21 December 2009

Fate? Free Will? Facebook?

Before we begin let's just hold in our minds that in the metropolitan area of London there are approx 13 million residents. There are 61 million people in the United Kingdom.

This week 1 million of those people were involved in a tussle over the number one selling song in the United Kingdom this week, the winner would be declared the number one song in the UK on Christmas Day.

I am attempting to provoke a Naked Lunch moment for those of you embroiled in the current "RATM vs. RoboJoe" = "Revolutionary Anger vs. Cow-Like Capitalism" frame of mind. By which I do not mean I am trying to convince you that insect/typewriter hybrids are organising meet-ups with mugwumps. Rather I am, in the strictest sense, trying to get the cultural diner to really appreciate what's on the end of the pop music fork.

As to the actual autopsy of the event within the context which it's been presented I'll leave that to the ever incisive Charlton Brooker. But beyond all the people bickering over the result and the fact that everyone was swelling Sony's coffers are those who wish to urinate on everyone's parade by pointing out that doing what your told because of Facebook is no better than being told what to do by X Factor.

To those meta-meta whiners I would urge you to go into the kitchen, slap on the kettle, and prepare yourself a nice hot cup of shut the fuck up. If you wanted to be more self-serving and pathetic you couldn't possibly have chosen a more irritating, ignorant, deluded and intensely stupefying way of doing it.

I know, I know you wanted to slap those smug Facebook-worshipping goons in the face and point out to them that there's nothing big or clever about organising yourself via a combination of virtual Walls and Twitter tweeting. This only says you have a problem with Facebook and Twitter. So many do, yet they continue to exist, learn to live in harmony or shoot yourselves.

If you wanted some perspective on the whole thing then you might have to go on a journey zooming out from the pop culture phenomenon that sparked the whole incident in the first place. Let's look at X Factor, and if we're going to examine that let's look at the face of X Factor Simon Cowell.

Is Simon Cowell Satan's cousin? No. He's a rich bloke and he got to be a rich bloke by playing a game called: What will pop  music fans buy if I release it as a single? To those of you who think he is "ramming X Factor winners down our throat" because he loves pop for any aesthetic reason I refer you to his efforts to get pop music fans to listen to opera. In aesthetic terms Cowell would probably rather listen to La Traviata than either Killing In The Name or The Climb. He's a game player. Pop music is a game. Business is a game. Pandering to the market is a game with substantial cash rewards. People who moan about his vast wealth because it's aesthetically bankrupt are missing the point mostly because they're most dreadfully, awfully, evilly jealous of what he has managed to make out of what they consider to be mind-numbing anaesthetic for the idiotic masses.

I don't. The man's made money by winning a game. Not only that but pretending that his product sells to "the idiotic masses" leaves aside the fact that if you're using the words "masses" and "majority" as if they're equivalent are woefully misguided. The population of Britain set against the number of people buying the X Factor winner's single in any given year tells us that the majority of the people in Britain couldn't give a flying one. So the masses are not idiotic, or if they are it's not measurable by their music choice.

So, if we take the next step out, Robojoe's win. As I hope I  have made clear I appreciate the game of the X Factor. Not every pop song it produces may be my cup of tea but I appreciate what it is and I think it's jolly good fun. However, even given the narrow margin by which he undersold RATM he undersold Alexandra by even more. All this does is prop up my earlier conclusion that a donkey won the X Factor this year. His appeal next to last year's strong winner is already waning. As a professional and hugely rich game player I believe Cowell knew Robojoe was going to be a One Hit Wonder the minute he won.

Robojoe's loss actually saves him from a worse fate. If he had won the rumours of chart-fixing would have been loud and unfounded. Unfounded or not he would be a pop artist trying his best to battle against a huge drift of ill-sentiment in the wider world. As it is he lost like he should have and the RATM contingent probably wish him no ill-will. Still doesn't mean his career's going to live any longer though.

Zooming out even further. So the two artists in this two horse race are signed to the same record label. The body of commentary upon this fact has grown too large already for me to add anything. So let's skip straight to the people who are doing the slow hand clap and berating the two halves of the "idiotic masses" for buying into the whole shebang.

All these people are saying, in an unpleasant pissy, moany, joy-annihilating fashion is that the whole "machine" by which these campaigns were mobilised are equally terrible, soulless and evil. So imagining that RATM are xenomorphs (AKA Aliens) and the X Factor are Ya'Qui (AKA Predators) who ever wins, we lose.

This presumes that our culture, the means by which we enjoy our culture and the aesthetic tastes of those who participate in that culture are rotten, decadent and necessarily a bad thing. It also, condescendingly, says that the one and only reason why people bought either song was because they were told to; the implication being that no one would listen to either song by choice.

To all thee the smacked-arse of face I congratulate you. You win at arguing on the internet and inherit all the bounty that goes with such a victory. You have successfully pointed out that there are 60 million people who didn't want to participate in this fight and the chances are the majority of them feel no love for the two songs involved. You and Simon Cowell can enjoy the opinion that both are a bit rubbish and not your choice of listening.

And finally, there's the rub. We live in a world where everyone with access to the internet has the means to understand certain things which go spectacularly not understood. Things like, in terms of the population of the UK one million isn't even a tenth. Things like, Simon Cowell is just a person, not evil and not stupid, capable of evil like the rest of us, but just a guy. Get over it. Not only that but he's undeniably clever enough to have more money than I'll probably ever see and if that's how we're living our lives then I guess I have to pay that the respect it's due.

On which final topic, if I am happy tonight, as I am, to go home on the bus, eat some Chicken Fajitas, watch a movie or two, go to  bed, get up tomorrow and do it all again - if I am even able to do that using the tools society has provided to help me live my life - then I implicitly accept that this is the way we are doing things for now.

But that doesn't mean that I am necessarily robbed of my own free will. Maybe I do these things because I have entertained the ideas of those calling for revolution and decided that they're not for me. I am broadly satisfied with much of the way things are done and if I am not I don't like the proposed alternatives any more and am not sufficiently outraged to suggest my own.

I chose not to get involved in the Rage vs. Robojoe fight because I saw worth in both sides and just wanted to know who would win. But I don't reject either Facebookers or X Factor fans because there's room for us all under the sun and all the miserable whiny curmudgeons who want to tell me I've been brainwashed can stick it up their tinfoil hat wearing arses.

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