x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

X Factor versus Rage Against The Machine

Today Britain will find out which song the nation has chosen as Christmas Number One: an X Factor ballad or a heavy metal rock song.

LONDON // The question that has been intriguing millions of Britons for the past fortnight will finally be answered later today: who will have the No 1 pop song this Christmas? A month ago, the question would have seemed irrelevant because everyone knew it would be the single released by whoever won last weekend's final of X Factor, a television talent contest.

Almost 20 million viewers watched last Sunday as 18-year-old Joe McElderry won this year's event. Within an hour, his single, The Climb, a ballad first released by Miley Cyrus for the film Hannah Montana: The Movie, was available to buy as a download. It was such a racing certainty for the No 1 this weekend that bookmakers had stopped taking bets on the subject weeks ago. After all, the winning X Factor singer had triumphed as top of the pops at Christmas 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008.

Then something odd happened. Jon Morter, an electronics worker from London, and his wife, Tracy, began a Facebook campaign "as a protest to the X Factor monotony". Instead of buying the McElderry song, the couple proposed that people should buy the unlikely and very un-Christmassy Killing in the Name, an expletive-ridden, minor hit recorded by US rock band, Rage Against the Machine, 17 years ago. And the campaign appears to have grabbed the public's imagination.

At least 750,000 people have signed up to the website, almost half of them having paid to download the song by yesterday. Its sales were running ahead of The Climb yesterday morning, but only by a few thousand. The bookies started taking bets again, with the X Factor song remaining the favourite, and the Official Charts Company, which compiles the Top 40 chart each week, described it as "a very exciting battle".

But not everyone thinks so. Simon Cowell, a multimillionaire music executive, entrepreneur and the mastermind behind X Factor (as well as being one of its judges), is simply furious. To him, the anti-X Factor brigade are a "miserable, cynical, mean" bunch who have launched a personal campaign against him. He has described McElderry as the victim of this "hate mob", adding: "All these musical snobs have ganged up against Joe. If you take me out of the equation, you have a teenager with his first single being attacked by a huge hate mob on Facebook. It almost feels like a little kid being bullied."

Mr Morter admitted that he is "fed up with Simon Cowell's latest karaoke act being Christmas No 1". He added that his campaign "has been taken on by thousands in the [Facebook] group as a defiance to Cowell's 'music machine'. Some certainly see it as a direct response to him personally." Yesterday, Tony Morrello, Rage Against The machine's guitarist, announced that the band would play a "massive free gig" in Britain if their record does make it to the top of the charts for Christmas. The campaign to get it there is being backed by several high-profile musicians, including Sir Paul McCartney.

It is not the first time an X Factor winner has encountered competition for the No 1 spot. Alexandra Burke, last year's winner, released a version of Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah, prompting an internet campaign in favour of what many people regarded as a superior version of the song by the late Jeff Buckley. In the event, Burke triumphed, although Buckley's version did make it to the No 2 spot. Cohen's record label also released his original version of the song in a bid to cash in.

But that only made it to No 36. @Email:dsapsted@thenational.ae