Finishing top of the charts on Christmas Day is one of the biggest honours that a musician can achieve in the United Kingdom.
For many years, it was an event that the TV show The X Factor had a stranglehold on – the competition finished in December, which coincided with a new release by the winning artist just in time for the Christmas battle.
But no stranglehold can last forever, and in 2009, there was a concerted effort to end the X Factor’s dominance of the coveted Christmas Number One spot.
This effort resulted in an infamous battle which eventually coincided with the rock band Rage Against the Machine winning the battle.
The TV show The X Factor started life in 2004, and from 2005 through to 2008, winners of the talent show always secured the Christmas Number One spot.
The show gave any random Joe the opportunity to become a professional singer, and win a recording contract with creator Simon Cowell’s SyCo music label.
But the X Factor wasn’t universally popular, with some suggesting that the show was ruining the Christmas Number One battle.
With the X Factor getting large audience numbers, it appeared that no one could stop them achieving another Christmas Number One in 2009.
But husband and wife team Jon and Tracy Morter decided to try and take matters into their own hands, and initiated a campaign to try and boot the X Factor off of the top spot.
The duo launched a Facebook campaign, which secured profound interest and publicity. The campaign attracted over 950,000 page likes.
Many stars in the music industry also supported the campaign, with Paul McCartney and the Stereophonics among the most vocal. BBC Radio 1 and NME also supported the campaign.
The inaugural X Factor winner Steve Brookstein – who clearly wasn’t bitter at all about his recent sacking from SyCo – was another vocal supporter.
Eventually, this big campaign was able to sway the public, who voted with their ears – as they propelled “Killing in the Name” by Rage Against the Machine to the Number 1 spot.
The band Rage Against the Machine were chosen to be the figurehead of the campaign due to their name – with the “machine” being seen as the X Factor.
Who won the 2009 X Factor?
Joe McElderry won the 2009 version of the X Factor, but was the unfortunate person to bear the brunt of the public’s disapproval of the X Factor’s dominance of the Christmas Number One spot.
McElderry struggled to launch a successful music career, and has largely fallen off the radar in recent years. He certainly wasn’t helped by these events.
This battle is another example of how no one is “too big” to take on. What seemed to be a tight grip on the Christmas Number One spot was relinquished, with the campaign proving a success.
The X Factor were able to return to the top in subsequent years, though the show’s popularity waned over the 2010s, and Christmas Number One’s seem to be a thing of the past for the show.
Arguably the turning point was the 2009 battle. The X Factor is currently on a hiatus, though could return again in the future.