Musicology: triple j Hottest 100 predictions

IT is a fact of ageing that triple j becomes less interesting to you the older you get - my theory is that it's around the age of 27 that the "youth" network starts playing nothing but "crap the kids are listening to".

So I don't listen to triple j very much these days and when I do I find the good-to-bad song ratio gets wider and wider with every passing year.

Having said that, I still love the Hottest 100. It's the world's largest musical democracy and provides a fascinating insight into the musical tastes of our nation... and by that I mean the musical tastes that aren't dictated by mass marketing forces, the power of payola, or people with no taste in music whatsoever.

Because whether or not you like what triple j, you have to admire their programming ethic - they create musical trends rather than follow them slavishly, they play an admirable amount of Aussie music, and they unearth a ridiculous number of homegrown acts.

So here are some predictions of songs that I think will make the countdown, hopefully high up... as selected by some who's listened to probably less than 10 hours of triple j this year but has analysed the hell out of the history of the Hottest 100 (which is why this may be the most bleedingly obvious and overly pedantic list ever... sorry).

Thrift Shop - Macklemore & Ryan Lewis feat. Wanz

This is the favourite for #1 this year. It seems to be the only song this year that illicited a truly excited response from a majority of people, in a toned-down but similar way to how all those people told you about Little Lion Man by Mumford & Sons in 2009. But the key factor to Hottest 100 success is the crossover between triple j and the mainstream. Last year's top three are prime example's of the power of the crossover factor - Gotye's Somebody That I Used To Know, The Black Keys's Lonely Boy and Matt Corby's Brother were easy picks because each carried not only Triple J's much-valued street cred and integrity but they also got played on mainstream radio and charted really well. Thrift Shop is the song this year that has all that - it's still #1 on the ARIA charts. Sportsbet has got it as a short-price favourite, ahead of Of Monsters & Men's Little Talks. For the record, Thrift Shop was the 96th most played song on Triple J this year. More importantly, if it does win, it will be the first hip hop song to claim the Hottest 100's top spot.

(Bad language warning.)

Madness - Muse

When you tally up all the Hottest 100s (excluding the all-time lists) and award 100 points for #1 and 1 point for #100 (http://www.abc.net.au/triplej/hottest100/11/history/leaderboard.htm), you get an interesting insight into the bands that have consistently dominated the yearly countdown since its inception in 1993, as well as some perspective on how triple j slowly phases certain acts out of their playlists. Only three bands in the top 10 leaderboard have original songs on the voting list this year - Grinspoon has Passerby, while Muse has seven songs listed and Something For Kate has six (The Living End's Like A Version cover of Drugs is on there). Grinspoon is being phased out by triple j, the station that created them (they were the inaugural winners of triple j Unearthed). They don't get played as much as they used to, and triple j seems to play them these days out of a sense of Unearthed obligation. Yes, Passerby was the 85th most played song at the station last year, but it was the only Grinspoon track on the voting list. Compare this to the days where multiple songs from their albums would make the playlists - they had four songs in the Hottest 100 of 2002. But this is what happens to bands as they get older - your days at triple j are numbered. Remember when triple j used to play U2 (#30 on the Hottest 100 all-time leaderboard)? Would triple j play a new U2 track other than to perhaps give it an obligatory spin on Richard Kingsmill's show? And what about Coldplay (#38)? triple j loved the hell out of their first two albums but barely touched their two most recent (and still good) albums, their issue seemingly not one of age but the fact that Coldplay had apparently become too "mainstream" for their own good. Meanwhile, Green Day (#21) released three albums this year - guess how many songs they have on the voting list? Zero, seemingly another victim of either the "too old" or the "too mainstream" disease, or both. This is the future that awaits Muse, who become increasingly embraced by the mainstream with every album. The fact that triple j  kind of took the piss out of their Olympics anthem Survival within hours of its release doesn't bode well (admittedly the song is rubbish though). In summary, don't be surprised if Muse - the 2007 Hottest 100 winners - are slowly phased out of triple j's playlist. But for now, enjoy the track Madness, the best cut from their patchy The 2nd Law album. If they're lucky, Muse should get a couple of songs in the countdown and Madness is likely to be the highest placed.

