UPDATED: Ultimate Form Guide For The 2015 Triple J Hottest 100

UPDATE:

Something's in the water…

A photo posted by Patrick Avenell (@patrickavenell) on

So how’d I do? Pretty good I reckon! My Top 10 prediction — made in November before a single vote had been cast — all featured in the Top 30 of the 2015 Hottest 100. Here’s my prediction, along with their actual placement in brackets:

  1. Lean On — Major Lazer, DJ Snake & MØ (3)
  2. Downtown — Macklemore & Ryan Lewis et al (18)
  3. The Trouble With Us — Marcus Marr & Chet Faker (6)
  4. Do You Remember — Jarryd James (7)
  5. Hoops — Rubens (1)
  6. Let It Happen — Tame Impala (5)
  7. Can’t Feel My Face — Weeknd (9)
  8. Say My Name — Peking Duk & Benjamin Joseph (30)
  9. Hotline Bling — Drake (14)
  10. King Kunta — Kendrick Lamar (2)

None of these picks were spot on but they were all there or thereabouts. To be honest, I’m quite impressed to have done so well considering this prediction wasn’t based on traditional methods like harvesting votes on social media or looking at betting markets: it was mostly just educated guess work derived from studying Hottest 100 trends and listening to a lot of Triple J through the year.

Poor old Kendrick Lamar is now cursed while Major Lazer must feel renewed confidence to go 2 better in the years ahead.

As a result of writing this post I was invited into Triple J to be there when Matt & Alex announced the #1 track in the countdown. It was a huge thrill and it couldn’t have happened without you, the reader, and without the many news sites, aggregators, social media tastemakers and fellow bloggers who linked to this page. Thanks very much — at some stage in the future I plan on writing up the story of this adventure but for now it’s time to focus on the Oscars!

In which a Hottest 100 enthusiast dissects the upcoming 2015 countdown and attempts to find some order in the madness. Blow a kiss! Fire a gun!

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It is a strange peculiarity that no act to have come second in an annual Triple J Hottest 100 countdown has gone on to top the chart.[1] In fact, even if you turn back time, no act has come in at #2 having already topped the chart. It is very much a case of musically always being the bridesmaid and never being the bride. Of course, there have been a few #2 acts who shone bright but quickly, and it would be unreasonable to think that Killing Heidi (Weir, 1999[2]), MGMT (Electric Feel, 2008) or Little Red (Rock It, 2010) could not only back-up such zeitgeist-capturing performances but actually improve on them to go one step further. But what of the absolute legends of the genre? Radiohead’s groundbreaking debut single Creep placed at #2 in the first Hottest 100 and those five Oxford lads went on to become the most celebrated band of the past 20 years. The #2 honour continues chronologically with Nine Inch Nails (Closer, 1994), Smashing Pumpkins (Bullet With Butterfly Wings, 1995), Tool (Stinkfist, 1996) and Blur (Song 2, 1997): all giants of the trade and all, in some guise at least, still active. U2, a band that flirts with Triple J relevance, came second in 2000 (Beautiful Day) and Silverchair was robbed narrowly beaten — by a record slim 14 votes — in 2007 (Straight Lines). It seems almost cruel that the only act to come second twice is the performer one suspects would most want to win the Hottest 100: Ben Lee burst into the indie darling consciousness with Cigarettes Will Kill You (1998) and then backed it up seven years hence with the infectious Catch My Disease (2005). These defeats must sting more with age considering the dim view the musical tastemaking classes now take for Ben’s vanquishers: Pretty Fly (For A White Guy) by Offspring and Wish You Well by Bernard Fanning. Hardly scientific, but after 22 years of the venn diagram between #1 winners and #2 losers never creating an ellipse it doesn’t auger well for Peking Duk (Say My Name w/ Benjamin Joseph), Lorde (Magnets w/ Disclosure), Of Monsters And Men (Crystal, Empire), Art vs Science (Tired Of Pretending) or the prenominate Blur (Go Out). Even Daniel Johns (Aerial Love, Preach, Cool On Fire et al) must be drawing long odds if this curse holds for solo members of former #2 placegetters.

While coming in at #2 is clearly not a good omen for future success, there is a particularly strong portent of future success in the Hottest 100: coming in at #3. Four acts have come in at #3 and then gone on to top the countdown: Cranberries (Linger, 1993 → Zombie, 1994); Offspring (Self Esteem, 1994 → PFFAWG, 1998); Powderfinger (My Kind Of Scene, 2000 → My Happiness, 2000); and Kings Of Leon, who came in a #3 twice before hitting #1 (On Call, 2007; Use Somebody, 2008 → Sex On Fire, 2008).

