Nothing says “Christmas” like Civil War…

Today marks the start of the last weekend before Christmas.  It brings shops filled with exhausted workers and frantic last-minute shoppers.  It brings TV specials, Advent services, holiday parties and, somewhere, in a little country elsewhere in a world filled with countdowns, festivities and frenzy, it brings a race to the annual Christmas Number One

Growing up in England, every weekend was an exciting time for music.  Friday nights were spent glued to the television for half an hour watching Top of the Pops, and Sunday afternoons to the radio, listening eagerly to the weekly Top 40.  I remember walking home from school, through the town centre, cutting through Woolworths just so I could check out the new singles chart, and often pick up a few on cassette tape with my £2 pocket money.  The music charts were a definitive part of Britain’s weekend, taking over the television, radio shows and shop displays, and in the leadup to Christmas, the chart battle for the number one spot took over the nation.

Bookies released the odds, bets were placed, and the nation held its breath during the week leading up to the Saturday before Christmas to see who’d hold the coveted number one position on Christmas Day.  Today, the UK finds out who their nation’s 2009 Christmas Number One will be.  But this year, it’s a little bit different.

This year, it’s become a full-out war.  Christmas charts of the last few years have undoubtedly been dominated by the winning single released from that year’s X Factor winner.  I have nothing against this – I love the X Factor, and this year have followed the journey of an absolutely lovely young lad who’s worked hard, won the heart of the nation, come from a humble background, and I’m excited to see him get the opportunity of a lifetime.  Previous years’ winners have gone on to break all-time records, or shoot to international superstardom, selling out faster than anyone in UK chart history, selling multi-platinum level albums and becoming three-time Grammy award nominees.  I love the show, and am thoroughly behind backing these kids who come from all walks of life, and giving them a shot at making it.  This year’s winner was incredible, brought tears to my eyes, a skip to my heart, and what’s happening to him this weekend makes me very upset.

The nation’s been split by a husband and wife team, who decided they were sick of X Factor taking the fun out of the race to the Christmas Number One, and set up a Facebook campaign to get an old Rage Against the Machine song to the top for 2009.   The band’s Killing In The Name track was chosen by the anti-X Factor campaigners because of its message of taking a stand against authority.  And the success has been staggering. The group’s membership has hit half a million, and alternative radio DJs across the country have spread the people’s discontent at the state of the music industry today.   “Fed up with Simon Cowell’s latest karaoke act being Christmas No.1?” the group asks Facebookers. “Me too… So who’s up for a mass-purchase of the track ‘KILLING IN THE NAME’ from December 13th as a protest to the X-Factor monotony?”

Unfortunately, the rebellion has divided the nation, with odds fluctuating drastically all week long, and what initially appeared to be a small internet campaign has taken over the country, with the story being broadcast across the planet.  This kid’s worked hard for months, spending time living in a house of strangers, having to learn musical arrangements and dance routines within barely a week, and living away from friends and family throughout the holidays.  And his shot at a number one single is being taken away by people backing a foul-mouthed, rap-metal US band with a single from years ago that has no place in contemporary British music charts!

With less than 24 hours to go, I’m reading all sorts of articles.  The odds are too close to call. Public opinion is divided.  But the X Factor winner has spent his first week of fame meeting soldiers home from Afghanistan, and sick children in a London hospital.  He says these visits have helped him put his chart battle into perspective.

“This week I have been faced with soldiers who have had their limbs blown off and children who are dying or seriously ill in hospital.  That to me is so much more important than getting to No 1. You just don’t know how lucky you are.”

At the end of the day, I guess it doesn’t really matter who’s at the top when the charts are announced this time tomorrow.  But I can’t help but root for this guy, who’s worked hard, and ultimately, with a journey of hard work behind him, his compassion and sincerity will go on, and I wish him every success in the world – but I’ll still be sitting here, halfway around the world, with my fingers crossed very tightly indeed.


