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triple j’s hottest 100 (white guys) of the last 20 years

Lana Del Rey (Image via the Age)

Lana Del Rey (Image via the Age)

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


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11 thoughts on “triple j’s hottest 100 (white guys) of the last 20 years

  1. A lot of people have contended that the voting process and results were just products of our exposure to music, that we just hear more male musicians etc. People like the music they like, so I don’t think it’s a conscious move to not vote for women, but it’s definitely problematic. It’s only after you read that list that Karen Pickering put together that you start to go, hey why AREN’T some of these women in the list? Missy Higgins, Ladyhawke and Lily Allens were glaring omissions, I thought, just based on their enduring popularity.

    I don’t know, I mean the votes were what they were, but I’m pretty uncomfortable with all the shouting down of these kind of queries. It all reeks far too much of ‘Shut up women, accept your 10% of the vote and be happy with it – how dare you complain’.

  2. I think this is a pretty big issue, and worth talking about – but that list is a bit misleading. “The last 20 years” is 1993 to the present – A lot of those acts weren’t making music that late (Siouxsie and the Banshees, Blondie, the Slits, etc). Hole’s biggest songs were pre-1993 (apart from Celebrity Skin) – as were Nirvana’s, Rage Against the Machine’s, David Bowie’s and a lot of other male bands which would usually dominate these kind of lists (hence Nirvana only making it to no 39).

    Having said that, it really is a problem that women are not taken as seriously for their contribution to music and I don’t mean to detract from the thrust of your article, which was excellent – but implying that all of those bands could have had a shot at the Hottest 100 is a bit misleading.

  3. To be completely honest I find this reading between the lines of why there weren’t as many women in the hottest 100 ridiculous. It’s just a countdown!
    Maybe in the last 20 years male fronted bands and male artists were just better?
    Personally, it takes a lot for me to like a female voice. Majority of my favourite bands or singers are male oriented. But it doesn’t mean there’s some underlying reason as to why that is other than it’s my own taste and choice.

    There will always be the Sarah Blaskos and Missy Higgins of the world who will appeal to thousands of people. But maybe in the last 20 years more men have made better music?

    • I think you’ve missed the point. And music, like most art, is completely subjective (as you demonstrated by stating by saying it takes a lot for you to like a female voice), so a statement suggesting ‘maybe men have just made better music’ is pretty useless and counter productive.

      ‘It’s just a countdown!’ is reminding me far too much of ‘It’s just a joke!’ so I need to go have a lie down before I hurt someone.

      • The fact is, it is just a countdown! I’m not in any way saying male musicians are always better, or more worthy. But in the last 20 years perhaps there were just more male fronted bands or male solo performers.
        It doesn’t have anything to do with female talent. Perhaps many female performers aren’t being picked up by record labels because they are under represented as Isabelle suggested.
        In whichcase that needs to be looked at. Why are more labels picking up males over females? Who knows. I don’t think it’s entirely a sexist thing though.

        I’m the same way with female comedians…just don’t find them as funny as male ones. And I can’t be sexist as i AM a female. It’s just taste and personal preference.

        Zoya – I see where you’re coming from. And i wasn’t implying that the men were more or less worthy. I just don’t think it’s a massive issue.
        As it was voted by the general public it’s obviously just what they prefer.

        It might be annoying and not fair, but I can’t see the massive issue.
        I have a fair few female artists that i LOVE that i think should have been in there. Katie Noonan…AMAZING. But sadly her band George wasn’t voted in. But honestly, I don’t think there’s an underlying reason as to why.

        I do agree that female artists do perhaps need better representation in the music industry, i don’t however think it’s because they’re percieved to not be as serious as men. I have a fair few musical female friends, and they definitely are head strong and will make it in the business. I have a couple of male friends who have too much ego and I don’t think will.
        I think a lot of it comes down to who they are as people and how hard they’re willing to work in such a cut throat industry, I don’t believe it’s all about their gender. But that’s just my opinion.

    • Hi Holly,

      I think that you’re not quite touching on the real issue. No one is claiming that the male artists featured on the Hottest 100 of the past 20 years list were not worthy, or great musicians. But to suggest that the lack of women on the list is somehow reflective of a lack of female musical talent is oversimplifying the issue.

      The fact is that in music, much like many other industries, women are not conceived of as being as ‘serious’ as men in the same industry. And worse, music made by women is often categorized as ‘women’s music’ rather than joining the broad category of ‘music’ more generally. There’s a pervading idea that only women enjoy music by women, creating a stereotype that bars female musicians from achieving the accolades they deserve.

      I think it’s telling that whilst there is usually a good gender spread in the annual Hottest 100, but when it’s a special list (Hottest 100 of All Time, Hottest 100 of the past 20 years), less women make the cut. I think it’s because culturally, female artists aren’t considered to be defining or significant enough to encompass an era the way that male musicians are.

      • “I think it’s because culturally, female artists aren’t considered to be defining or significant enough to encompass an era the way that male musicians are.”

        I don’t think that’s an answer so much as it simply kicks the can down the road – *why* are female artists not considered defining or significant enough to encompass an era? Certainly I feel that women such as Janis Joplin or Joan Baez were considered defining figures of their genres in the 60s and 70s so I don’t know if I agree with that contention.

        Ultimately though, I don’t know why women are so underrepresented and, despite it going against every feminist inclination, explaining it away through reference to Triple J’s, or society’s patriarchal cultural tastes, just doesn’t seem to properly account for the phenomona. Any such claim simply provokes a multitude of counter-examples for any musical era.

        Ultimately, I think the Hottest-100-of-all-time-male-bias is one of the most bizzare and unexplained social media phenomona of the past few years.

    • To me this article is more of a retrospective look at women in music, for the most part, it doesn’t actually concern women in music today. There’s many very talented female recording artists right now, and the general public seem to agree on this. The fact that more men were played on the radio over the last 20 years undoubtedly means they’ll be more heavily represented in this countdown. Yet it doesn’t mean that women in the music industry right now aren’t respected and acknowledged, it means that 20 years ago, they were underrepresented. The megastars of today’s music industry are, arguably, overwhelmingly female. By pointing out the gender imbalance in this countdown, we’re focusing on issues in the music industry 20 years ago, rather than celebrating that empowering, talented women dominate our airwaves today.

      • I agree with this. If I look at my hottest 100 list of the year 9 out of 10 were women but my hottest 100 of all time 20 out of 20 were male. I think the wheels of change move slowly in such a traditionally male dominated industry.

  4. It shows that triple j is like a tyrannical dictatorship shoving music down our throats and then asking us to rank it. Also how skewed is our perception of the best songs of the last 20 years, half the people that listen to triple j these days would have just been born or infants when the best songs of 1993 were played. What about Joe Bloggs down the road who has written three DIY songs in his basement that a select few know are the greatest songs of all time but the regime wont put him on rotation.

  5. Pingback: Where Were All The Women At The 2013 ARIAs? | Lip Magazine

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