Top 10 Placings Of Acts That Have Topped A Hottest 100

*Denotes a placement after the #1 position was secured and is not counted as a forecasting agent in the bracketed figure.

#2 (not applicable)
#3 Cranberries 1993; Offspring 1994; Powderfinger 2000; Kings Of Leon 2007 & 2008 (4)
#4 Offspring 1994; Powderfinger 2003* (1)
#5 Spiderbait 2004*; Mumford & Sons 2012*; Chet Faker 2013 (1)
#6 Powderfinger 1996 (1)
#7 Powderfinger 2003*; Chet Faker 2013 (1)
#8 Powderfinger 1998; Gotye 2006; Chet Faker 2013 (3)
#9 Powderfinger 2004*; Muse 2006; Muse 2009* (1)
#10 Powderfinger 2003*; Franz Ferdinand 2005*[3]

The propensity for #3[4] and, to a lesser extent, #8 to provide subsequent winners is a boon for one particular act this year: Matt Corby (Monday). He’s previously come in at #3 (Brother, 2011) and #8 (Resolution, 2013). And unless Damon Albarn, formerly of the parish Gorillaz (Feel Good Inc, 2005), does something truly amazing and wins with a track from Blur’s comeback record The Magic Whip, simultaneously confirming the #3 bias and breaking the #2 curse, it doesn’t look like these erstwhile idiosyncrasies will come too much into play.

As much as Triple J likes to cheerlead the edgier fringes of music, there has always been plenty of crossover between the Hottest 100 and the sales chart, especially in the elite areas at the end of the countdown. Only once has a Hottest 100 countdown not included an ARIA Australian #1 single, and that was in 2009 (and the extended Top 200 was also devoid of a chart-topper). In all other years, songs popular with the single-buying classes have placed and placed well, with the mode peak position of a Hottest 100 winner being #1.

Peak Position Of Hottest 100 Winners On The ARIA Australian Singles Chart

1993: #2 Asshole — Denis Leary
1994: #1 Zombie — Cranberries
1995: #1 Wonderwall — Oasis
1996: #45 Buy Me A Pony — Spiderbait
1997: (-) No Aphrodisiac — Whitlams
1998: #1 Pretty Fly (For A White Guy) — Offspring
1999: (-) These Days — Powderfinger[5]
2000: #4 My Happiness — Powderfinger
2001: #14 Amazing — Alex Lloyd
2002: (-) No One Knows — Queens Of The Stone Age
2003: #20 Are You Gonna Be My Girl — Jet
2004: #25 Take Me Out — Franz Ferdinand
2005: (-) Wish You Well — Bernard Fanning
2006: #29 One Crowded Hour — Augie March
2007: (-) Knights Of Cydonia — Muse
2008: #1 Sex On Fire — Kings Of Leon
2009: #3 Little Lion Man — Mumford & Sons
2010: #21 Big Jet Plane — Angus & Julia Stone
2011: #1 Somebody That I Used To Know — Gotye & Kimbra
2012: #1 Thrift Shop — Macklemore & Ryan Lewis & Wanz
2013: #6 Riptide — Vance Joy
2014: #6 Talk Is Cheap — Chet Faker

From this we can see there have been 11 bona fide chart hits (Top 10), including six #1s, six songs that charted and peaked outside the Top 10 and five songs that were either not released as a single or did not crack the Top 50. This overarching trend looks set to continue, with many of the songs likely to be voted into the Top 5 of the H100 also being chart hits. Lean On and Downtown both hit #1; Do You Remember, Can’t Feel My Face and Hotline Bling all peaked at #2; The Trouble With Us, The Hills, Ocean Drive and The Fire And The Flood all cracked the Top 10. The best chances from outside the Top 50 are from acts like Wombats, Tame Impala and Courtney Barnett.

One thing to look out for when listening to the countdown and trying to forecast the winner is the swarm effect. Much like a cycling team in a long road race, songs tend to do much better as the best of a bunch of entrants from the same team, rather than as lone torchbearers. After the first four countdowns, in which Denis Leary, Cranberries and Spiderbait won without any other song charting in the 100, there has only been one edition out of 18 to be won by an act with no other songs making the list, and that was when Augie March won for One Crowded Hour.

