12 July 2009

Hottest 100 notes

Hottest 100 song list just played in Australia. This is a radio tradition set up by triple J , the government-funded youth station. The 'jays started up in Sydney in the 80s then went national state by state in the early 90s. They were brats who made it good, kinda thing. In 1989 they did the first national poll of "best 100 songs of all time". Entries strictly on the back of an envelope. Love will tear us apart" came in at #1. In 1998, "Smells like Teen Spirit" took the top spot. Letter entries were still taken and I'm not even sure if the internet worked well enough to take votes, but it was certainly less prevalent than now. I still had one email account that I could only access at the ANU computers, and I can't remember using the internet for anything useful.

Hottest 100 of all time 1998

Anyhoo - the '98 list was very early '90s - quite guitar rock-heavy, lots of Cure, Smiths, a good smattering of Aussie acts, overwhelmingly masculine, (the only girls I can see out of 100 are
B52's, Tori Amos, Dee-lite).

And now they've done it again, with 500,000 votes and the list is...

Hottest 100 of all time 2009

Guitar heavy, full of songs from the 90s, no solo women at all in the list, less Australian with a couple of notable exceptions (Hilltop hoods). Looks like about half the songs are the *exactly the same ones*. Nirvana Smells like Teen Spirit, still at number one. Other tracks that made *both* top 20s: Joy Division (Love Will Tear us Apart), Queen (Bohemian Rhapsody), Rage Against the Machine (Killing in the Name), Jeff Buckley (Last Goodbye), Led Zeppelin (Stairway to Heaven) Metallica, Radiohead.

I'm currently listening online in Amsterdam, last day here after almost exactly two years. Its nice, good to hear the accents, like decompression before re-entry. And to use the blog as note-book, here's my theories about this particlarly Aussie music poll. In an easy-to-follow bulleted list.

1) It's a product of the time JJJ went national. Early nineties. Those of us where were most excited to finally have our own station were about 14 to 20 then, we are 33 to 40 now. It is squarely a mid-30s hits list. Helllo nostalgia.

2) We are pack animals. Part of the appeal is to see if "your" song "made it in". So, if you want one or more of your songs to have any chance of making it, you're gonna pick the ones you know others will go for. I did - my favourite Nick Cave song is actually either the album tracks "The Witness Song"or "Breathless", but I picked "The Ship Song" b/c it was more of a crowd pleaser. Why pick the concert opener by Carter Unstoppable Sex Machine from the 1993 concert, or perhaps a Patsy Cline track when you know they will never get there, even if they really are you favourite songs?

3) Maybe more blokes do things like on-line polls than chicks do? When I voted I had to give age and gender - I'd LOVE to see the basic demographic breakdown they collected. Did blokes out-number girls really? If it was half half, well I guess I'm wrong, then all Australian 30-somethings love guitar-driven, big-concept boy's stories.

4) People who are only casually into music can better remember the big, heavily played, familiar stuff, easier. Singles, of course, not album tracks.

5) Being dead helps. Suicide even better. Buckley, Cobain, and Ian Curtis. Two suicides and one possible. Really, fuck you, you selfish cocks. Of course, death means exposure, lots of airplay, and sticking in people's memories. See point (4) Hello.. Michael Jackson made it in twice. No way would jjj listeners have voted for him otherwise. See also point (2)

6) "Utlimate Top Songs List" are a very Gen X things to do, and reflect the last gasp of the old breed brought up on albums and charts. I suspect the groovy kids today have big music collections mostly stored as MP3, they sample widely, they all have little niches, rather than following a few acts in one giant horde. (The adage of the internet .. eveyone can be famous for 15 people). I don't know whether they even slavishly follow a radio station, instead getting new music from Limewire, FreshFM, Itunes, from their mates' ipods, etc. Is it possile they don't even know the artists names of lots of tracks on their ipods? All those little niche votes aren't going to match the big bulk of the curve sitting firmly on early ninties grunge-rock and dead superstars. As much as I love the form, the album is dead. Perhaps for the real 'youth' (14 to 24) , the artist is dead too, and there's just the giant miasma of 'stuff on my ipod'.

I mean, come on, some of these songs aren't parent tracks, they are grand-parent tracks. If your Dad was listening to Led Zepplin in 1971 when Stairway to Heaven was released , you were born say in 1973, you were 18 in 1992 - triple J's big expansion year. (I was 16, that year dear listeners). So you've been raiding Dad's vinyl and you're also cementing your own tastes. Year of the Chilli Pepper, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Oasis. If you had a kid at 25, that kid is now 12, just listing to your 'top music'. If you let them online, will they not vote for those big boys power-rock, that "cock forest", as one twitterer descibed it? Unsurprisingly, the list has a bulge in the 70s and another bulge in the 90s.

And that's my analysis of the physcho-graphics of the Australian triple J listeners. Sentimental nostalgic types that they are.


meririsa said...

I agree - it's about music the demographic knows. 80's music (incl THe Cure) didn't feature really either. It's about the music current listeners know, or they were exposed to by their parents or movies but also considered cool. Note songs like "Tiny Dancer" by Elton John. Used in "Almost Famous". Otherwise no one who wasn't a teenager in the 70's would know it.
I also noticed the lack of female artists... Where is Blondie, Kate Bush ("Wuthering Heights" used to always make it in the list)? Worthy songs, but not on anyone who voted's top 10, it seems.
My Mr reckons list making is more of a bloke thing. I tend to agree from what I observe about some of my male closest friends - they all have favourite artists that I have heard them talk about, but I wouldn't have the foggiest who is the favourite artist of most of my female friends (bar you and Ms J, of course). They tend to have a plethora of music of a certain style they listen to.
I too would like to see the breakdown of voter demographic. Mind you, I didn't bother voting (JJJ bugs me now - I think I've grown out of it, and there isn't a music radio station that I do like to listen to, so we listen to complilations we've made on iTunes, and borrow music from friends. I need a radio station that's a mix between JJJ and radio national... Who knows what digital radio will bring us???)

meririsa said...

ps sorry for really long comment. See you SOOOOOOON! Yayayayah!

alison said...

Coming late because this only just showed up in my feedburner... I think you're right. I also think that the list thing is a boy thing (think High Fidelity - that book/movie would not have worked with a female main character).

I twitted Richard Kingsmill about the lack of women in the list but he never got back to me. :)