Taylor Swift's Hottest 100 Debut

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If Taylor Swift places Number 1 in the Hottest 100 – I will eat a hat. Any hat you care to name I will consume it. There is absolutely no way that will happen. I’d bet a nudie run on it. In fact I am.

However, “Shake it Off” appearing in the countdown will be one of the best things to happen to Triple J and its audiences and everybody should be hoping it happens. Let me explain….

A lot has been made lately about Taylor Swift’s potential entry in Hottest 100. This is the largest democratically voted countdown that is traditionally broadcast on Australia Day to barbecues and pool parties all around the country. Because it is audience voted- what if the fan-base of one of the world’s biggest singers invaded the popularity contest and caused the unthinkable to happen.

Disaster! And so, the questions have been rolling in-
“Will she earn enough votes to get into the Hottest 100?”
“If she does, should Triple J ever play Taylor Swift?”
“How could the sanctity of the Hottest 100 be allowed to be violated by her?”
“Does *insert corporation here* being involved invalidate her entry?”

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Some people argue the divinity of the countdown – “you have everything else, please let real music have this”.
Some argue the inevitable commercial crossover of previous Hottest 100 hits – Kings of Leon, Macklemore and Mumford and Sons all spring to mind.

But everybody agrees that letting the pop princess place anywhere in the one hundred greatest songs of the last year is taking things to a whole new level entirely.

Now, full disclosure, I worked for 8 years in the hulking commercial beast that is Nova and loved and hated different parts of the playlist like anyone would. I too grew up listening to Adam and Wil in the morning and Merrick and Rosso in the afternoon so Triple J holds a very special place in forming my love of radio. In short, I adore Triple J. I have a lot of good friends who work and have worked very hard there.

In the scheme of the radio industry, Triple J holds a very important place. It is a government broadcaster and is therefore not held to the ratings success of their “evil” commercial brothers and sisters. There is a reason Taylor Swift is played every 30 minutes on a different station- because, by a pure numbers game, people want to hear it. With the odd exception of Perth, commercial stations have to and want to out-rate Triple J. If Triple J was rating number one everywhere – you better believe Short, Fast, Loud would start appearing on night time radio across the country. But, it doesn’t. It is less listened to than most radio stations, and most would agree “maybe that’s a good thing”. I certainly do – where else will an Australian band get some airplay if it wasn’t for Triple J. 2Day doesn’t have time to break the next Powderfinger when Pitbull is racing up the charts. So yeah, thank fuck for the J’s.

I think of all the many and great things that have come from that stations glorious 40 year history and I wouldn’t dare see it hurt.

Taylor Swift placing in the Hottest 100 does not hurt Triple J at all. If the jangly pop drum beat eminates from the speakers (I predict somewhere between Number 10 and Number 20) it will be a big win for the station and another great moment in its history. Let me explain why…

I have never seen so much chatter about the Hottest 100 in all my experienced years of the countdown. Even the fucking travesty of “Get Lucky” not appearing at #1 (one of the greatest songs of the last 25 years) which garnered some irate attention does not even come close to the amount of newspapers/blogs/Facebook posts that this controversy is attracting. Also, you’ve got to hand it to James Keogh – his ukelele number wasn’t that bad. Now EVERYBODY is talking about the Hottest 100- its role in music history, the responsibility and position of Triple J as a broadcaster and the “will they, won’t they” intrigue to rival a Big Brother promo. And mark my words, everybody will be listening on January 26 to see if and where that song places.

Triple J being listened to by millions for many hours on end – what a dream! Finding a new audience to discover and maybe even love the world’s best radio station – superb! Showing the relevance of Triple J to create a movement in an increasingly digital age – amazing! Don’t forget there are 99 other songs that this new audience will hear, probably for the first time. If I’m a little known Newcastle band placing at number 82 – I’d love to think that a lot of people are hearing my song because I was lucky and skilful enough to have it appear in this countdown.

For only 3 and a half minutes of air time given to a pop song – Triple J just won big. At worst it’s payback for all the times Triple J have attempted to prank the pop-tastic ARIA charts, at best it’s as harmless as the time Adam & Wil garnered enough support to get Salmon Hater in at Number 26. No matter what though, everybody got fired up about a little radio station. Triple J just proved how important it is to our culture and national identity.

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So what would I do if I was running Triple J?

First of all, I’d do exactly what they’re doing right now. No comment. The only way to really know the answer is to listen to the countdown.

Second of all, Triple J has some of the brightest, funniest and most talented young announcers and shows I’ve ever heard. Let them talk, poke fun and laugh about the circumstance. It’s what the station has always done best and people will laugh at their jokes because the whole situation is hilariously absurd.

