triple j’s hottest 100 (white guys) of the last 20 years
Disclaimer: As much as I want to be (and probably should be) outraged about the songs that made the cut for Triple J’s Top 100 Hottest Songs of the past 20 years, I actually love the majority of the songs and artists. Jeff Buckley had one of the most amazing voices ever, I have posters of Nirvana up on my walls and have gone to see the Foo Fighters and Powderfinger live in concert many times. So as much as the Top 100 has come under criticism, I do love the music. I just wanted to make that clear before I launch into my article proper.
Australians love a good list, especially when it comes to our entertainers. The annual Triple J Top 100 countdown is always eagerly anticipated, and many gatherings and parties are associated with listening to these countdowns. Almost as much as we love the lists themselves, we love debating the choices, their ranks, and what songs/artists should have been there and weren’t.
So when Triple J announced that they were going to open up voting for the Top 100 Songs of the past 20 years, this announcement was met with much speculation and excitement. Arguments about the selection of songs and artists were inevitable before the list was even revealed; but still, listeners were encouraged to vote for their favourite acts.
The end results of the countdown can be found here. The debate over Oasis’ ‘Wonderwall’ claiming the number one spot has been fierce over social media outlets, as well as the (perhaps) over-representation of Daft Punk, and the natural debate over the songs and artists chosen. The comments on the Triple J website on the countdown include the bemoaning of choosing Wheatus and Mumford and Sons; as well as vicious, occasionally hilarious predictions of ‘Thrift Shop’ by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis making the top spot, as it did in the 2012 Top 100 countdown.
On a more serious and disconcerting note though, is the lack of diversity in this ‘ultimate countdown.’ The overwhelming majority of the artists who comprise the hundred select spots are Caucasian male dominated bands or singers.
This has been the source of much concern coming as a result from the countdown, including a blog entry from Cherchez La Femme’s Karen Pickering highlighting the definitive lack of female artists.
Given that the countdown was entirely decided by popular vote, the underlying reason behind the acts represented cannot be the fault of Triple J or the ABC. In fact, Triple J has done fantastic work in exposing listeners to fantastic female musicians, including Australia’s Missy Higgins (who did not feature on the Top 100 countdown). Higgins responded to the countdown with this message via Twitter:
‘Seriously though, where the fuck were all the women on the Hottest 100??? Oh I know, it’s the NEXT 20 years that we dominate.’
It is worrying to note that the recent Top 100s of each year have included decreasing numbers of female acts. When considering the fact that the choice relies upon popular vote, it seems clear that gender imbalance is becoming more and more prevalent when it comes to these now famous annual music countdowns. And it’s certainly not due to the fact that female artists aren’t making good enough music, or aren’t talented enough to stand up with their male counterparts. As highlighted on the Cherchez La Femme page, there are ample artists who could easily have been included on the list, with much musical talent and prowess:
PJ Harvey, Bjork, Hole, L7, Veruca Salt, The Breeders, Bikini Kill, Belly, Elastica, Garbage, The Cranberries, Tuscadero, Babes in Toyland, Tori Amos, Fiona Apple, Sleater Kinney, Le Tigre, Mazzy Star, Throwing Muses, Lush, Concrete Blonde, Transvision Vamp, No Doubt, Magic Dirt, The Divinyls, Portishead, Belly, Sneaker Pimps, Frente, Lush, Liz Phair, Michelle Shocked, Tracy Chapman, Yeasty Girls, Catatonia, Natalie Merchant, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Patti Smith, Yo La Tengo, Sonic Youth, Sinead O’Connor, kd lang, Cowboy Junkies, Cocteau Twins, Wild Flag, Martha Wainwright, Janelle Monae, Camille, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Cat Power, Missy Higgins, Clare Bowditch, The Waifs, Blondie, Kim Deal, Peaches, Chicks on Speed, Biftek, Metric, The Dixie Chicks, Paramore, The Pretenders, Rilo Kiley, Lucinda Williams, Sugarcubes, The Lunachicks, The Donnas, The Spazzys, The Gossip, The 5, 6, 7, 8s, The Slits, Keren Ann, Frida Hyvonen, First Aid Kit, Robyn, Adele, The Cardigans, Beth Orton, Kasey Chambers, Gillian Welch, Juliana Hatfield, The Knife, Little Birdy, Neko Case, Skulker, Georgia Fields, Angie Hart, Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, Clairy Browne and the Bangin’ Rackettes, Emily Mae and the Alarum Belles, The Dames, Those Darlins, Beaches, The Be Good Tanyas, Indigo Girls, Haim, Fire Party, Luscious Jackson, The Pandoras, Skunk Anansie, Ladyhawke, The Motels, Feist, Killing Heidi, Superjesus, Dresden Dolls, Tegan and Sara, Santigold, Missy Elliot, Regina Spektor, Joan as Policewoman, Howling Bells, Electrelane, Baby Animals, Laura Marling, Joanna Newsom, Mountain Man, Kate Miller-Heidke, Jen Cloher, Cash Savage, Mia Dyson, Sarah Blasko, Monique Brumby, Sia, Liz Stringer, Kimbra, Holly Throsby, Vika & Linda, Katie Noonan, Sally Seltmann.
And these are just to name a few. As a huge Courtney Love and Hole fan myself, I was immensely disappointed to see that her music in particular was not included, given that she was the face of the grunge scene of the 1990s (where the majority of the music on the countdown was taken), and given that her husband Kurt Cobain’s band Nirvana were comfortably placed at number 39 with ‘Heart Shaped Box.’
Of the entire countdown, there were thirteen women represented across fifteen acts. But these women were not easy to spot, and are often outnumbered as a part of the band of which they are a member (Dolores O’Riordan from the Cranberries and Stephanie Ashworth from Something For Kate just two examples). Lana Del Ray and M.I.A. were the only solo female acts represented on the countdown, occupying spots number 99 and 97 respectively.
It may seem as though this is making a mountain out of a molehill considering that these countdowns annually prove that everybody has their own, unique taste in music which is different to everybody else’s and may not coincide with popular opinion. But given the trend towards the lack of diversity, it is a cause for worry for emerging young female musicians.
By Alexandra Kate Van Schilt