AMID the beers and barbecues of Australia Day, over a million people will be tuning in to listen to Triple J's Hottest 100 - the annual countdown of the previous year's best songs, as voted by Triple J listeners around Australia and the world.
Billed as the world's largest music poll, it serves as a litmus test each year of what is big in the alternative music world, as curated by the national youth broadcaster and its predominantly young audience.
So what can we expect from Sunday's countdown of 2013?
LAST year, nothing was going to keep Thrift Shop from the top spot. In 2011, Gotye & Kimbra had it in the bag months out from Australia Day. Once again, the 2013 poll looks like it's already been won and run, with Kiwi teen Lorde likely to nail #1 with her tune Royals. Music websites and blogs reckon she's a shoe-in, Sportsbet has got her as odds-on favourite, and she's got the defining quality winners tend to have - a massive crossover factor.
Not only has Royals been a hit in the alternative world of Triple J, but it's also been a hit in the mainstream - it's the fifth biggest-selling single and most streamed track of 2013 - and that dual appeal matters come Hottest 100 time. If she does win - only a backlash due to overplaying could stop her - it would be history-making. It would be the first win by a solo female artist but it would be the first time a New Zealander has made the top 10 with their own song, let alone finished at #1 (that's not counting guest spots, such as Kimbra featuring on Gotye's winning 2012 track).
The best of the Kiwis to date:
#11 My Delirium - Ladyhawke (2008)
#14 It's Too Late - Evermore (2004)
#19 Business Time - Flight Of The Conchords (2008)
#24 Carol Brown - Flight Of The Conchords (2009)
#25 Cameo Lover - Kimbra (2011)
#25 Pacifier - Shihad (2000)
AS a result of Lorde's likely dominance, the race opens up for second place, which most people seem to think is a two-horse race (although the bookies reckon it's a three-horse race). Prior to the emergence of Royals as the favourite, my tip was Daft Punk's Get Lucky and I reckon it will be #2. But it will have some stiff competition, with the main threat for second likely to come from Vance Joy's Riptide. As with Royals, both Get Lucky and Riptide crossed over into the mainstream, and if any song is going to cause an upset, it's one of those two. But the boffins over at Sportsbet beg to differ and have the second favourite pegged as Arctic Monkeys' Do I Wanna Know?, which would make for a massive upset if it won. It should be noted that the album Do I Wanna Know? came from - AM - was voted album of the year by Triple J listeners. While this might make it sound like a dark horse for the win, history says otherwise - only three times in the past 15 years has a song from the listeners' album of the year won the Hottest 100 (Gotye, Kings Of Leon and Franz Ferdinand).
SOME boffins pooped on Triple J's parade last year by taking advantage of everyone posting their votes on social media to collate a "warmest 100". From a sample of size of 2.7 per cent of the total vote, they managed to accurately predict 92 of the 100 songs, including the top three in order. Triple J were reportedly a bit peeved and removed the social media function from this year's vote. Naturally, people's propensity to share on social media means many are still posting their votes for all to see, so the boffins are at it again. Their sample size this time is only 1.3 per cent, but their predictions are fascinating - of the four Sportsbet favourites, the Warmest 100 expects Vance Joy's Riptide at #1, Arctic Monkeys' Do I Wanna Know? at #2, Lorde's Royals at #8 and Daft Punk's Get Lucky at a lowly #15. The smaller sample size would seem to indicate this year's Warmest 100 will be less accurate, as would the fact they have Royals at #8 ... or is this the backlash against Lorde that I mentioned earlier?
FOR a lot of people of a certain age (over 27), Australia Day is the only day of the year where you actively listen to Triple J. It's tradition, even if you have no idea of any of the songs or artists. It's kind of like watching the AFL grand final even though you haven't watched a single game all year and don't know any of the players - it's just the done thing. Naturally, the results can be confusing for people who fall out of the Triple J demographic and stopped listening to the station daily (which I personally think happens about the time you turn 27, or at least it did for me). But even if you've drifted away from the Triple J loop, there is a real thrill for us oldies listening to the countdown when a familiar song features - "ooh I know this one!". The sad news is that the confusion caused by the countdown is likely to grow now that Triple J has taken over Dig Radio, which appears to be aimed at answering those old-timers (ie. people over 27) who griped that Triple J "ain't what it used to be" and plays "nothing but crap" these days. With Dig planning to play new music targeted at an older demographic (ie. stuff with guitars in it), it will lead people to think all that awesome new music they've been hearing on Dig will be a shoe-in for the Hottest 100. Guess again. Already this year, voters have found lots of songs on high rotation on Dig aren't even on the voting list for Triple J. It's all very confusing and I think I need a lie-down and a nice cup of tea.
THE massive amounts of EDM - or electronic dance music - played on Triple J is one of the main reasons old-timers feel the station ain't what it used to be (along with the youth broadcaster's support for Aussie hip hop and apparent disdain for "Melbourne rock"). Last year's countdown was overflowing with "techno" from the likes of Flume, Major Lazer, Disclosure, Calvin Harris and more. You can probably expect the same thing again, if only because EDM is so prevalent on the playlist. Daft Punk, James Blake, Avicii, Rudimental, Chet Faker & Flume, Disclosure, and Major Lazer are likely to get multiple guernseys in the poll. Strangely, given the rise of EDM, the top 10s in recent years have been a diverse spread of genres and the same should be true again this year - the Warmest 100 is certainly predicting a top 10 with a good mix of rock, EDM and indie.
SOME people say Triple J has too much power in the Aussie music scene these days. A recent story in a fellow Fairfax paper claimed bands adjust their sound in the hopes of getting that all important Triple J stamp of approval, leading to a homogenisation of the current sound (and a massive debate about the station's worth/role as a whole). One manifestation of Triple J's power can be found in the Hottest 100, where an increasing amount of music that makes the poll is generated by the station itself, whether it be through its covers segment Like A Version or through its bureau of discovery, Unearthed. Sure, only two Like A Versions made it in last year - the most ever - but the segment and its spin-off CDs seem to be growing in popularity, so don't be surprised if even more pop up in the 2013 poll (although the Warmest 100 is only predicting two Like A Versions will make the countdown). As for Unearthed, more and more artists that Triple J claim to have discovered are dominating the poll. From Flume to Asta, Ball Park Music to San Cisco, the 2012 list was heavy with bands coming in through the Unearthed door (21 tracks or over a fifth, according to the unofficial Hottest 100 database at hottest100.org). Expect the Unearthed crew to shine again this year.
For the record, this is how I think it's going to pan out (bear in mind I've hardly listened to Triple J all year, what with being over 27 and all).
1. Lorde - Royals
2. Daft Punk - Get Lucky
3. Vance Joy - Riptide
4. Disclosure - When A Fire Starts To Burn
5. Lorde - Tennis Court
6. The Preatures - Is This How You Feel?
7. Arctic Monkeys - Do I Wanna Know?
8. Matt Corby - Resolution
9. Haim - The Wire
10. Arcade Fire - Reflektor