A hard rocking, political bending single from 1992 beat out the first major track released from this year’s “X Factor” winner in the contest for the No. 1 Christmas single in the U.K. this year.
Rage Against the Machine’s song “Killing in the Name” sold 500,000 all-digital copies last week, while the recently crowned reality show winner Joe McElderry’s take on Miley Cyrus’ track “The Climb” moved 450,000 units, according to Billboard, from a combination of digital and phycial singles.
Sales were tallied for the contest in the week that began on Dec. 13.
Here in America, we rarely feel the impact of “X Factor,” Britain’s equivalent of American Idol. Leona Lewis, the winner from two years ago, is one of the few exceptions.
Also, the Christmas No. 1 is a phenomenon that doesn’t exactly translate over here, either. We watch close week-to-week album sales contests, but not so much singles, since physical sales of singles become more and more rare.
So why should we care what happened?
It’s all in how it was done. The Christmas No. 1 contest has been a tradition that’s lasted more than 30 years, and music fans in the U.K. grew weary of reality show contestants taking the crown on and off over the last decade. “X Factor” winners comprised the No. 1 songs from the last four years. Out of that frustration, a Facebook group formed to take down McElderry’s single — in a humorous, yet serious, fashion.
“Killing in the Name” uses the term “f**k” more than a dozen times, is juvenile at worst and blissfully anarchic at best. It’s an awesome, anti-racist anthem, and points at the government and security agencies that practice racism; it could very well be the theme song for the politically active group, which disbanded in 2000 and reunited for a few shows starting in 2007. It hardly evokes that Christmas spirit, which is why it’s the perfect song for rebellion against the Christmas song tradition.
Not only did this contest prove that an online movement could trump the strong hand of mainstream music, but acts, too, as a statement against it.
Many “X Factor” and Elderry fans were offended by the opposition’s choice, citing it as mean-spirited. But perhaps then the opposition was offended by the hand-feeding of the entertainment establishment in the U.K.
Or maybe, they just loved a good prank. Considering that a high percentage of America is looped into social networks, there’s very little reason why something like this couldn’t work here, if there was a “single” cause over which to bond.
Hilariously enough, both singles were yielded from labels owned by Sony.
Rage, who was thoroughly amused by the concept, promised their British fans that they’d reunite again for a “huge free concert” in that country, should the song win. Perhaps it’ll kickstart another reunion tour for here. They also promised to donate the majority of the recent proceeds from the song’s sale to charity.