to take down Simon Cowell a peg or two and attempt to depose the inevitable X Factor Christmas chart topper.

Their weapon of choice, the rallying cry of 'Killing In The Name Of'. At the time of writing, the group has collected a rather astonishing 700,000+ members and the single itself is up to #14 in the charts already. You're probably thinking "so far, so good". I'm thinking "no, no, no, no, no, no". So that's why I'm writing this.

This is very much stream of consciousness stuff (hence the ridiculous length) but I feel it is necessary to go through some of the inherent issues related to the campaign.

Rage Against The Machine were/are signed to Sony BMG. Guess who the parent label of the X Factor release is? Yep, Sony BMG. Clearly buying a single on Sony BMG to make a statement against Sony BMG and Simon Cowell isn't the cleverest of ideas. To put it lightly.

Take a minute to go over the lyrics. "FUCK YOU, I WON'T DO WHAT YOU TELL ME" Interesting that this RATM then has been forced down my throat via Twitter, a Facebook group and a Facebook event. Yeah, it's ironic. It's also pretty stupid. "And now you do what they told ya, now you're under control".

Last year's X Factor single sold a bajillion copies. Even if everyone in the Facebook group bought a copy (which they won't), I'm not convinced they'll win. Indeed, the point of this piece is to stop it from happening but is there even any point trying to be #1? Does Christmas #1 really mean anything anymore? I don't think so. Of course, now I've made this point, it probably will get to #1.

Lament about the Christmas #1 position all you want but how a song that was originally released with "a cover picturing Thích Quảng Đức, a Vietnamese Buddhist monk, burning himself to death in Saigon in 1963 in protest of the murder of Buddhists by Prime Minister Ngô Đình Diệm's regime" is appropriate for this time of year is beyond me. And although I'm not sure exactly what the lyrics are referring to, they certainly have a wider meaning than for use in a flawed statement against Simon Cowell. This campaign is sterilising the original source material in one fell swoop.

The last line of defence for the RATM campaign is that it's "just a bit of fun". Well, isn't X Factor just a bit of fun for millions of people across the UK, if not the world? You can still have a bit of fun and endorse something worthwhile both in terms of song quality and ethos. I'll even show you how.

So what should you do instead of buying the RATM single?

- Don't buy the X Factor Christmas single
Some people may mistakenly think that I support X Factor either as a televisual, or god forbid, musical endeavour. I am most definitely in neither camp. It's an awful spectacle. The "popular" equivalent of a pub battle of the bands. The real pity is that Jedward didn't win this year to prove what a farce the whole show is. There are no real winners. Least of all, music.

- How about buying a single from an independent record label?
With the music industry almost on its knees, the people at the bottom of the ladder are suffering the most. While the big corporate companies can get by with one Lady Gaga a year, independent labels typically don't have such a luxury. And making music for a living is pretty much a non-starter at the moment for the majority of musicians. So instead of filling the coffers of Sony BMG, how about supporting an artist on an independent label or even one that has self-released a single? My First Tooth are running a tongue-in-cheek campaign to get to Christmas #2, check it out here.

- Buy a festive single?
Wouldn't it be nice to have an actual song about Christmas at number 1? I mean I don't even really celebrate Christmas (we miss out the presents but have a good Christmas lunch and sit in front of the telly for the rest of eternity) but I'd welcome an actual festive single to top the charts. Indeed, the founder of, Sean Adams, agrees with me. He's proposing we elevate Sufjan Stevens (signed to the independent Rough Trade record label) to the heights of the UK Singles Chart, with 'Get Me Behind Me, Santa'. Details here.

- Buy a charity Christmas single?
One of the more recent developments that actually tempered the tone of this piece is that the RATM Facebook group is encouraging its supporters to donate to Shelter in addition to buying the RATM single. They've raised over £18,000, which is absolutely brilliant. But I can't help but feel like throwing money at Sony BMG at the same time is a bit counter productive. It would be a bit like buying the X Factor single and then donating money to charity. Which of course, many of those who will buy the X Factor single have done by also purchasing the popular X Factor charity single.

None of this makes much sense to me (although the Sufjan campaign is also donating to charity which complicates matters further) when there are two high profile charity singles out now that donate 100% of their received money to charity. And what's more, they're not actually bad songs. So choose Portishead's 'Chase The Tear' and/or Fucked Up's ensemble cover of 'Do They Know It's Christmas?'. The latter being both for a good cause and festive. Forget RATM, you know what to do.


It genuinely saddens me that I have to agree with Simon Cowell's comments that this whole ordeal is "stupid". With any luck, this will be the first and last time I agree with such a horrible man. Hopefully this has convinced you to not support a misguided and misinformed campaign to get Rage Against The Machine to a #1 that they, nor Sony BMG, need.

Instead, I urge you support those who need it most - both musicians and independent labels struggling at the foot of the ladder and those unfortunate enough to be struggling in life.

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