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My Problems With The Hottest 100

Like a lot of people, I was quite disappointed with the Hottest 100 countdown this year, even moreso than I was expecting to be. Ultimately I understand that a countdown this big is never going to perfectly reflect one individual’s taste in music, and that my own taste in music is significantly different to your average Triple J listener, but I still think that there are a few problems with the system.

This is the first editorial-style piece I’ve done for the blog, so bear with me. At the very least perhaps this will spark some interesting debate, and I hope it makes for a good read. It is certainly not intended as a Triple J hater post, because I’m far from that. Anyway, here are some problems are some potential solutions that I have with the polling methodology of the Hottest 100.

#1: Voters cannot order their top ten songs.

I think this is a bit strange. After all it would be very easy to allow voters to order their preferences from 1 to 10, and then weight their choices accordingly, even only slightly. With the current system, we can have a song selected as the best track of the year despite no-one selecting it as such.

While this system may be slightly more complicated, it would add some extra interest to voting, and would also mean that people voting might put a bit more thought into their selections. It may potentially deter some people, but anyone put off by ordering their songs probably has no place voting in a countdown of this nature anyway. At least allow this as an option for those who want to do so.

#2: The emphasis on Australian music.

This has also really bugged me for a while. I absolutely love Australian music (as is pretty obvious I think), but sometimes the emphasis given to Australian music during a countdown that is supposedly of the best 100 songs worldwide is laughable. Art Vs Science apparently releasing the ninth best song last year is a case in point.

This is the biggest music countdown in the world, so either make the countdown only relate specifically to Australian music, or make it more clear to everyone that they can vote for international artists as well as local ones. Of course the emphasis on Australian acts may merely be reflective of the music that a lot of Triple J listeners like.

#3: Unclearly defined ‘year’.

While the countdown is meant to only involve music released in the last year (in this case 2010), this doesn’t always seem to be the case. For example, Muse’s Knights Of Cydonia won the 2007 countdown despite being released in both album and single form in 2006. In the most recent countdown the obvious example of this is The Jezabels’ Easy To Love, which polled in number 49 despite being released in 2009.

For starters, if you like a song enough to vote for it in your top ten of the year, you really should know what year it was released in. But more importantly, it needs to be clear whether people should be voting for any track that they have discovered in the last year, or only for music that was actually released in some form in the last 12 months. Or simply for music that Triple J started playing in the last year. Which leads me nicely to my next point…

#4: The countdown will inevitably reflect Triple J’s own taste in music.

I can’t think of any way to overcome this problem, but I figured I’d toss it in here anyway. As much as I recognise that Triple J is extremely important for the Australian music scene, I think that as a whole the Australian music scene itself is too reliant on Triple J. When the success or failure of a band depends almost solely on whether one radio station digs their music or not, there’s something wrong.

I think Australians need more choice when it comes to ‘alternative’ music sources. Blogs definitely aren’t quite there yet in terms of mainstream reach (although a few of the bigger websites are getting close), and although I know there is some great community radio going on, I still think we’re missing a significant, nation-wide competitor to Triple J. After all, competition is good. It encourages innovation and specialisation, and would mean that Triple J wouldn’t have to ‘focus’ on so many different genres of music, from heavy metal to hip hop to indie pop.

This isn’t so much a problem with the countdown itself as it is with the state of ‘alternative’ music in Australia. Ultimately the vast majority of the people voting in the Hottest 100 will have their music taste fed to them almost solely by Triple J, so the results of the countdown are inevitably going to strongly reflect the music that the station has been playing throughout the year.

#5: Stellar all-round albums are under-represented.

Once again this is kind of a problem without a solution, but the choice to focus on individual songs means that really strong all-round albums are likely to be ignored in the final countdown. Albums where listeners could realistically vote for five or six tracks are far less likely to have a song poll highly in the countdown, whereas weaker overall albums with one standout track are more likely to concentrate votes towards that one song. Compounding this problem, the ability to only select ten songs means that most people are only going to vote for one song per artist.

This reached an almost comical point this year, with various artists campaigning via social networking sites to get fans to vote for specific tracks and ignore others, even if they prefer the other tracks by the same band. After all, polling in the Hottest 100 is extremely important for bands and their management, so it is only natural that they will do whatever it takes to get a song as high as possible in the Hottest 100.

Ultimately however I suppose it is the Hottest 100 songs, not albums, so this really isn’t as bigger issue as some of the other problems I have tried to identify.

I’m not trying to claim that I could do a better job of running the Hottest 100 or anything absurd like that, or indeed that I don’t think Triple J is extraordinarily important to the Australian music scene. I’m just trying to be constructively critical of what I think many people have seen to be a mediocre countdown at best. Take from it what you will. And if you want to hate on me, please at least go to the effort of leaving a comment as well as a thumbs down so that I know what to work on in my own writing and/or what specifically you are disagreeing with me about.

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4 Responses to “My Problems With The Hottest 100”

  1. Well put. Weighted voting, bad screening of song release dates and JJJ’s monopoly have all bugged me to no end for the past few years

  2. Get over it. You’re just being Unaustralian.

  3. I like the idea of being able to put your list in order, but I think it’s great that we see Australian music get attention. Admittedly, I think the Art Vs Science song was total shit,but Triple J would be required to play a certain amount of aus music to get funding etc (I know syn need to play at least 60%). It’s not a poll of the ‘best’ music, but rather the music that was popular with a particular audience.

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