  1. Fun! I think it’s cool that you are so into this! I’ve never heard of it. We love music and watch American Idol but it feels to me like it’s been a long time since the whole country has really been into something like what you are talking about. Can’t wait to hear what happens, especially with the controversy! 🙂

    1. That’s why I love these British shows like X Factor and Britain’s Got Talent – the whole PLANET got behind Susan Boyle and she came second!! I might be biased in that I’m from there, but I just feel like those shows are so inspirational – and I wish I was back there in that the entire country is guaranteed to be sitting at home on a Saturday night, watching the same thing… international radio DJs talk about it, it’s just on a different scale to Idol… it’s so different here in Canada and I’m sure in the states too, there’s rarely something that just takes the heart of the nation, and that’s why I love these things. Can’t wait to hear the result tomorrow 🙂

  2. Early reports say Joe’s ahead by 10,000 singles. And I’m not sure if you’re aware of this, I expect you are, but the battle was over 4 hours ago now, and will just depend on the counting. Joe will win, being realistic. It was VERY close, Rage was even winning, up to the point when the single came out on hardcopy and the whole thing flipped around.

    I’m not going to lie to you, EJ, especially as we have Frequency in common now, haha, and I’ve come to respect your opinion on all things musical. I bought the Rage single even though (of course) I have the album from way back. And here’s why. I bet Joe’s a nice bloke. That’s why people voted for him, and he probably DID try hard and all that. But that doesn’t take away from the fact that commercial pop music is a business, and he shouldn’t get to the top of the Christmas charts and go down in history just because he was nice and was on a television show. It’s not personal, it’s just what he stands for is terrible. And heck, I LIKE pop music. I like cheesy pop. I like karaoke (OK, love karaoke :P) but what I don’t like is this outright BUYING of the number 1 spot. And it happens every year.

    1. It has happened every year, and the last 4 have all been X Factor winners, but at least they’ve been people who’re actually very talented and worked hard to get that shot. Christmas number ones before that have sometimes been good, but sometimes bloody awful – Cliff Richard, Westlife and even Mr. Blobby lol and I’d much rather see a nice person who’s come from a normal life, had a talent recognised and been given a shot at success! I understand why people have bought the Rage single, to kind of “stick it to the man”, I just think it’s horribly unfair to poor Joe (’cause I love him so much lol) 🙂

      Only a few more hours!!

  3. Hi Sweetheart…I think what it comes down to is that you like this one singer better than Rage…which is the point of the charts! It’s to see which artist is the most popular regardless of rationale. Everyone that buys a single has a reason for doing it…it just so happens that you disagree with the reason these people are buying Rage. However, those people are disagreeing with the rationale of the people who are buying the single from the winner of X-Factor – they think it’s over-commercialised or whatever…so it’s all the same in the end, just a difference in opinion! Let’s enjoy the excitement of the competition and cheer for the freedom we have of listening to whatever we want regardless of who the winner ends up being!

    1. Hahaha your first ever comment on my blog sweet and you’re playing devil’s advocate!! 🙂 you KNOW what I think about Rage… but you’re right, the people buying their single are making the same argument as people buying Joe’s, but it is extremely tense and exciting this year!

  4. An old rage against the machine song is up?? That’s kind of awesome! lol And at the same time, kind of unfair that they’re being pitted against anyone, as their following is kind of a cult.

    I just think that it’s such an odd phenomenon that this is how the best single is chosen & that even before this contest Top Of The Pops did the same thing. Where does this whole concept come from, I wonder?

  5. Oh it’s been going for years and years!! I think at least fifty; I know the Beatles have had Christmas number ones but it’s interesting to think about when it became a real competition.

    I just looked on Wikipedia and it said “It is difficult to pinpoint exactly when the subject of the Christmas number one began to excite significant media coverage. However it seems to date back to 1973, when two of the most successful bands of the day – Slade and Wizzard – both released Christmas-related singles (“Merry Xmas Everybody” and “I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday” respectively) in an attempt to clinch the festive chart-topper, with Slade ultimately coming out on top.”

