The billboard charts normally don’t faze me. But this week, I became so enthralled by what was happening on the UK’s #1 Radio Station – the people were speaking. They were sick of corporations and big money dictating to them what they should be listening to. An actual grass root’s campaign was working, and could possibly beat out the mindless pop chatter.
Jock and I were headed to dinner with Radio 1 playing in the background. We drove around and around waiting to hear the result. We both agreed that there was really no way the people could win. After all, if Simon Cowell wanted his song to be number 1, surely he would just buy the singles himself…
This was the situation – for the last four years, the week before Christmas, the single to reach #1 on the billboard charts in the UK has been a song sung by the winner of the X-Factor (UK’s American Idol). A pop ballad usually written by some American artist. This year was Miley Cyrus’ The Climb sung by a northern lad named Joe McElderry.
2009 was going to be no different. In fact, no other artist even bothered to release a song this past week because they figured Why bother? Simon Cowell would win, and that would be that.
Until a young couple started a facebook campaign against Simon Cowell urging people to buy Rage Against the Machine’s Killing in The Name from 1992. Over 300,000 joined the group within a week. Rage’s single downloads were competing with a hard copy compact disc. Never has a single won a top spot in the charts simply by downloads alone.
This year it all changed. After Jock and I readied ourselves for a people’s loss once again, democracy took over and won! I can’t tell you why this affected me in such a way other than I had become so used to the underdog losing out. The 2000′s as a decade have been decadent, indulgent and mindless. This felt like a real victory for the voices of England – at the very least.
The cynics say that both artists who were competing for the top spot were from Sony Music, and so either way, Sony got the money. They also said it didn’t matter and there were more important things to spend energy on – i.e. climate change, war in Iraq, etc. Finally, they argued that Rage Against the Machine aren’t exactly as hardcore as perhaps they were when the song was released in the early 90′s, and therefore don’t really represent the opposite of Joe McElderry. (Here’s an article for this mindset from NME.)
I say, none of that matters.
I disagree. Success breeds success. Every small victory for the small people means that energy can gain momentum and other things can begin to change. I say, it’s freaking exciting and I haven’t felt that energy for a movement in a long time. When we exited the car to head to dinner, our jaws were still running behind us. We were so sure in our diagnosis of the outcome. After that, we smiled from ear to ear, fist pumping in air and kept repeating “God, I love an underdog. I love an underdog!”
Not quite the Vietnamese protests of the 1970′s, but it’s a start to awakening something in this sleeping generation…
Rage is donating their unexpected residuals to charity, and promise to come to the UK for a free concert in honor of the win.
I still don’t yet know entirely why this was so powerful to me…but I have a feeling there will be many meetings about this in Sony’s headquarters…