Third, play the song when it appears. Laugh, joke, even interrupt it. Fuck it, summon the best musicians to cover different parts of the song, assemble it in a montage and talk about how amazing Australian music is. Ask Taylor Swift to rap a verse in the middle about how great Triple J is. She’s pretty funny actually, she might do it.

Who does this hurt? Nobody, everybody wins! Oh, except maybe the person or people who place at Number 101 in the countdown. I guess they lose. So play their song right after Taylor Swift, apologise to them and make them the hero of the day. Everybody will remember their moment in history too- the day where a pop star entered the greatest countdown the country has ever known.

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Matt can be found on Twitter.
He is currently the Head of Content at Omny Personal Radio.

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16 thoughts on “Taylor Swift's Hottest 100 Debut

  1. Matt,

    I have no problem if a JJJ listener votes for Taylor Swift as they have sampled a larger portion of the music industry of 2014. My issue lies with commercial station listeners who sample 20 or 30 songs on a 2-3 hr loop who vote for Miss Swift (or anyone else). Commercial Station listeners have no right to vote in the hottest 100 in my opinion, as they not been exposed to enough music.

    I would liken a commercial station listener to a citizen from “The Lego Movie”. With little encouragement for creative thought, they find comfort in repetition and conformance and as long as the mass likes the music, then it’s cool to like the music. JJJ listeners sample a large portion of music and are more like the Master Builders of the movie. For the record, I listen to my wife’s commercial stations on weekends and it drives me insane. So when Mark Di Stefano calls upon the brain washed, conforming flock who appease the powers of the music industry to infiltrate one of the few small platforms of creativity and musical freedom within the industry, I find it absurd and narrow minded. It feels like Lord Business has had a win. Why doesn’t Di Stefano use his position to promote other musicians that could do with the exposure. Probably because he is not aware of other artists, if he only listens to a 3 hour music loop.

    You referenced Kings of Leon making the 100 and triple J were playing them for years before they made it into the 100 or were played on commercial stations. Then for some reason, commercial stations start playing Sex on Fire and it makes the 100. Why? I even heard a presenter on Nova (at the time of Sex on Fire) going through good tracks from the Kings of Leon’s previous 3 albums that his listenership should listen to. Why not just play them at release Nova? Commercial Stations are bandwagon jumpers. Obviously as you point out, they have commercial obligations to meet and require their ratings to be high – nothing they play is cutting edge or break though. The trouble is, people are waking up and are switching to stations like JJJ that offer something more authentic, where the presenters have a genuine passion for the music, instead of sugar coating the latest sensation and playing it on repeat until all the Lego civilians are singing “Everything is Awesome”. This is why commercial music is drifting away from the Boy Bands of the 90’s and are heading in the direction of alternative / indie music.

    While I understand what you are saying and I agree with the theory about more exposure to JJJ, etc, I think the flaw with your theory is that many commercial listener won’t care for a track they hear at No.89. They are closed minded and will need to have heard that track 20 times before it sticks. Their response will be “What’s this garbage”. The term hipster gets thrown around about JJJ listeners as an insult, but your average JJJ listener is not at all – just someone with an appreciation for music. I used to listen to commercial music 15-20 years ago. I worked for a place for 3 months that played JJJ in the work place and I did not look back. I suggest any commercial listener to do the same. It will be an awakening to your ears.

    I could go on, but this is already too long.

  2. Kirk, if you don’t like Taylor Swift, then don’t vote for her. If you want someone else to win, then vote for them. Share their music with your friends, and get your friends to vote for them too.

    But don’t go around complaining that wanting to vote for Taylor Swift means you clearly don’t deserve a vote because you don’t appreciate music enough.

    That sort of elitist, ‘my opinion is more valid because I have better exposure to good music’ is the same bullshit argument that was used to keep women and non-whites from voting – I mean, women clearly don’t know enough about politics to vote because they spend all their time in the home, right? And *obviously* these coloured savages have no place contributing to civilised society, right?

    You see Kirk, the thing about a democratic process, is that everyone gets a say – even the ‘brain-washed, conforming flock’. Their vote is just as valid as yours. And you know what – as Matt says, this is a good thing. Hell, I hardly listen to Triple J these days, but because I felt like voting for Shake It Off, I went through and found another 9 songs I liked, and voted for them too.

    By going through the list, I discovered that an artist I like but hadn’t listened to for several years had released a new album, which I’ve now added to my Spotify playlist. I discovered that another group I like had disbanded and reformed under a new name with a new style, and now I’m listening to their new album too. I came to vote for the ‘commercial crap’, and stayed for the rest of the music.

