10 things to talk about at a Hottest 100 party

It’s January 26, and while the debate over the moral complexity of Australia Day continues, there’s one thing today on which we can agree – the Hottest 100 is a musical feast for all!

Well, OK, not all, exactly – it’s the youth station. But anyone who knows their triple j playlist as backwards as an Aussie rapper’s cap – or anyone like me who will be listening in shamefacedly to catch up on a year’s worth of music – is in for a treat.

The Hottest 100 has been part of our summers since I was young enough to sing along with all the songs on the countdown, and the tradition of Hottest 100 parties stretches back just as far.

The songs may have changed, but the conversations in our backyards and pubs on countdown day have stayed the same over the decades.

So I’m pretty confident that this exclusive guide to how to talk about the playlist that stops the nation is as up-to-the-minute as my musical knowledge is stuck in the late 1990s.

1) Who did you vote for?

The obvious place to start. It’s hard choosing just 10 songs to sum up a year, isn’t it? No doubt you’ll want to showcase your good taste by sharing your perfectly composed list with all and sundry, but there is another approach. The real pros, like former triple j Drive host Lindsay ‘The Doctor’ McDougall, vote multiple times with multiple email addresses. Tricky!

(I don’t know whether you’re supposed to do this, but far be it from me to disagree with a real doctor…)

2) What’ll be number one?

The big question. I think ‘Hotline Bling’ could be a dark horse, both because Matt and Alex from the breakfast show dressed as its video for the ARIAs, showing just how huge it was, and also because it’s one of the very few songs being tipped for the countdown that I’ve heard of.

Anyway, this is the part of the conversation where I nod and try to look more knowledgeable than I am. But hey, I’m nearly 40.

3) How many Aussies are there?

After many years of concerns about under-representation, Aussies have been smashing it recently.Thirteen of the past 19 number ones have been home and hosed songs (that’s triple j-ese for ‘Australian’), and once again the number of local entries is likely to be very high – reflecting, in particular, how many great electronic/dance artists this country’s produced in recent years.

Go Straya! And go triple j for playing so many sick Aussie tunes, ay!

4) How many women aren’t there?

This is a more awkward topic. There’s never been a number one by a female artist, and last year, at least according to one count, just over 20 per cent of artists had a prominent female member.

This is not a new issue for triple j to contend with – station manager Chris Scadden crunched the numbers back in 2013, and made the point that the station plays significantly more female artists than feature in these polls. And naturally, a listener-voted countdown like the Hottest 100 diagnoses a problem; it doesn’t provide a chance to solve it.

One thing we can be sure of, though, is that triple j will continue to break new artists from a diversity of backgrounds – they do more of this than anyone.

5) … But how great is Courtney Barnett?

Her unassuming, witty tales of suburban Melbourne life have attracted more hype than the resolutely low-key singer-songwriter would ever have sought. She deserves number one this year, I reckon. ‘Depreston’ captures the horror of the housing market in a way that must resonate with every Australian below 40 – and it’s incredibly catchy, too.

In any case, though, I bet thanks to C Barnett, young women all over Australia are picking up six-strings in much the way Eminem once encouraged scrawny white dudes to enter rap battles. The results will surely be far more listenable.

6) Where’s Bieber?

This question is this year’s version of #tay4hottest100, except it’s somehow not funny when it’s Bieber. Plus, ‘Sorry’ is no ‘Shake It Off’.

As with Taylor Swift, the answer is – absolutely everywhere else. While some artists do cross over (hello Drake), there’s surely no point in triple j playing the same music we already hear on multiple commercial FM stations.

A broader comparison between the Hottest 100 and the other list of Australia’s favourite 100 songs last year, the ARIA singles chart, is interesting – there will probably be at least a dozen songs on both lists. There’s lots of Biebs and Tay Tay over on the ARIA chart – but also a lot more women in general. My quick count gave 40 songs with at least one female artist credited. It’ll probably be ahead in terms of racial diversity, too.

This may reveal some uncomfortable things about the audience’s listening and voting preferences. Or maybe it just says that female artists are conquering the mainstream, and not bothering so much with the alternative sphere. Then again, maybe the triple j playlist focuses more on singer-songwriters, and that world is still far more male-dominated?

Worth pondering while you listen, anyway.

7) Can you believe some guy manually entered 20,000 votes forTepid 100?

No, I really can’t.

8) It’s sad how nowadays so much music is just some dude with a laptop

I’ve been whinging about this problem at music festivals for years. But as with every other artform, technology is breaking down barriers and letting anyone have a go, and the results are often spectacular.

Maybe the gigs aren’t as interesting, but the elaborate production is often more so.

9) Have you heard the story that inspired ‘King Kunta’ by Kendrick Lamar?

Which is the hot favourite for #1, on both the Tepid list and at least one betting website I checked. It’s a remarkable tale – probably fictional – about a slave whose foot was cut off by slavers after multiple escape attempts, but who eventually triumphs.

If it wins, it’ll change up a very white-looking list of #1s. Pretty potent song to play across the country on January 26, too.

10) The countdown isn’t as good as it used to be

A few years ago, I heard this chorus at a massive Hottest 100 party where most of the attendees were in their 20s, and it was somehow depressing yet reassuring given my own 90s nostalgia.

I’ll defend the 1995 list that reflects my first year at uni against any more recent 100. The truth is surely that the countdown is as good as ever, but we all eventually stop being 19.

So, have an excellent countdown, especially if you are 19 – it’ll never get better in the years to come, I promise you.

And may the best song win.

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