Sunday 13 December 2009

Take back the Christmas pop charts!

The race for the Christmas number one used to, rather like the Grand National, provide a moment of shared national experience. There may have been some pretty poor winners - but there were some all time classics too. But I am not sure even pub quizzes are ever going to ask people to identify the 2005 Christmas number one.

The reasons the pop charts generally just don't matter like they used to are many and complex, though the decline of a once cherished cultural instituton is still to be regretted.

So it is good to see at least an attempt to organise resistance to the X Factor's colonisation of the Christmas number one spot - after just four years of Christmas number ones from the TV reality pop factory.

The campaign to make Rage Against the Machine number one probably isn't going to come off. Over 700,000 people have pledged to take part. But it seems unlikely that as many as half of them will actually buy the song.

Not everybody is convinced that it should work. The NME's Luke Lewis spotting a few ironic features of the campaign. But his colleague Tim Chester offers an effective riposte, as does Tim Jonze of the Guardian

Next Left would really much rather back the Muppet's Bohemian Rhapsody but, having not begun the campaign earlier, is prepared to vote for a tactical second preference since this too is a first-past-the-post contest, albeit with multiple "votes" allowed.

The bookies now have the insurgency at three-to-one: the outside contender but not an impossibility.

Simon Cowell sounds a bit rattled.

Three thoughts:

(1) Whatever you think of the rival song, isn't it worth 79p to invest in this attempt to not just stick two fingers up, but also to demonstrate the possible potency of social networks to mobilise protest activity.

(2) And if it doesn't work this year, I think the campaign should get organised and dig in. And perhaps it is time to democratise it too. Next year, perhaps the chances could be boosted by some form of online "open primary" to mobilise support and to decide what leading "anyone but X factor" choice people might coalesce around.

How about, say, the Guardian and the NME agreeing now to host a vote around which bloggers and others could coalesce and campaign?

(3) If Simon Cowell wants to fight for his reputation of having the power of absolute pop dominance, that depends on winning every year.

The campaign should continue until he loses one. But that also means a strong performance this year could well see him duck a continued scrap. Perhaps Cowell could duck out and release the X Factor song a week later for the post-Christmas charts (as happened the first year with Steve Brookstein's single), which would also mean the nation had a wider choice of possible Christmas number ones again.

One way or another, it is time to take a stand.

Citizens, to the barricades of the ITunes store: its time to take back the Christmas pop charts!

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