Placement Of Songs By Winning Act In Hottest 100s

1993: Denis Leary (1)
1994: Cranberries (1)
1995: Oasis (1, 13)
1996: Spiderbait (1)
1997: Whitlams (1, 53)
1998: Offspring (1, 62)
1999: Powderfinger (1, 25, 68, 100)
2000: Powderfinger (1, 3)
2001: Alex Lloyd (1, 63)
2002: Queens Of The Stone Age (1, 44, 48, 56, 81)
2003: Jet (1, 19)
2004: Franz Ferdinand (1, 29, 50)
2005: Bernard Fanning (1,14)
2006: Augie March (1)
2007: Muse (1, 58)
2008: Kings Of Leon (1, 3, 24, 70)
2009: Mumford & Sons (1, 81)
2010: Angus & Julia Stone (1, 62)
2011: Gotye (1, 34, 87); Kimbra (1, 25, 52, 93)
2012: Macklemore & Ryan Lewis (1, 15)
2013: Vance Joy (1, 95)
2014: Chet Faker (1, 7, 8, 21)

Acts that release albums with multiple singles gaining traction tend to stay in the voting public’s collective conscience for longer, leading to greater penetration of the Hottest 100. Songs released relatively early in the year, which are no longer getting played regularly on Triple J or commercial stations and have exited the sales charts, do appear to receive a boost by having collegiate songs, what’s known in cycling as domestiques[6], to help with the grunt work. These domestique songs help to improve the score of the flagship cut and act as a very reliable indicator when listening in on Australia Day. The main contenders that will benefit from this phenomena include Major Lazer (Lean On to be supported by Powerful and Be Together), Rubens (Hoops backed up by Hallelujah and The Night Is On My Side), Jarryd James (Do You Remember complemented by Give Me Something, Regardless and Sure Love), Tame Impala (Let It Happen, Eventually, ‘Cause I’m A Man, The Less I Know The Better and Yes I’m Changing all sharing the workload, though one suspects LIH is the team leader), and The Weeknd (Can’t Feel My Face ably assisted by The Hills and Losers). If these supporting tracks, especially the last one mentioned in each bracket, place in the chart, and doubly so if prominently — say, the Top 50 — then you could be looking at the winner. Conversely, the opposite effect is likely to hinder several artists with lone breakaways: Macklemore & Ryan Lewis (Downtown), Drake (Hotline Bling), Duke Dumont (Ocean Drive), Vance Joy (Fire And The Flood) and Meg Mac (Never Be). Chet Faker is somewhere in between: Bend could surprise by being a strong performer or it could flatline, leaving The Trouble With Us, w/ Marcus Marr, to go it alone.[7]

This talk of multiple runners brings us to the question of which band or artist will claim the secondary honour of placing the most songs within the 100. Heretofore, the single-year record is held by Wolfmother[8], who contributed a hair-raising six licks from their eponymous debut into the 2005 list:

6 Mind’s Eye
9 Joker And The Thief
16 Apple Tree
37 Dimension
39 Colossal
84 White Unicorn

Down the years, quite a few beloved bands have cracked five tracks in the chart, including Queens of the Stone Age and Silverchair in 2002, Powderfinger and The White Stripes a year later and Hilltop Hoods in 2006. The trick to scoring a lot of entries in the Hottest 100, aside from, y’know, writing songs that people like and have some degree of artistic merit, is to have a lot of songs included on the ballot published by Triple J during the voting period. This list of songs is ostensibly every song played at least once on the tax-payer funded youth station throughout the year, and even perhaps a bit of the end of 2014. Although there is a mechanism for writing in other songs by title and artist, something I have done several times previously, there is no mechanism for actually adding a song to the ballot, save Triple J themselves bolstering the form, how does one say, in votero. This was the sticking point that caused the 2014 countdown to be hit with controversy when Buzzfeed took umbrage with the Js’ microaggressive discrimination of Taylor Swift[9]. For obvious reasons it is hard for songs not on the list to crack the 100 purely on write-ins. So, therefore, to achieve multiple songs in the countdown you need to have as many as possible played on Triple J during the year, so as to get them onto the list. Then, once on the list, they have to been popular and prominent enough for people to vote for them in large numbers, even though several of them will not have been singles, largely because the music industry release schedule doesn’t allow for more than, say, four singles in a calendar year. This narrows the ability to score a noteworthy amount of entries down to one essential attribute: being showcased as a Feature Album. Each week Triple J’s music programmers, of which Richard ‘The King’ Kingsmill is the face of the machine, choose a newly released LP, usually from an emerging hyped up artist, Australian fave or international buzz generator to be dipped into every few hours, meaning not just the singles are played but album tracks too, often up to the full album, depending on its quality, genre, audience response and length. Looking through the list of 2015 Feature Albums and it is with some confidence that you can say some will not offer up any H100 tracks (lookin’ at you Pond, Grenadiers and Half Moon Run (he says, tempting fate)) while others are only likely to toss in a lead single or a second track at a stretch (Purity Ring, Joey Bada$$, Django Django and The Internet). And then there are the opuses that really stand out as not just being played to death through its week in the sun but through the whole of the year besides. Four albums fit this description and are likely to prosper come Australia Day:

Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit — Courtney Barnett
Currents — Tame Impala
Glitterbug — Wombats
How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful — Florence + The Machine

Can any of these albums match or beat Wolfmother’s six entries? Courtney is odds on to chart five (Elevator Operator, Pedestrian At Best, Depreston, Dead Fox and Nobody Really Cares If You Don’t Come To The Party); Tame Impala also have the aforementioned five prominent songs; the Wombats have five from this year (Emoticons, Give Me A Try, Greek Tragedy, Be Your Shadow and The English Summer) to go with Your Body Is A Weapon (#25 of 2013) plus the outsiders Headspace, Isabel and Pink Lemonade; but it is Florence + The Machine, a proven Hottest 100 performer[10], that has this record in its/her sights. What Kind Of Man; Ship To Wreck; Delilah; Queen Of Peace; How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful; and Third Eye offer the most realistic chance of an act placing six times in the countdown. Throw in the roughie St Jude, which made it to #95 on the ARIA Australian Singles Chart, and F+TM could even break the record.

Florence’s potential success in the Hottest 100 naturally leads us to the perennial issue of how proportionally represented or otherwise female artists, be they solo acts, lead singers, featured artists or band members are in the countdown. Here is a breakdown of the 22 countdowns by sex[11]:

Solo Male: 5
Band With Male And Female Members And Female Lead Singer: 1
Band With Only Male Members: 13
Band With Male And Female Members And Male Lead Singer: 1
Duo Of Man And Woman With Both Singing: 2

From 22 winning songs, only one is sung in full by a female vocalist and only a further two co-sung by a woman, and in both cases secondarily to a male co-artist. A lot of people have expressed dissatisfaction with this gross underrepresentation and I agree there is cause for concern, but I also think it is a little bit disingenuous to say that no female artist has ever topped the chart, considering Zombie by The Cranberries was written and sung (both solo) by Dolores O’Riorden. At surface level this happens because people vote for more songs with male singers, which a sociologist might say happens because men are socialised to openly identify with male figureheads and reject strong females, while women are socialised to empathise with both men and women, meaning male songs are roughly likely to score a 2:1 ratio in the countdown, which is roughly what happened in 2014, not even taking into account all the confirmation bias born out of the prenominate #Tay4Hottest100 campaign. Structural causes of this imbalance relate to the ratio of male to female artists being played on Triple J and, even further upstream, being unearthed, discovered, signed, nurtured, released and promoted by record labels. After this inequality became big news I delved into my past votes, the ones I could find at least, to see what role I was playing in this Battle of the Sexes and it’s fair to say that I seem to prefer the male singing voice. There’s an argument that says with affirmative action, quotas and targets and the like, you never know whether the positive outcome is a result of merit or positive discrimination, and there’s a counter argument that says because of years of years of male privilege you need to overcorrect in order to balance the ledger and get on the path to equality.[12] I have decided that for the 2015 countdown I am only going to vote for songs featuring female vocalists and I’ll link to my votes after I have revealed my Top 100 Songs of 2015. It’s a small gesture but a sincere one.

Those hoping for a solo female artist to win the Hottest 100 will have to wait another year because the best chances are Courtney’s cache above and several Prince of Penzance-esque outsiders: Never Be by Meg Mac, MOB by Tkay Maidza, Flesh Without Blood by Grimes, High By The Beach by Lana Del Rey and Ghost by Halsey. Widen it to bands utilising female singers and there’s Leave A Trace by CHVRCHES, all those songs by Florence, Damn Baby by Alpine, Magnets by Disclosure & Lorde and Don’t Wanna Fight by Alabama Shakes — I’m not really convincing you, am I? But in saying all that, the winning song of the Hottest 100 of 2015 will be sung by a woman: MØ (pronounced to kinda rhyme with bleu), singer of Lean On. That MØ is the featured artist of the all-male Major Lazer collective and French reptile DJ Snake means that Australia’s collective conscious is unlikely to count this as a win for a female artist.

