I’ll Scream and Scream and Scream Until I’m Sick

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Let’s start off honestly; I’m a lazy sod, especially when it comes to writing.  I have hard drives littered with the openings to a sketches of countless, no doubt brilliant, articles that I never finished before the moment had been lost and even more ideas that stayed in my brain after not even making it that far.  For that reason, as much as anything else, I’m not letting this one go.  Well that and being reminded by the comments to TallKenny’s recent article.  I got right cross at Christmas with all the shenanigans over little Joe Mcelderry and his mates, but I got over it, not before I put finger to keyboard and got most of the way through the following article:

A few things that I never thought I’d be pondering over on a Monday morning,
•    I never thought I’d have a strong view on a No.1 single ever again
•    I never thought I’d feel sorry for a teenage karaoke king with a voice that screams “I’ll be doing Joseph within 9 months”
•    I never thought I’d be siding with Simon Cowell
•    I never, ever thought I’d have to hear Rage Against the Machine again.
Yes, I know that every other blog in every other darkest corner of the World Wide Web has already spouted forth on this but, hey, being late is my unique selling point so why break from it now?

Point one – It’s pathetically easy to have a hit record these days (http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/musicblog/2009/jul/15/chart-sales).  Before Christmas in 2009 number ones have averaged 82,975 sales (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2009_in_British_music), I remember records selling millions.  Even if they were rubbish and generally from Kevin Costner films, you can hardly argue with something selling a couple of million trying to call itself successful, can you?

Point two – Rage Against the Machine (sorry RATM) are shit.  Sorry but it’s true, their Wikipedia page (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rage_against_the_machine) describes them as pioneers of nu-metal and, honestly that should be all you need to know.  What, I’m being subjective? Well it’s the prerogative you get from having ears.

Point three – the charts are supposed to be about “popular music”.  More people voted for the X-factor finalists than will vote in the next election and more people watched it than give a toss about much else.  Not just because Simon Cowell told them to, but for loads of reasons, not least because we all miss Opportunity Knocks.

Talent shows are as much a part of British culture as donkey derbies, knobbly knees contests and binge drinking.  Is the success of Paul Daniels, Les Dawson, Frank Carson, Peters and Lee, Pam Ayres, Lenny Henry, Marti Caine, Dave Allen, Victoria Wood or Nookie Bear any less valid because they first came to public attention on a Saturday night TV talent contest?  Is it buggery, that sort of fame lasts for a moment, you’ve got to have a bit more about you if it’s going to carry on.

Point four – the song is ridiculous.  It sounds like fourteen year old girls screaming at their mums, or sixth form poetry (which in essence is what it is).  Slamming doors like teenagers isn’t endearing when you’re a teenager, let alone when you’re all grown up and have got a mortgage.  Even 500,000 teenagers slamming their bedroom door at the same time sounds petulant (but probably better than Rage Against the Machine but I’ve done they’re rubbish one so I won’t go there).

Can you tell which way I fall on this debate yet?  If not, then it’ll probably help to know that the last time I gave a toss about the Christmas number one was when Cliff beat The Farm into religious submission.  The last time the charts held any relevance to me was probably five years before that.  

When I was growing up, the charts were for everyone, by the time I’d hit my teens proper, when music starts to matter, they’d started to change, to become the realm of the 14 week number one, the one hit wonder and the big producer.  It’s twenty years too late to start a rebellion against Stock Aitken and Waterman and 50 years too late to start worrying about badly dressed svengalis manipulating teenage boys and selling the output to hoardes of sheep.

Of course it’s less exciting that what was going on in the 60’s but essentially it’s the same and there’s not been a time inbetween where a good chunk of the pop industry as been about exploitation, creating hype and getting people to believe they want to buy what you want to sell them.  Punk?  Ask Malcom McLaren, ask John Lydon, ask Sid Viscous.

I’m not really trying to defend Simon Cowell, X-Factor or Little Joe here.  Cowell’s a knob of the highest order, the programme is too full of itself and not very British for that (bring back Fame Academy I say) and Mcelderry is a minor celebrity waiting to happen.  If defending the British public here, yes they are as think as [insert own ending] but they like to be entertained, and the lighter the better.  That’s all this is, have a minute, it’s no battle for anyone’s heart or mind.

The ultimate irony in all this of course is that this rebellion, this turning of the tide.  This kick back against the convoluted, orchestrated attack on the pop sensibilities of a nation someone had to orchestrate a convoluted attack on our pop sensibilities, and had to bring in some Yanks to do it.

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