25 January 2022

Am I old, or is the Triple J Hottest 100 not what it used to be?

| Zoya Patel
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The Wiggles

Does winning the Triple J Hottest 100 make the Wiggles the hottest rockers in the country? Probably not. Photo: The Wiggles.

Like many of my peers, I was a fan of Triple J as a young person. I would listen to the radio in my older sister’s bedroom from when I was 12 or 13 and have my fingers poised over the cassette tape record button to grab copies of songs that I loved.

Eventually, when I had a Nokia mobile phone at age 17, I would text in requests under a fake name for music from indie Australian bands I loved.

My first car had multiple Triple J bumper stickers, and I religiously followed the Hottest 100, Home and Hosed program, and kept an eye on Unearthed to find out about new and emerging artists. In my 20s, I was a regular writer for street press, including BMA and Faster Louder. I got to interview many incredible Australian musicians and bands and attend many, many gigs and festivals.

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I say this to preface what I’m sure will be an unpopular opinion, but one I know is shared by at least a few others on the internet, based on the reporting following this year’s Hottest 100 results.

My question is: does the Hottest 100, and Triple J more generally, have a different purpose from when I was younger, or am I just officially old and out of touch? (To clarify, I’m 32.)

Triple J has always held a place as an alternative station that championed Aussie artists, emerging, underground, indie and alternative music from here and overseas, and that generally existed to provide a forum for music that would be less likely to reach a large or mainstream audience than pop music that could be heard regularly on commercial stations.

I’m still a Triple J listener (though not as religiously as I once was), and I know that the station still champions Aussie artists. But every year, I watch the trend of songs in the Hottest 100 move further and further towards mainstream pop, with big-name international artists vying for a top 10 position, and fewer and fewer homegrown artists and their music making the cut. I find myself pondering whether it’s the chicken or the egg, or indeed the hatchery that is driving this change.

Are Australian listeners not interested in the same music as they once were? Has digital streaming changed the way we listen to and discover music? Is Triple J now operating in a more mainstream space than it did in years gone by? Is the Hottest 100 now a site for joke voting (hello, Wiggles), or has it reached such a large audience now that the voting skews towards musicians with commercial success?

Or am I just another out of touch millennial fixating on a nostalgic fantasy of the past being somehow more authentic and connected to the cutting edge of music, and projecting my own baggage onto the playlist?

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I remember in 2015 when the biggest controversy in Australian music was whether or not people should be able to vote for Taylor Swift in the Hottest 100. The overwhelming feeling was that for the pop star to win would be against the very ethos and purpose of the list, which was designed to celebrate and reflect the music that Triple J fans loved over the past year.

The implication inherent to this was that big-name pop stars should not and would not genuinely achieve a position on the Hottest 100 without fans deliberately setting out to hijack the platform because the tastes of Hottest 100 voters didn’t generally incorporate Swift or her ilk.

In 2022, though, artists like Doja Cat and Olivia Rodrigo had multiple songs on the list, showing that the status of the Hottest 100 has undoubtedly changed. Is there less indie and alternative music being made? Or are we just listening to it less? Or is the time of the Triple J-listening, pretentious music snob/hipster type officially over?

If anyone needs me, I’ll be listening to Double J, with my music-snob tail between my legs.

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Is pop-music really the ONLY music this board wants to recognise and promote? Folk music, country, let alone classical!!!! ?

Thank you sir for your eloquent reply. I had to sleep on my response. The fact that you went to two Wiggles concerts while I went to one suggests that if your son was not a fan then the only alternative is that you enjoyed the antics of Dorothy the Dinosaur and Captain Feathersword and had an interest in Australian vehicles in the form of the Big Red Car – which looks remarkably like the vehicle driven by Noddy. My excuse is I have a demanding daughter, and a wife who insisted I attend the concert on pain of…..well being married to her (so much pain over thirty plus years). If you will please excuse me I have an appointment with my therapist for unresolved father attending children concerts issues.

