“The world’s greatest music democracy” aka Triple J’s Hottest 100 countdown

Winston Churchill once said that “democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the other forms”. And if you have no clue who The Man was, it doesn’t matter. It’s important, though, that you understand what democracy is. Because in this post I’ll explain to you how Australian public/music fans democratically curate a playlist of 100 hottest songs played on air the previous year. By participating in the Triple J’s open voting called Hottest 100.

Part 28A OF “AM I EVER GONNA SEE YOUR FACE AGAIN?” A RANDOM COLLECTION OF UNKNOWINGLY OBVIOUS FACTS ABOUT AUSTRALIAN MUSIC SCENE

For a change, this post is structured as a typical FAQ, so you can easily go to the question/section that interests you. And since I have a tendency to write a lot, that way we can keep this both informative and to the point. So here we go.

WHAT IS HOTTEST 100?

It is a countdown of 100 songs chosen by the voting public from all the songs played on Triple J in a particular year (i.e. in 2020 the countdown will showcase songs from 2019 etc.).

HOW MANY TIMES HAS THE COUNTDOWN BEEN ORGANISED SO FAR?

There have been 26 countdowns so far. This year will be the 27th.

HOW DID IT ALL START?

A Triple J producer had the idea in 1988 to organise a ranking of all-time best songs, chosen by the listeners. He “borrowed” it from a community radio in Brisbane which almost led to a court case.

Initially it was only available in Sydney but then expanded to the rest of the country.

The first countdown happened in 1989. The first three years were all focused on the same thing: people voting for their favourite songs of all time. So it got pretty boring as people don’t change their mind every year in that respect.

That’s why the countdown was retired for 1992 and it came back in 1993 in a new format that we know today.

WHO CAN VOTE?

Anybody who is an Aussie music fan, also from overseas, and who registers on the website can vote. That includes the general public, the artists themselves and Triple J presenters as well. Obvs, musos don’t vote for their own songs – that would be unfair and dumb 🙂

HOW CAN I VOTE?

In the past voters would send in their picks as letters or written on different objects to the radio station. Later on the system was changed to phoning-in and texting-in. Nowadays, the voting is done online by registering on Triple J’s website.

  • Cheating hint: If you have more than one email address, you can submit your list of favourites more than ones. I might have “accidentally” done this as well 🙂 Not that I encourage it, I’m just sayin’…

HOW MANY SONGS CAN I VOTE FOR?

You can shortlist all the songs you fancy. But the list that you’ll finally submit can only have 10 songs. You can also vote for less than that but why would you? 🙂

DOES THE ORDER OF MY SUBMITTED SONGS MATTER?

Yes and no. You can submit them in any order because – ultimately – the number of votes any song gets decides about its final place in the countdown. However, you can also tell Triple J which song you’re tipping as the one that should be the no. 1.

HOW MANY SONGS DO I CHOOSE FROM?

All songs aired on triple J in the previous year are open to voting. That means that artists can have more than one song listed, according to the number of singles they released in that period.

All tracks are listed in alphabetical order, by the first letter of the act’s moniker/stage name.

CAN I VOTE FOR TWO SONGS BY THE SAME ARTIST?

There are no restrictions on that. You can vote for as many songs by the same act as you like.

ARE ONLY AUSTRALIAN SONGS ELIGIBLE FOR BEING VOTED?

No, both Australian and songs by international artists are considered.

WHAT IS GREENING AUSTRALIA?

It is a “green” organisation that Triple J has partnered with this time (2019) in order to highlight climate change and ways to combat it. Whilst voting, you can donate to the charity.

Triple J chooses different organisations every year, trying to bring awareness to many issues affecting or important to young people in Australia as this is the radio station’s primary target group.

WHEN DOES THE VOTING START AND FINISH?

Every year Triple J announces the relevant dates on their platforms in December.

For 2019 the start was 16 December 2019 and it closed on 20 January 2020.

WHAT IS THE GOLDEN TICKET?

When you vote, you enter a draw for the “Golden Ticket”. It gives you and a mate of yours entry to ALL Triple J supported events for the whole year, i.e. individual acts’ gigs or festivals like Falls, Splendour In The Grass, Laneway, Spilt Milk etc. Awesome!

WHEN DOES THE COUNTDOWN TAKE PLACE?

Initially, it always took place on Australia Day (26 January). However, due to the discussions about the meaning of that holiday for Aboriginal people (unlike the White Australia, they see it as “Invasion” or “Survival” Day) and talks of moving it to a different date, Triple J did its own research.

Wide consultations with the parties in question were carried out, including conducting a listener survey in which 60 % of the participants were in favour of moving the countdown’s date.

Based on the combined results Triple J decided to move Hottest 100 to the fourth weekend in January.

The 100-1 countdown always takes place on Saturday. There’s also a countdown of songs that “nearly” made it: 200-101 a day later, on Sunday.

WHAT IS THE HOTTEST 100 COUNTDOWN PARTY?

A lot of venues in Australia organise special events on the countdown day, so you can follow it together with your mates sipping a bevvy (or two).

WHEN IS THE COUNTDOWN IN 2020?

This year the countdown is on Saturday, 25 January. It starts at 12 pm (Melbourne time) and lasts until the evening, with the top 10 songs being revealed around 8pm.

HOW CAN I LISTEN TO THE COUNTDOWN?

If you’re in Australia, tune in to Triple J at home or in your car on the day.

If you’re overseas or prefer it a different way, you can go online or use their app.

WHAT ACTS HAVE BEEN NO. 1’S OVER THE YEARS?

