Monday, December 21, 2009

Rage Against The Bullshit: Caring just isn't popular

This weekend has delivered us a bogus triumph in Rage Against The Machine's Killing In The Name taking the top spot for Christmas in UK over the winner of Simon Cowell's popcraptic X-Factor. Don't get me wrong, I actually love Killing In The Name and have done so since I first heard it in 1993, however my love for that song has never been able to blur the reality that the band, and most of their fans are a bunch of blowhards.

With the likes of Muse, John Lydon, Dave Grohl and Paul McCartney on board in support of this "grassroots" campaign for real music to triumph over pop garbage, on the surface it seems like a sincere campaign, one that I theoretically support, nay, is something I'm always screaming about. But I am quite stunned to find nobody addressing the fact that Rage Against The Machine are on the same label, Sony/BMG, as X-Factor winner, Joe McElderry. Regardless of the outcome of this supposed battle, Sony/BMG come out the biggest winners, the very people who perpetuate the pop crap that we are supposed to be "raging" against. Why couldn't all these same people jump behind something on an independent label? This was a pathetic fight also when you consider they had to pull out an already much loved song to meet the challenge.

Many well known artists in recent years have moved to smaller, independent labels so why not draw from that pool in this effort to buck the system? No instead we have mostly acts on major labels boo-hooing about the pop crap their co-conspirators foisted upon us. Can it be any more absurd than a band called Rage Against The Machine trying to buck a machine which they are a part of and have become millionaires from? The mind boggles.

@Neil_Hamburger summed it up on Twitter with this image and comment, "Rage Against The Machine's grassroots campaign to have a #1 hit worked thanks to these heroic idealists."

What this whole thing does prove is that any kind of promotion can get anything to be popular. Major labels put out this pop crap because they simply don't care about music and with enough promotion, it sells. There was a time when people in the record industry did care about music and consequently, there was a mixture of stuff in the charts. I'm sure there was a huge portion of people who bought into this "Make Rage #1" scheme who also bought that X-Factor single last year. You can't really misplace your values when you have none.

This brings us to the problem of popularity. Various causes tend to start out small with a small number of people truly committed to solving whatever problem they are invested in. Once these causes gain enough buzz, be it from a celebrity endorsement or the media enforcing guilt, people start to care. Or at least thinking they do.

I truly believe that there is actually a very low number of people who really care that much about anything. When causes like the environment, fur, supporting our troops or raging against the establishment gains more than a certain number of followers, you can be sure that the majority of apparent followers don't really give a crap. Lip service might be the most popular cause of them all. Fur was a huge no-no in the 90s, but now you see all the same models like Cindy Crawford unashamedly wearing it today, despite speaking out against it and despite the fact that the animals are still tortured for their skin just the same. It was hip then and now it's not. The reality of what goes on in fur production could never have penetrated Cindy's pea brain or else she would not be able to casually go back to supporting that horrific industry.

Cindy Crawford: Conveniently caring about animal torture

The same is true for Rage Against The Machine fans. The band's overtly politically charged messages certainly resonate with their fans...or at least the fans think they do. They're usually too dumb to realise that they are simply justifying the glee they get from their aggressive music with the lyrics contained, despite the fact that they never gave a crap about anything they sang about before and few will look any further than the confines of those lyrics for more ways to buck the system.

I found myself seeing Rage Against The Machine live two years ago at The Big Day Out in Melbourne. I had left their shows twice before in my life after being there to see other bands. This time I was at this festival to see Björk and would have left again but as I was with my friend who was there to see Rage who were headlining, so I had to stay. My friend for a long time, got a great gleam in her eye when talking about RATM. I get it. Their music can trigger latent aggression and people like to get that shit out. Fine. But then she went on to explain why Rage were so much more important than all these other bands because "Their songs are actually about something. Not just about bullshit." If you'd heard her, you might have been moved. If you'd known her it would have been quite a different story.

This person has mocked me for my interest in politics. When Bush was elected in 2004, she laughed in my face, even after knowing I'd volunteered for John Kerry. She wasn't pro Bush, but just thought the whole thing was a joke like my football team not winning. She flat out told me a number of times that my caring about various issues was "a waste of time" accompanied by much eye rolling. Now suddenly she was moved by Rage's message, all the while still not actually caring about anything. When Zach De La Rocha made some anti-Bush sentiments from the stage, I saw my friend put her fist in the air and say "Yeah!" Lip service triumphs again. This same person is obsessed with Britney Spears, a shining beacon of what's wrong with the "machine" that Rage is supposedly raging against. My friend stands as a perfect example of lacking of beliefs and ideals which make any trendy cause, positive or negative, most likely that, a trend, not a cause.

I'm sorry, but I just don't believe it's possible for a mob this large to solidly care about anything more than their ability to hit the McDonald's drive-thru after the show

After Rage left the stage before the encore, some guys had climbed up a tree to get a better view. A suit came out and said into the microphone "If you don't get down, the band will not come back out," and apparently the band was compliant in this request. The angry mob turned to them and shouted at them to get the fuck down, my friend included. "Fuck you, I wont do what you tell me", anyone? I sighed. I said to her "Are you serious? The mob are just doing what 'the man' said. The guys in the tree are the ones 'raging against the machine'" "Oh yeah!" she exclaimed. She was delighted and switched over to support Team Tree. We are no longer friends.
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