Thursday, November 04, 2010

We need a futile gesture at this stage

Sigh. So we're all back here again.

You may recall last year, in the belief that the modern singles chart is anything other than physically bereft, a campaign was launched to get Rage Against The Machine to the Christmas number one position ahead of X Factor winner Joe McElderry. Cowell fumed. McElderry fumed (well, of course he wouldn't, think about what he is and how he got there). Louis talked nonsense, which he does. And when all was said and done, the last chart before Christmas showed Killing In The Name a good 52K sales ahead of the corporate opposition.

So this year, everyone's having a go. Think of a song from the past with some sort of cultural cachet and someone will be campaigning to have it become this year's Christmas number one. In one corner, the one that's attracting a lot of the comedic attention and quite a few broadsheet pieces, Cage Against The Machine, 47,000 strong at this stage, hoping to get Cage's celebrated silent piece 4'33" to number one largely on the basis that it'd be hilarious to hear whoever does the chart show these days to have to play four and a half minutes of silence as the ultimate chart topper of the year. Except they won't, because the emergency breakdown cart would kick in after thirty seconds. The BBC has to make special provision when it broadcasts Rememberance Sunday silences on the radio, and that has the ambient noise around the Cenotaph.

That was thought to be the only gig in town... until a couple of weeks ago a couple of news sites picked up on BIRD is the WORD for UK Christmas number 1 2010 to beat X-Factor (catchy) and its 530,000 likes, although the actual official page has only managed 9,000 to date. This one is campaigning on behalf of the Trashmen's nutzoid US 1963 surf-garage hit Surfin' Bird, and is related to nothing other than it being played prominently in an episode of Family Guy.

Family Guy fans are at the forefront of this year's big anti-X Factor campaign. It's like choosing your poison.

If the RATM campaign was driven more by shits and giggles (and an undeniable 'WE ARE CULTURED, WE ARE BETTER THAN YOU PLEBS' undercurrent from some, the way that the discourse last December ran) rather than any proper attempt to stop the Syco hegemony on Christmas chart toppers then fair enough. Point made, now we get back on with our lives. The band seemed to believe the latter but they never seemed the type for a light laugh. Did it bring anything down? Not really, no. So McElderry's 450K Christmas chart week sales weren't enough? Never mind, he sold 195K the following week (RATM, in their week of the most mainstream press of their lives, managed 68K) and 70K the traditionally slow week after that. Meanwhile, Saturday's X Factor was watched by twelve million people, not all of whom watched it just to take the piss on Twitter. Ask them what beat Joe last year and they'll likely have forgotten. Did it actually derail Cowell one iota? Of course not, for all his Sun-friendly stage managed bleating in the week of battle. Everyone who cared got a free RATM gig out of it, and that was the point at which any idea that there were sociological leanings behind the LOL-motive died.

But now it's been done, you can't go through the same slapstick routine again and again because we've seen the punchline already. If last year was Situationist tomfoolery with an undercurrent of hatred for what they've done to your beloved chart (which was never driven by any sort of counterculture, by the way) this year is either a carbon copy with a far less populist/nostalgic/rhetorical centrepiece, and one that in its basicness doesn't really challenge anything as it once did now that everyone knows what it entails, or something from the exact same school of mindless Point A To Point B telly culture. It's bloody-mindedness for the sake of it and to look inclusive. Meanwhile, Wagner LOL.

1 comment:

saamFG said...

In agreement with 95% of this. In fact, the first word of your post ("sigh") sums up these ridiculous campaigns for me.