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Tuesday, 29 January 2019

Eight things about triple j's 2018 Hottest 100

The Hottest 100 has been run and won. Cue people complaining about this song beating that song, or how the winner wasn't worthy or whatever, or how triple j only plays shit these days and how much better it was 10/15/20/25 years ago.

But whether you love it or hate it, triple j's annual countdown is a snapshot of where young Australia is at musically. So let's deep dive into the 2018 list and see what it says.

The kids are alright

The majority of complaints about the Hottest 100 come from people over the age of 24. Why is this number significant? 60 per cent of voters are under 24, and 80 per cent are under 30. So if you don't agree with the countdown, it's more than likely you're not the target demographic of triple j anymore, nor are you in the age bracket of the majority of voters. With Double J replaying the Hottest 100 of 1998 the following day, you can guarantee every single person indicating a preference for the '98 countdown was over the age of at least 24 but probably 30. It's fine not to agree with the list, but so many haters need to take a step back and think about whether they're the target audience any more and just how the list is formulated, ie. by tens of thousands of young people expressing their opinions about the music they like.

Topping and tailing

Ocean Alley pulled off a rare feat by placing at #100 and #1 in the countdown. This has only happened once before - Powderfinger did it in 1999 with These Days at #1 and Passenger at #100. That year, Powderfinger had four songs in the poll; the same amount as Ocean Alley. Four other bands have won while having four songs in the countdown - Kings Of Leon (2008), Chet Faker (2014), Flume (2016) and Kendrick Lamar (2017). The only band to win and score more songs in a Hottest 100 is Queens Of The Stone Age. When they topped the poll in 2002 with No One Knows, they had five tracks from their monster album Songs For The Deaf in the countdown.

Guitars are still a thing

A common complaint about the Hottest 100 (and triple j in general) is the lack of guitars heard these days. So least test that out. Seven of the top 10 featured guitars, five of those prominently. In terms of "proper guitar music", I'd say at least 30 tracks fall into that category. Sure it's down from the peak of six strings back in 1998, but guitar music, and by extension rock, is far from dead on triple j.

Slowing down and getting sad

My colleagues at the ABC put together this fascinating distillation of the changing face of the Hottest 100. The tl;dr version (you really should read it though) is that the average tempo of songs in the countdown is slowing down and the tunes are getting mellower and sadder, yet they are also getting more danceable. Rock is declining, with indie taking its place. Throw in all the down-tempo electronica and pop getting around and you can see the trend. Also, I just wanna point out I noticed last year that yacht rock was on the rise and bam, Ocean Alley won. Just sayin'.

2018 vs 1998

Aside from rock loosening its stranglehold on the countdown, there was a really noticeable difference between the 2018 Hottest 100 and the 1998 one which sister station Double J played the following day - a sense of humour. Novelty songs have pretty much disappeared from triple j all together, but even having a wink and nod at the audience is almost unheard of these days. 1998 was obviously topped by a song having a laugh (The Offspring's Pretty Fly For A White Guy) but scan through the list and the LOLs abound - Custard, Regurgitator, They Might Be Giants, the multitude of tunes from South Park's Chef Aid soundtrack, Eskimo Joe, Barenaked Ladies, Harvey Danger, TISM, Adam Sandler, Frenzal Rhomb, and Pauline Pantsdown were all having a giggle at various parts in the poll. There are no such rib-ticklers in the 2018 countdown. When did music get so serious?

Something for the oldies

So the demographic of triple j is under 24, but the bands are getting younger too. As this triple j breakdown notes, there were a bunch of teenagers in the 2018 Hottest 100 - 16-year-old Kian (at #20 with Waiting), 16-year-old Ruel (#87 Younger and #89 Dazed & Confused), and 17-year-old Billie Eilish (#8 When The Party's Over, #17 Lovely, #46 You Should See Me In A Crown). But what about the veterans? Hilltop Hoods, who first appeared in the poll way back in 2003, had their 18th and 19th entries (which isn't far behind all-time leaders Foo Fighters and Powderfinger on 22 songs), Kanye West and Arctic Monkeys (first appearances: 2005) scraped in at #98 and #95 respectively, while The Wombats and The Presets (first appearance: 2007) were back again.

100 Warm Tunas is still an inexact science

As I mentioned in this prediction blog about the Hottest 100, social media aggregator 100 Warm Tunas is one of the best indicators of what is going to go down on Hottest 100 Day. But it's far from perfect. While it nailed #1, it was way off in other places. It had Luca Brasi's Clothes I Slept In at #28 (it was #118), Trophy Eyes' You Can Count On Me at #27 (it was #93), and Waax's Labrador at #23 (it was #88). For what it's worth, all of those songs are on the heavier/rockier end of the musical spectrum. It did get seven of the top 10 correct, although only one was in the right spot (to be fair that was the all-important #1). Still, they did better than me - I only picked five of the top 10, with none in the right spot.

Where were the winners?

Last year, six previous winners returned to the countdown. This year only three champions were back for more - The Rubens, Kendrick Lamar, and Vance Joy. But there are a couple of good winning streaks still running at the moment. Peking Duk and DMA’s have racked up songs in the past five countdowns, which puts them halfway towards The Living End’s 10-year streak (appearing consecutively from 1997 to 2006). Meanwhile Amy Shark, Cub Sport, Tash Sultana, Thundamentals, Vera Blue, and Drake have all had songs in the past three countdowns.

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