Rage Against The Machine: Your X-Factor Tirade is the Worst Machine of All
Across the Atlantic, a grassroots campaign designed to put Rage Against the Machine's 1992 single "Killing in the Name" on the top of the holiday charts ahead of recent X Factor champion Joe McElderry has proven successful: "Killing in the Name" sold 500,000 copies last week, beating the 450,000 units of McElderry's "The Climb." The campaign was created to unseat producer and X Factor judge Simon Cowell as a chart-mongering alchemist. Organizers Jon and Tracy Morter wrote on the wall of one of their Facebook groups: "ALL WE WANT IS A NON-X FACTOR NO.1." Christmas chart-topping is a bragging right in the UK, and Rage Against the Machine's victory is a feat, particularly since the single doesn't recall the likes of the Spice Girls, Cliff Richard, or Michael Jackson -- three of the artists who have earned the #1 in past Decembers. But the strength of the accomplishment sours thanks to Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello's own words, which sound like statements from gross, age-old machinery.
According to Morello, who was reached by the Associated Press after "Killing in the Name" earned the #1 spot, the group's triumph redeems the music industry.
"Rage Against the Machine was built for moments like this," the band's guitarist Tom Morello told The Associated Press. "We are honored to have the song that liberated the U.K. pop chart."
Morello said the campaign had delivered "a crushing defeat for bland pop music."
"There are other ways to make music than to stand in front of a panel and perform like a circus bear," Morello added. "Free expression, uncompromising content are sitting on top of the U.K. pop chart this week."
Look, it's not like Simon Cowell is fun to root for. I personally don't own a single American Idol winner's album, and I do own Rage Against the Machine's The Battle of Los Angeles. I appreciate that all of the proceeds from Rage's new sales go to charity. But Morello mixes up the campaign's intentions when he criticizes the X Factor winner's music using these cheap, cliched shots about free expression and compromise. Simon Cowell and his black magic are the "machine" here, not the 18-year-old who won a singing competition. Does Morello think artistry entails slamming other musicians and posing your own music as some unadulterated alternative for cool people? Morello does not sound like an artist here. He sounds like an ad exec for Hot Topic.
Furthermore, how "liberated" are the people who bought "Killing in the Name"? Do I love that single? Yes. Do I buy records because the artist told me he's cooler than a teenage balladeer? No. Because I'm actually not 14, nor waiting for a guru, nor wearing a "You Look At Me Because I'm Different, I Look At You Because You're All The Same" knapsack button. The point being -- "free expression" isn't what's reigning here, because everyone who bought this single is doing what he's told. What's happening here is standard, but malicious countermarketing aimed at an artist, who is precisely the wrong cog in the machine to stifle. I admire McElderry's response to the whole thing:
"Fair play to the guys who have organized the Facebook campaign -- it's been exciting to be part of a much-hyped battle and they definitely deserve congratulations," McElderry said.
Strange that one of the first statements this guy has to release is a diplomatic rejoinder to a haughty music veteran's public badmouthing. He could've just said, "It's been weird to be the 'circus bear' of burden because everyone wants to feel cooler than a TV show." Because this boils down to feeling cool. While I agree that Simon Cowell's tastes can be dubious, Morello's statements sound more self-promotional and self-congratulatory than pro-artistry. And not that it matters, but McElderry is also a decent singer, which is all he posits to be -- unlike Morello, whose mission statement has turned into its own Cowell-sized billboard touting what all the hip people are doing.
UPDATE: Yes, McElderry has also said pejorative things! Mind you, I'd be salty too if an established rock legend was cool-mongering to the UK public with statements such as: "England! Now is your time!" Thanks for the tip, savior!