    I guess because a lot of money is spent on buying music for people as Christmas presents, a lot of promo goes into trying to get the Christmas number one spot – it’s all very exciting 🙂

  6. Just minutes now! So tempted to wait until 7pm to find out who wins, but it would be stupid to be late for a Christmas dinner to find out right? Or would it?

    EJ, colour me disappointed with you! I’ll still read your stuff, but I thought you’d come down on the right side when it came down to it 😛

  7. I can’t believe it!! Poor Joe… I wouldn’t feel so bad if it was actually a decent, relevant band that got the top spot but Rage are some aging rap metal band from America that have nothing at all to do with British music and have no place in the charts at all let alone the Christmas #1. They didn’t even make the top 20 when it originally came out, and Joe has a beautiful voice, a lovely heart and won a show because the nation loved him. I’m very upset!!!

    1. It’s lots of fun, and this has been the biggest battle in years!! Shame some horrible angry band with no relevance to UK music won by a tiny amount of sales this year… but it was exciting, I spent the whole morning just glued to the radio 🙂

  8. I never knew about this #1 song thing until Love Actually, and I actually kind of thought they just made it up for the movie. That is so cool!! Will be fun to see who wins. The quote by the X factor guy is so true – def puts things in perspective.

  9. I was wondering in Love Actually how many people stateside would actually get how big of a deal it is!! Unfortunately he got no. 2… but he took it well, and he’s a nice kid with a great future… just a shame all we’re going to be hearing on BBC radio now is some song from the nineties full of expletives and no musicality or holiday spirit whatsoever 😦

  10. I love the way you write! This is a subject I’m so unfamiliar with but you made me really interested in the winner and root for the X Factor winner.

    Here in America, we are BIG into American Idol. But then there are a lot of anti-AI people who are just plain annoying with their hatred of it. I know it’s not for everyone but give it up – some VERY GOOD singers have come out of it. (Ever heard of Carrie Underwood? Chris Daughtry? David Cook? Adam Lambert. Yeah.)

    I think it’s cool how your entire country gets into this. I guess it’s the same with finale night on AI. It’s like the Grammy’s or something and people are either on one side or the other.

    (But, ew, Rage Against the Machine? I can’t stand their music. Sorry about that!)

    1. Me neither!! And that’s the thing I love about X Factor too – that the whole entire country gets behind it, it’s in all the newspapers and it’s the topic of every radio show in the nation. It kind of brings a tear to my eye when they get to the finale and show when they go home to visit their families and there’s just thousands of people rallying out in the streets to support them 🙂

  11. “No musicality or holiday spirit whatsoever”
    As opposed to Joe’s song, which is a cover from the Hannah Montana movie? 😉

    p.s. I love Carrie Underwood.

    And I think it’s slightly different with Pop Idol and American Idol, because talent actually comes out of American Idol, whereas on Pop Idol it’s very rare. I will admit that I only watched limited X Factor clips on YouTube (there’s only so much recorded clips of people crying I can take, so I don’t watch the programme) but there were some genuinely talented people being knocked out because for some reason people vote for the smiley young guy instead. I’m sure he’s lovely, but if you listen, his voice is actually quite mediocre. I totally get your point about RATM not being festive, but I think given how important Christmas Number 1 is, for it to be given to a just so-so singer because he was on TV and young girls like his smile is just as wrong. In my opinion more so.

  12. Just watched the finale of X Factor (finally!) and wow interesting results. The person with the best voice did win and he seemed almost shocked and stunned. It’s a shame that a campaign against the X Factor winner would begin when such a young and talented new star is emerging. I appreciate the spirit of the show and understand it’s appeal. Yet isn’t it interesting that people get pleasure in going against anything mainstream. I wonder if any show or person that gets too mainstream is predictably treated negatively. It’s interesting to observe human nature in action. It’s kind of sad how destructive human beings can be towards other human being purely for the spirit of spreading negativity.

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