    Yeah, that’s right – I voted for Shake It Off. And there ain’t a god damn thing anyone can do about it – just like there’s nothing I can do about the thousands of people (who clearly have no taste in music) who voted for the four minutes and five seconds of whiny, depressing beigeness that is Angus and Julia Stone’s ‘Big Jet Plane’ in 2010. If I had my way, anyone who liked that song would be barred from voting.

    But you see, that’ll never happen, because the great thing about democracy is that I can’t tell you who to vote for – and you can’t tell me who to vote for either.

    If Taylor Swift wins the Hottest 100, it’s because more people voted for her music, nothing more. If you think someone with more ‘appreciable’ music deserves to win, good for you – go find other people who agree with you, and get them to vote. Share the tracks you like with people who listen to commercial radio, and broaden their music horizons.

    Just don’t get snooty if they don’t agree with you, as they have every right to their own opinions.

  3. Loved the angle of this article Matt and also the second reply (Rory). I do sometimes get frustrated about how my generation responds to matters like this. Of course there are reasons for why not, blah blah, she is a pop star. But it isn’t the triple J Holy 100 anointed by Jesus… {even if it was, Jesus loves everyone so that’s ok}…because people are treating it like it is. Relax. It’s ok. There are more pressing matters that need the same amount of response happening than this. I like T Swift. I like triple J. I’m all for it.

  4. Rory, I’m not telling people who to vote for or who not to vote for. That is the part that is annoying about this campaign. It is so Australian Idol. She isn’t going to get up on her own. It will be this mega campaign, which I have recently read has now got a multi-national food outlet on board, so may start breaching ABC rules anyway. Let people make their own mind up. All I am saying is you don’t have to vote for someone because you are told to vote for them, like the Swift campaign is doing.

    It shouldn’t try to be about me running around trying to convince my mates to vote for my musical preferences. That is exactly the mentality that commercial stations want – herd mentality as it is easier to market to which is what they are all about. I don’t care what my mates like.

    It has nothing to do with elitist attitudes and I find your sexism and racism references offensive. It is a fact that top 40 stations play only a handful of songs on repeat. I would go as far to say that a station like JJJ would play more variety in a single day than your average top 40 hit station would play over a month.

    As for you rediscovering an artist you liked a while ago – They’ve probably been putting out decent music every year that you have been missing out on, because it was snubbed by the commercial sector. But like Matt has written though, I suppose something good will come of this and people like yourself will connect with some new music and good up coming artists will get some exposure.

    I’m shaking it off champion, just think for yourself though. Get out and see some local musical talent and give it some support and also, if you are voting in the hottest 100, support the station for the rest of the year. You will be inturn be supporting many local artists.

    Ok – I’m outta here. Take care Rory and enjoy the Hottest 100.

  5. Rory hates music elitism, thinks everyone who voted for Big Jet Plane should be barred from voting

  6. Oops I like Triple J and Tay Tay Swift…someone call a doctor I am obviously deranged – are the two totally (or totes) incompatible?

  7. I almost agree with the article in principle But saying that, if Taydolf Switler does attain a place in the hottest 100 a piece of my youth will die. If being labelled an elitist is the call, fuck it, I’m better than you anyway. The attention is great but it won’t do anything about the ABC budget woes, which is the real tragedy.

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  12. The Hottest 100 (and Triple J) is supposed to be all about good music. A lot of people (including myself) think that Taylor Swift’s music IS good, but the level of campaigning that her PR team is going to is making it not about the music. With that much money, publicity and hype thrown behind a campaign to champion one particular song, fairness also becomes an issue (although the ABC does have SOME limitations on this). How many other artists on the Hottest 100 list could conduct anything close to Taylor Swift’s huge campaign?

    Matt makes a good argument about how the hype around this campaign could benefit Triple J/the Hottest 100, but obviously it was engineered to benefit one person – Taylor Swift. I like 1989 but to me going after a Hottest 100 spot comes off as greedy and attention grabbing. It also encourages people who haven’t listened to much music and dont care about other songs to go on and vote, i.e. the second post. Rory I appreciate your viewpoint there but you admitted that you voted solely to get Shake It Off a spot and then just “went through the list” to find 9 others you liked. Many people who vote in the Hottest 100 think long and hard to cut their favourite songs of the year down to what they think is the best 10. They don’t vote for one they think is great and 9 others which they kinda like but had to go through a list to find. So in that case I think their vote IS more valid then yours, simply because it is more considered.

    I love “Shake It Off” but I think that a song should be voted into the Hottest 100 (or not) based on its own merit, not how successful a mega marketing campaign is.

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