Monday, 13 December 2010

Christmas Number 1

Yep, it's christmas. Which means, we have a 'race' for Christmas Number 1. So I thought I'd have a look at the contenders.

Now, last year, the bland, instantly forgettable Joe McElderry was pushed into 2nd spot by a concerted campaign led by Facebook users, to get 'Killing In The Name' by Rage against the Machine to the top spot. It worked. And, I reckon it worked because it appealed to a large audience. Rock fans went for it, and the lyrics seemed to make a point. 'F-You, I won't do what you tell me'. Well, apart from buy the Rage single.

So, I guess it was inevitable that this year a similar thing would happen, or at least be attempted. But, before we look at the competition, we should see what this years favourite is. It's by Matt Cardle, the winner of the X-Factor, a nice, likable and more-talented-than-last-year chap. He's singing 'When We Collide', a cover of a Biffy Clyro song. Except it's not called 'When We Collide'. Clearly Simon Cowell thought this was more marketable than the correct title 'Many of Horror'. The arrogance of the man to assume he can change the name because he doesn't like him is, I suggest, one of the main reasons people seem to have it in for the X-factor. However, it's a pleasant tune, if over-produced to the level of blandness, and it should shift half a million copies or so. Incidentally, the link above is for the live show version, which is better than the dull recording. Just.

As far as the main contenders are concerned, I'd suggest that way out in front is the campaign to get "Surfin' Bird"the 1963 hit by 'The Trashmen' to the top spot. It's got over 600,000 followers on Facebook, and got a good head start. It's playing it for fun, there's certainly no political message here. Fact is, some people want a fun novelty record at number 1 this christmas, and good luck to them.

Another contender would be the re-recording of 4'33" by John Cage. A bit pretentious perhaps, but the idea that Radio 1's chart show would have to play 4 and a half minutes of silence, in place of an X-factor tune, is quite amusing. Proceeds go to a variety of charities, but with only 80,000 facebook fans, I reckon they left it too late.

Since the X-factor final, it would appear that Biffy Clyro fans have got upset. The original 'Many of Horror' is doing very well in the chart, with a fair few people wanting it to do better than the X-factor cover. One thing that is certain, it's going to be a Merry Christmas for Biffy Clyro's accountants and bank manager, one way or the other.

If you fancy an outside bet, Corey Taylor, frontman of Slipknot (the bloody excellent American metal band) has relased a christmas song, with the profits going to the Teenage Cancer Trust. A bit of fruity language might well keep this one out of the headlines, but for a Christmas hater like myself, the lyrics to X-M @ $ sum up the mood perfectly. Give it a listen, better still buy it and make it a Happy Christmas for a good charity. Just don't play it in front of the kids.

So, who's going to win? I'd bet heavily on X-Factor. I suspect last year was a one off, and at this stage the other runners are being trounced by the X-Factor single, which went straight to Number 1 on iTunes on pre-orders. Astonishing, that people pre-ordered a single, without knowing who was singing it or what the song was, based on the TV show it was on. Whatever. I won't be buying it, and by January I'll have forgotten all about it.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Student fees

I'm sat watching the tuition fees debate.

Whether you agree with increased tuition fees or not, there's some straightforward facts about the new proposals.

* The students pay nothing before they go to university
* The students pay nothing unless they are earning over £21,000 per year, compared to the current £15,000.
* Part time students will also be entitled to deferred fees, unlike at present
* On a salary of £21k, the annual repayments will be around £270/year
* After 30 years, the fees will be written off if not repaid
* If you lose your job, or leave work, you pay back nothing.

I think that's a good deal. In many ways, better than at present.

What irritates me, is the number of people complaining and protesting without knowing any of these facts, egged on by a Labour party who implemented the Browne report that effectively recommended these proposals, and have no fixed, sensible alternative proposals. I support anyone's right to protest, but you should do this based on a sound knowledge of the facts and not on something you heard in the pub. Furthermore, the argument that lower class people are going to be put off higher education because of the fees is surely not true - the proposals above mean that anyone can still go to university from a poor background, because the fee payments will only apply afterwards, if they earn a better wage - in theory - than they would earn without going to university.

As a Liberal, clearly it bothers me that we are, rightly, taking a battering for changing our minds. But the alternative is the break up of the coalition, another election, and either a Labour government who will continue as they left off and plunge our country further into debt, or a pure Tory government who will make deeper cuts, unchecked by a Liberal influence.

It would, of course, be very helpful if the press and media would concentrate on reporting the facts, and not on concentrating on reporting how angry everyone is. Right now, there is an excellent debate taking place in the house of commons, yet the main news channels are showing the protests and clashes with the police.

When our country is back on it's feet, I wish to see an increase in investment in higher education. Right now, I reckon this is a decent proposal, that's been amended for the better.