21 December 2009

Defying the dark lord

In the much-hyped chart battle for the UK's Christmas No. 1 single spot the campaign to defeat Simon Cowell's X Factor winner Joe McElderry's cover of Miley Cyrus' The Climb has been successful, with half a million downloading Rage Against The Machine's sweary 1992 track Killing In The Name. Charlie Brooker of the Guardian spells out which side of the fence he sits on:

For one thing, I happen to think Killing in the Name is an excellent song, so I've already got something out of it. Most importantly, it contains genuine emotion. Even if the climactic repeated howls of "F--k you, I won't do what you tell me!" put you in mind of a teenager loudly refusing to tidy his bedroom – as opposed to a masked anarchist hurling petrol bombs at the riot squad – there is at least an authentic human sentiment being expressed. Zack de la Rocha is audibly pissed off.

Compare this to the pissweak vocal doodle that is Joe McElderry's X Factor single. For a song whose lyrics ostensibly document an attempt to gather the spiritual strength to overcome adversity and thereby attain enlightenment, The Climb is about as inspiring as a Lion bar. It's a listless announcement on a service station Tannoy; an advert for buttons; a fart in a clinic; a dot on a spreadsheet. Listening to it from beginning to end is like watching a bored cleaner methodically wiping a smudge from a Formica worksurface.

But then nobody's buying The Climb in order to actually listen to it. They're buying it out of sedated confusion, pushing a button they've been told will make them feel better. It's the sound of the assisted suicide clinic, and it doesn't deserve to be No 1 this Christmas.

Of course, as Brooker points out, both tracks are ultimately owned by Sony BMG. But the thought that this might in some small way have irritated Simon Cowell makes it all worthwhile, no?

- Guardian, 21 December 2009

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