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Single Review: Joe McElderry – The Climb

Joe McElderry - The Climb

Rage Against the Machine for Christmas number one? The early week indications aren’t looking so bad, you know? They’re ahead in a few places (Amazon, iTunes all due to mp3 downloads), but when the physical CD from the X Factor winner is released on Wednesday, it’ll be a very different story. Expect them to fly off the shelves to be buried deep in stockings on Friday week.

‘Killing in the Name Of’ won’t be number one, nor will the Muppets covering ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, so I thought I’d take some time to have a look at, and a listen to what will be the Christmas Number 1 for 2009.

Some people have said “who cares about the Christmas number 1 anyway?” Obviously a lot of people do, as evidenced by the facebook RATM campaign, and the fact that Joe McElderry will go on to sell nearly a million copies of his debut single, ‘The Climb’.

I listed the original version of the song as one of my top pop songs of the decade, and rightly so. It’s not a song aimed at those of you who love the anti-war lyrics of Rage and the growl of Zach De La Rocha, it’s aimed at tweens, teens, and mums. If you like Westlife, you probably love Joe McElderry, the cutie-pie dimpled teen who won this year’s X Factor with almost two-thirds of the final vote. Sunday’s final had ten million votes or so, which means almost seven million of those were for GeordieJoe [sic]. Say half of them rang in twice for him, bringing that number down to somewhere nearer five million (before you correct my maths here, by half I mean 50% + (50%/2) = 75%, which I then rounded down, just in case they voted a third time). If one in five of those then buys the single, it’s a definite number one. Any week of the year. The phonecall itself cost 80p, and the single £1, so I’m being very conservative. Forget about Rage Against the Machine, Joe McElderry will be number one. Definitely.

But is the song any good? Sort of. It’s probably better than runner-up Olly didn’t win and have to sing it, it’s not his kind of tune (he’ll be dancing up the charts next year, mark my words). Joe’s version is everything you’d expect it to be. As clean and toothpaste. Joe is a return to the non-threatening High School Musical ideals rather than 2008/9′s weird Twilight phenomenon with its sexual undercurrents.

Joe, whose sexuality has been of much interest to the internet (and gossip magazines), is almost asexual. He’s non predatory, the kind of guy your grandmother would like. A total softie. Don’t get me wrong, he seems like a nice guy, really humble and grateful, but his imminent Christmas number one suffers because of this: it’s decidely middle of the road. Even when the choir kicks in at the end.

I never thought I’d be saying this, but Miley Cyrus’s version is better. Much better, a million times better. Her voice isn’t as polished and smooth as Joe’s (who is always note perfect, check out his performance after the results where he came back perfectly despite being interrupted by the awful Rachel Adedeji). Miley has a gruff, raw edge to her voice which really brings something to the song – about a difficult journey – something you can believe she has had. Joe’s most difficult journey on the other hand was probably down to the shop and back in his hometown of South Shields.

Judge Dannii Minogue said about his performance on the night “It was a beautiful performance and it was effortless. it was beautiful. Something happens when you hit those top notes… I get tingles.” For once, Dannii is totally right, she didn’t realise it, but she’s right. One word: “Effortless”. That’s what the song lacks. Urgency. It’s a great song, fantastically written, but Joe’s take on it is just too easy. It’s like being massaged into submission. But then again, that’s what a lot of people want. A young sexless crooner for the masses? If he doesn’t find some edge with his next few songs, and with his album, that’s what he’ll be. The adoptive child of Daniel O’Donnell and Cliff Richard.

Watch Joe McElderry singing ‘The Climb’ on Sunday’s results show:

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