Here is a playlist with all no.1’s, starting with the most recent one (from 2018).

Out of the 26 countdowns, Aussie artists have won 16 times.

WHAT IS THE MUSIC GENRE THAT HAS DOMINATED THE COUNTDOWN OVER THE YEARS?

Different genres have been represented over the years but rock/indie/alternative music seem to have been the dominant ones.

ARE MALE AND FEMALE ACTS EQUALLY REPRESENTED IN THE COUNTDOWN?

The Hottest 100 history shows general female underrepresentation which is a wider trend in the music business in Australia (and overseas).

In 2017, for instance, only 16 songs were by female artists.

When it comes to winners, only 15% of the 26 acts have included a woman (either as a vocalist or featured artist). They are: The Cranberries in 1994, Angus & Julia Stone in 2010, Gotye with Kimbra in 2011 and Flume with Kai in 2016.

Despite the underrepresentation in the musicians’ group, more women (53%) than men voted in 2018.

HOW MANY VOTES ARE CAST ON AVERAGE?

In 2018 a record was broken again: over 2.75 million votes were cast. That doesn’t mean, however, that so many people vote.

WHAT ARE SOME FUN FACTS FROM THE COUNTDOWN’S HISTORY?

  • In 1994 The Offspring score first back to back songs in the countdown, with Self-Esteem at no.3 and Come Out And Play at no.4.
  • The Cranberries with Zombie were the first group with a female vocalist to win the no. 1 song, also in 1994.
  • Spiderbait were the first Aussie act to win with Buy Me A Pony in 1996.
  • Powderfinger won twice and twice in a row: with These Days in 1999 & Happiness in 2000). They are the only act to have ever achieved that so far.
  • Powderfinger score 3 songs in the top 10 in 2003. Chet Faker / Nick Murphy matched that record in 2014.
  • In 2005 Wolfmother score 6 songs in the whole countdown – an undefeated record so far.
  • Also in 2005 Bernard Fanning (Powderfinger’s singer) won as a solo artist with Wish You Well. Which means he has won 3 times to date (twice with the band).
  • In 2007 Knights of Cydonia by Muse beat Silverchair’s Straight Lines by only 14 votes.
  • The highest ranked cover song has made it to no. 5 twice: Spiderbait’s Black Betty (originally by Ram Jam) in 2004 and Boy & Bear Fall At Your Feet (originally by Crowded House) in 2010.
  • Somebody That I Used To Know by Gotye and Kimbra is the first winning collaboration.
  • In 2012 Thrift Shop by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis was the first hip hop track to reach no.1.
  • In the same year the first 4 songs were all by debutantes.
  • Vance Joy was the first Unearthed artist to reach no.1 in 2013.
  • Between 2013 – 2016 4 Aussie acts won in a row: Vance Joy, Chet Faker, The Rubens, Flume.
  • 66 was the highest number of Aussie acts in the countdown which happened in 2016.
  • Kendrick Lamar was the first African American winner in 2017.
  • Powderfinger (as a band) had 22 songs in the countdown throughout the years.
  • Robert Smith appeared 34 times in Hottest 100 with The Cure and other collaborations.
  • In 2018 there were only songs from English speaking countries (AUS, US, UK, NZ, CAN).
  • Also the same year 3 underaged artists made it to the countdown: Ruel, Billie Eilish and Kian.

WHICH SONG WON HOTTEST 100 FOR 2018?

Ocean Alley with their song Confidence were the winners.

WHICH OTHER SONGS MADE IT TO TOP 10 FOR 2018?

Here they are:

  1. Ocean Alley Confidence
  2. Fisher Losing It
  3. Travis Scott Sicko Mode
  4. Childish Gambino This Is America
  5. Amy Shark I Said Hi
  6. Dean Lewis Be Alright
  7. Mallrat Groceries
  8. Billie Eilish When The Party’s Over
  9. Ruby Fields Dinosaurs
  10. Ocean Alley Knees

HOW DID THE PRESENTERS / ARTISTS / LISTENERS VOTE IN 2018?

The majority of the presenters didn’t nail the winning 10. Out of the 20 that shared their votes some of them chose Travis Scott, Childish Gambino, Fisher & Ruby Fields who all made it to Top 10. None of them chose Ocean Alley’s Confidence song at all.

Some of the artists that shared their votes were The Rubens, Kwame, Ruel, Wafia, Alison Wonderland, G Flip, Ball Park Music, Churches, Billie Eilish. From the acts that made it to Top 10 the musicians mostly voted for Childish Gambino, Travis Scott and Mallrat. Tash Sultana included Ocean Alley’s Confidence in their chosen songs. Ocean Alley (who won) themselves and Fisher (who was no.2) didn’t tip any of the songs that made it to Top 10.

The listeners were the closest to the truth. Out of 13 people who shared their votes, 9 chose at least one act who made it to Top 10. Most votes went to Childish Gambino & Billie Eilish. One girl got 3 Top 10 artists right. Another one, named Katherine Kelly, correctly tipped Ocean Alley’s Confidence as no.1.

WHAT ABOUT THE PREDICTIONS FOR 2019?

We’ll find out soon but here are my votes – twice because I couldn’t make up my mind. Soz, I know it’s unfair but there were too many good songs in 2019.

On the positive side, though, I included 20 completely different songs, giving 19 (Billie Eilish appears twice) a chance to be no. 1 potentially.

And I have a good feeling about Adrian Eagle’s A.O.K. as a potential no.1. Followed closely by Billie Eilish’s bad guy or Slowly Slowly’s Jellyfish.

I’ll try and Tweet the results, so follow me on Twitter here.

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