Simon Cobcroft8:02 pm 27 Jan 22

Most young people’s reaction to this – sorry, what’s radio?

Simon, I think what you really mean is that if you were any older you would be curmudgeonly. When I have a rave (meaning a chat not an event) like yours my wife quickly reminds me of younger days, calls me a curmudgeon and walks off…..

Simon Cobcroft5:21 pm 27 Jan 22

Yes, nothing speaks to the youth of today quite like a cover of a 2012 song sung by a group that makes white bread look dangerous. I actually experienced this very same dire vision back in the Eighties in a pub in Newcastle when I grimly thought The Cockroaches may indeed, one day inherit the Earth.

Who’s to blame? Well, Triple J, have generally been on the wrong side of history with most of the Hottest 100. Dennis Leary instead of Radiohead, Offspring instead of Massive Attack, Angus & Julia Stone instead of The Hilltop Hoods. It’s like JJJ voters were all Eric Cartman (“kewl”).

The station itself is the same. Back in the ’80s and ’90s, The Jays shared Toby Creswell’s view that hip-hop was a bit naff (not jangly-guitary enough) and missed out playing a lot of cool music. In the 2000s and 2010s it tried to catch up by pandering to everyone – rural heavy-metallers, inner-city shoegazers, late-night ravers from Byron, and the followers of whatever bandwagon rode into town the previous week. But under Richard Kingsmill, they still skewed to “your brother’s music” promoting bands like Powderfinger and Spiderbait. Plus, they were snobby about modern R&B which most kids were listening to. And they particularly hated girly-girls like Tay Tay – why can’t she at least put on some goth eyeliner?. Now the Jays have got over themselves on that, they have allowed Olivia and Doja and others in, which I think is a good thing.

Mainstream doesn’t automatically equal bad. A good song will always be a good song. But JJJ are still snobby and clueless in knowing what one of those is. Much better to do goofy covers that the kids can post on Tik Tok.

If I was any younger, I’d be angry!

Obviously you have not been to a Wiggles concert (my four year old daughter Alex and I in Brisbane around 2003). The Moshpit with young mums, their children and the occasional lost Dad was pure hell). Still receiving counselling for this years later and have stop wearing skivvies.

Simon Cobcroft6:45 pm 27 Jan 22

You sir, are wrong. I have the misfortune of attending two Wiggles concerts AND a Cockroaches concert. Although, my son must have inherited my curmudgeonly genes, as he was never a fan either. I think The Wiggles™ are vastly overrated when there is (and was) so much better kid’s music around.

Mind you, The Wiggles still play an important role in eliciting the truth from reluctant talkers in Guantanamo Bay. Fruit salad, yummy yummy. Fruit salad, yummy yummy. Fruit salad, yummy yummy… “Alright, you infidel, I’ll speak!”

Thank you sir for your eloquent reply. I had to sleep on my response. The fact that you went to two Wiggles concerts while I went to one suggests that if your son was not a fan then the only alternative is that you enjoyed the antics of Dorothy the Dinosaur and Captain Feathersword and had an interest in Australian vehicles in the form of the Big Red Car – which looks remarkably like the vehicle driven by Noddy. My excuse is I have a demanding daughter, and a wife who insisted I attend the concert on pain of…..well being married to her (so much pain over thirty plus years). If you will please excuse me I have an appointment with my therapist for unresolved father attending children concerts issues.

Dear Zoya,

Australian music – for me – encompasses all the classical performers, as well.

So, why not, for you?!

As a 62yo who has been listening to the J’s since Double J first launched in Sydney, it is all part of the evolution.
They even released a sampler record in the days of vinyl (only) called long live the evolution.
The world moves around us and the Hottest 100 as an audience participation event reflects the views of those choosing to vote.
Don’t sweat not liking the outcome just take pleasure in and support the music you enjoy

Capital Retro8:58 am 27 Jan 22

The “Henry The Octopus” $2 Wiggles commemorative coin recently released is being hotly pursued by collectors. The highest asking price on ebay is now $3,500!

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