Elephant - Tame Impala

The critics loved Tame Impala's second album Lonerism. It topped a lot of music journos's end-of-year polls, not just in Australia, but in England as well. Amazingly, perhaps for the first time in recent memory, the fans loved it just as much as the critics. It was one of the 100 biggest-selling albums in Australia this year (#94), it won triple j's J Award for best Aussie album, and it topped triple j's listener poll of the best albums of 2012. This last fact is important - since the 2000 Hottest 100, the #1 album in the listener poll has generated an average of 3.6 songs in the Hottest 100. This bodes well for Lonerism, and especially for single Elephant, which was the 53rd most played song on triple j in 2012 (and the most played song on Tom & Alex's breakfast program). Tame Impala's Feels Like We Only Go Backwards was the 72nd most played song so that should get a guernsey in the countdown too you'd think. Sportsbet has Elephant and Feels Like We Only Go Backwards as the third and fourth favourite to win the countdown.

My Gun - The Rubens

One of triple j's masterstrokes in recent years has been its ability to manufacture its own cottage industry of bands via Unearthed. Should your band be lucky enough to make the leap from their Unearthed website to their high rotation list, your career is pretty much assured, in much the same way that labels used to sign bands and then push them like they were best thing since sliced bread. If triple j decides your previously unheard-of band is great, their listeners accept it and lap that band up. Case in point - Art Vs Science, who are #92 on the Hottest 100 leaderboard. This year's example is The Rubens, who came from nowhere to have the 56th biggest selling album of the year in Australia, thanks largely to triple j's good graces. That's not to say they're not talented - My Gun is a great song (hell, I voted for it in the Hottest 100). triple j have always discovered new Australian talent but it's difficult to tell sometimes who's driving now - the talents of the band's music or triple j's ability to single-handedly create stars via their playlist.

A heap of Like A Versions

Speaking of triple j's own cottage industry of music, one of the biggest money-spinners for the not-for-profit radio station are their compilation CDs, particularly their Like A Version CDs. Editions #7 and #8 of these cover collections were among the 50 best-selling albums in Australia this year. Last year, the rise of Like A Version's popularity led to a couple of the covers earning spots in the countdown, most notably Owl Eyes' take on Foster The People's Pumped Up Kicks, which reached #28 - four spots better than the original. There are 23 Like A Version songs on the voting list, and you can bet that a few will make the countdown. Hottest 100 voters are not adverse to voting for covers - Boy & Bear's interpretation of Crowded House's Fall At Your Feet reached #5 in 2010, equally the record for highest-ranking cover song set by Spiderbait's Black Betty in 2004.

I Will Wait - Mumford & Son

The Hottest 100 regularly spits out little statistical quirks. For example, last year's countdown was the first not to feature any previous Hottest 100 winners since 1995 (which was only the third ever annual countdown). But a few former title-holders will likely be back this year, especially the 2009 winners Mumford & Sons, who have 10 songs on the voting list courtesy of their album Babel (which only has 12 tracks). Add to this the power of the crossover factor - single I Will Wait has spent a handy 19 weeks in the ARIA charts while Babel remains in the top 15 of the album charts after 16 weeks. This all adds up to another promising countdown for the folk group. Another past Hottest 100 winners who will probably be back is 2010 winner Angus Stone, whose got nine songs on the voting list (his sister Julia might be less likely to return this year as she only has two on the list). Last year's winner Gotye won't return this year but his duet partner Kimbra might, having two songs on the voting list. And Muse are the only other past winners likely to get on the list, mostly due to other Hottest 100 champions not releasing records this year. Although a past #1 is no guarantee of airplay on the station - I'm fairly certain 1998 winner The Offspring didn't get any spins last year for California Cruisin' (Bumpin' In My Trunk)... probably because the song is a steaming pile.

Gangnam Style - Psy

Okay, this one is probably not going to make the list, but I'm just going to throw it out there to make a point about how not being played on triple j is no barrier to making the Hottest 100, nor is not being on the voting list. Yes, it's a rare feat, but it has been done. Although there are no real records of this stuff, it's believed Alanis Morissette was never played on triple j in 1995 yet still scored three songs in the countdown (You Oughta Know at #39, Hand In My Pocket at #85 and All I Really Want at #90). In 1998, Green Day's Good Riddance reached #84 despite not being included in the voting list, while U2 reportedly reached #40 with the track Elevation despite not getting any airplay in 2001. The most recent example was in 2009, when Foo Fighters' snuck in at #100 with their track Wheels, which was a bonus track on their 'best of' and failed to receive any triple j love. But if any track is going to do it this year, it will be Psy's insanely popular South Korean pop hit. The odds are against it making the list, but all I'm saying is don't be totally surprised if it does.

Also, keep an eye out for Alt-J's Breezeblocks, Chet Faker's I'm Into You, Flume's Holding On, The Black Keys's Gold On The Ceiling, Jack White's 16 Saltines and Skrillex's Bangarang - all of which are likely to do well.

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