This is all a bit of an irrelevance, however, because the identity of #1 song is far from the most important part of the Hottest 100. Even before the advent of acutely astute betting agencies laying prices on the winner and social media maestros limning a countdown from shared voting slips, there’s always been a general mood for makeup of the Top 20 and certainly the Top 10 come Australia Day. The real enjoyment derives from the hours preceding the pointy end, when the songs come thick and fast (as opposed to the tedious drawn out nature of the final quarter), the sausages are still warm and the beer is still cold. This is when you are listening out for niche tracks, the 50-50 chances, the ones that make you whoop when you hear the first bars and sing along with gusto while texting in to Triple J that ‘yes! I’m so glad this made the Hottest 100’. These are the songs that played on the radio during a particularly special road trip, on the first or last day of school/uni/work/life, in the background during an amorous adventure — and while you know this song hasn’t captured the wider public’s imagination like Counting Sheep or Some Minds — it now holds a permanent place on your sentimental side: the sorta thing they call the soundtrack of your life. For me, this year, it’s Nothing’s As It Seems by Gordi, TV by Eves The Behaviour, Twilight Driving by Methyl Ethel, Soon We Won’t Exist by Tiny Little Houses and Pretty Pimpin by Kurt Vile.

Hottest 100 of 2015 Prediction

  1. Lean On — Major Lazer, DJ Snake & MØ
  2. Downtown — Macklemore & Ryan Lewis et al
  3. The Trouble With Us — Marcus Marr & Chet Faker
  4. Do You Remember — Jarryd James
  5. Hoops — Rubens
  6. Let It Happen — Tame Impala
  7. Can’t Feel My Face — Weeknd
  8. Say My Name — Peking Duk & Benjamin Joseph
  9. Hotline Bling — Drake
  10. King Kunta — Kendrick Lamar

Thanks for reading! Head over to Triple J’s website to vote!

NOTES

[1] This piece will only consider Triple J’s annual Hottest 100 poll, starting with the 1993 countdown, topped, ironically title-wise, by Denis Leary’s Asshole, and up to the 2014 edition, won by Talk Is Cheap (Chet Faker). Although some info can be gleaned from the myriad other Hottest 100s conducted, the annual countdown has come to represent the pure experience, though no-one doubts the brand veracity of the All Time, 20 Years and Australians Albums installments.

[2] The years used throughout refer to the year the songs were released, not the year of the Australia Day when the countdown was played out on Triple J.

[3] Eagle-eyed readers will note that Powderfinger has come has charted at every Top 10 position except for #5 and the previously established cursed #2 spot.

[4] All this being said, Hilltop Hoods has thrice come in at #3 (The Hard Road, 2006; Chase That Feeling, 2009; Cosby Sweater, 2014) and never at #2, but is yet to win a countdown, and while they won’t this year, they remain a constant future threat.

[5] These Days was the second track on Powderfinger’s Passenger single release, which peaked at #30.

[6] Literally, ‘servants’.

[7] Worth footnoting that I’ve mentioned three past winners as genuine contenders here — Mack & Ryan, Vance and Chet — only Powderfinger has won twice, and lead singer Bernie F a third time. The general mood of the Australian music scene seems to suggest that none of these one-time winning acts, popular and successful they may be, have yet to reach PF’s level of apotheosis

[8] One is very much aware of Dave Grohl’s prodigious contribution to the 2002 H100, when he played/sung/drummed on 10 entries (1, 11, 12, 13, 23, 44, 48, 55, 56, 81) across his Nirvana, Foo Fighters and QOTSA guises. There are just so many asterisks around this achievement and whether it should count towards this record that I’m mentioning it but not including it. Quan Yeomans of the parishes Regurgitator and Happyland also scored a Wolfmother-equalling hexad in 1998, placing at 6, 26, 27, 28, 32 and 71.

[9] Look, I was vehemently opposed to this campaign, for reasons laid bare here. Reflecting on this episode, my position hasn’t changed and I applaud Triple J for making what I believe was the right decision in excluding Shake It Off from the Hottest 100. While everyone has the power to make noise not everyone has the power to make people listen. Buzzfeed definitely achieved the latter so they do deserve some credit, which could very well be manifested in Triple J altering the voting procedure in response to BF’s chagrin, much like they changed the H100’s social media strategy following the Warmest 100’s astute forecasting.

[10] Whether accompanied by The Machine, Dizzee Rascal or Calvin Harris, Florence has hit 10, 44, 45 and 90 in 2009, 27 in 2010; 13, 36 and 42 in 2011; and 11 and 32 in 2012.

[11] This schema is presented in the order in which the first of these occasions happened, ie Denis Leary then Cranberries then Oasis and so on and so forth.

[12] Incidentally, I was amused to read a particularly incisive bon mot by Clementine Ford, saying the opposite of misogyny is not misandry, it’s equality.

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