Rage Against the Machine snowed on teenager Joe McElderry's Christmas parade, as the results of the unlikely battle for the U.K.'s prestigious festive No. 1 single were confirmed on Sunday evening (Dec. 20).
The news was the culmination of an orchestrated campaign by hundreds of thousands of members of a Facebook group aimed at getting the hard rock band's 1992 track "Killing In The Name" (Epic/Sony Music Entertainment) to the yuletide summit, ahead of "X Factor" winner McElderry's cover of Miley Cyrus' "The Climb" on another Sony Music Entertainment label, series creator Simon Cowell's Syco Music.
The raucous track, perhaps one of the most improbable Christmas No. 1s in a market where the honor was keenly fought before "X Factor" winners became all-powerful, sold over 500,000 copies. McElderry's single was relegated to No. 2 despite selling 450,000 units, which would be easily enough to top the British chart in almost any other week.
"Killing In The Name" is the U.K.'s first-ever download-only Christmas No. 1, and the fastest-selling download in history. But while some online retailers such as iTunes were selling both tracks for 99p ($1.60) last week, others including Amazon.co.uk had each available for a mere 29p (47 cents).
The head-to-head contest became increasingly acrimonious as the sales week progressed, with Cowell, McElderry and other members of the talent series expressing their distaste for the track and the campaign behind it. "The Climb" was available as a download almost as soon as McElderry won the 2009 "X Factor" final Dec. 13, and many had assumed that with the added availability of a CD version from Wednesday (Dec. 16), the singer from the north-east of England would overturn Rage Against The Machine's early sales lead.
His failure to do so may be partly due to adverse weather conditions keeping many shoppers away from the high street in recent days, but in any case, the development breaks a sequence in which "X Factor" winners have had the U.K.'s Christmas No. 1 for the last four years, beginning with Shayne Ward in 2005 and continuing with Leona Lewis, Leon Jackson and Alexandra Burke.
Rage Against The Machine are donating a substantial portion of profits from the track to the homeless charity Shelter, and say they will now make good on a promise to play a big free show in the U.K. during 2010 if the song went to No. 1. "Killing In The Name" was the first single from RATM's debut album and reached No. 25 in the U.K. chart in March 1993. Cyrus' original version of "The Climb" peaked at No. 11 here in May, and re-entered the new chart at No. 31.
"As we've seen in recent years, overhauling any "X Factor" winner in the race for the Christmas No. 1 is no mean achievement," commented Official Charts Company managing director Martin Talbot. "But congratulations too should also go to Joe McElderry [who] has still achieved one of the highest weekly sales of any single this year...through this week, these two tracks have accounted for more than 950,000 single sales, which is truly remarkable."
Steve Wheeler, GM of leading e-tailer recordstore.co.uk, added that "Killing In The Name" becoming the U.K.'s first-ever download-only Christmas No. 1 "shows that when the increasingly digital-savvy, progressive-minded public band together, they can change things without needing the huge media campaign that "X Factor" has benefited from.
"The battle has also been a great success for encouraging people to get to grips with [legal] downloads. 'Killing In The Name' has registered as No. 1 with the majority of download retailers, including iTunes, Amazon, Play, Recordstore, HMV and Nokia, and registered in third, fourth and fifth position on 7 Digital, where single, album and live versions all available."
Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance" (Interscope/Universal), No. 1 on last week's singles chart, fell to No. 3, while 3OH!3 featuring Katy Perry scored a No. 5 debut with "Starstrukk" (Photo Finish/Asylum/Warner Music). Robbie Williams climbed 15-6 with "You Know Me" (Virgin/EMI) and "3 Words" (Fascination/Polydor/Universal) by Cheryl Cole featuring will.i.am 14-7. Journey's time-honored "Don't Stop Believin'" (Columbia/Sony Music Entertainment), which has been much-covered by "X Factor" contestants and climbed back to No. 19 last month, reached another new peak, leaping 52-9 to become the band's first-ever U.K. top ten hit.
"I Dreamed a Dream" (Syco Music/Sony Music Entertainment) started a fourth week atop the album chart for Susan Boyle. Michael Bublé's "Crazy Love" (Reprise/Warner Music) and Black Eyed Peas' "The E.N.D. (The Energy Never Dies)" (Interscope/Universal) climbed back a place each to No. 2 and No. 3.
Boyle's album is currently in a second week atop Billboard's European Albums, while the European Hot 100 Singles leader, for a third week, is Black Eyed Peas' "Meet Me Halfway."