Mow the lawn, chisel last year’s burnt snags off the barbie, fill up the inflatable pool, tune your radio, connect the speakers and get ready for your Australia Day Triple J Hottest 100 party, done Inner West style, advises Kassia Aksenov.
Listening to the Hottest 100 countdown has become an integral part of Australia Day, at least for younger Inner Westies. Ciao chatted with local youth culture celebrities, Triple J presenter Alex Dyson and lead guitarist of Gang of Youths, Joji Malani, about what Australia Day and Triple J’s now famous music poll means to them.
After 22 years Triple J Hottest 100 is still so relevant because it encourages public engagement through its voting system. It attracted over two million voters in 2014. Eligible voters are not restricted to our continent; the voting system allows both expats and foreigners to get involved. This has led toTriple J labelling the Hottest 100 countdown “the world’s greatest democracy”. Then, of course, there’s the prize on offer, the holy grail of Australian gigs and festivals – the Willy Wonkaesque Golden Ticket. This is awarded to one lucky voter each year, who receives a double pass to every live music event supported by Triple J for a whole 12 months! I’ve heard friends discuss how they would quit their jobs if they won the Golden Ticket to embark on a year-long live-music-filled bender.
So it’s not difficult to understand the concept of the Hottest 100 and why people get involved. But why January 26th? As Joji Malani is quick to point out, it feels somehow wrong to celebrate the day that white settlers colonised Australia. “We [Gang of Youths] have an interesting view on Australia Day; it’s a weird day to commemorate, it’s the day in which we colonised this nation, kicked all the locals out and made it our own,” says Malani.
“Being an Islander it’s a weird thing to indulge in. In our view having the Triple J countdown is about having something else to look forward to.”
The 2016 countdown marks the first year that Triple J has tied the countdown to a worthy cause. Appropriately enough it’s one focused on helping Indigenous youth. The Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience (AIME) supports Indigenous students through high school and university. It aims to ultimately close the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous educational achievement.
Alex Dyson says of the unprecedented partnership, “Some lovely people will donate to AIME when they vote, which will help change some school children’s lives directly. But I think the biggest [impact] will be awareness. Literally millions of people tune in to the Hottest 100, and many would not realise the extent at which Indigenous kids are over-represented in school drop-out rates. By partnering with AIME, Triple J can help turn the tide on this issue.”
The benefits of broadcasting the countdown on a summertime public holiday when many Australians, especially students, are still in holiday mode and can take the time to listen are huge. And the music provides an opportunity to bring people, especially music-loving Inner Westies, together.
“To borrow a term, it’s about mateship. Sure, the tunes are great, but really it’s an excuse to connect to people, whether it’s two strangers at a barbecue with the songs on in the background, or just the feeling of connection you get when the song you voted for reaches the top 10, proving there are thousands of other people out there who have the same taste as you,” observes Dyson.
The poll even brings Australians together in the virtual world, sparking social media debates on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. To illustrate that, look no further than the biggest Triple J controversy of recent years, Buzzfeed’s 2014 #Tay4hottest100 campaign. (Buzzfeed encouraged its readers to vote for the pop princess leading to Triple J to rather sniffily rule her ineligible). Nonetheless, Dyson argues the poll unites Aussies more than it divides them.
“We took a call on air during the countdown from a guy who had been T-boned at an intersection and had his car written off. He was furious until the offender came and apologised and he realised they were both listening to the Hottest 100. They sat next to each other on the nature strip and listened together until the tow-truck arrived.”
Throughout its existence the Hottest 100 has featured Inner West musicians. On two occasions they’ve taken out the number one position – The Whitlams with ‘No Aphrodisiac’ in 1997 and Alex Lloyd with ‘Amazing’ in 2001. Dyson says making the cut can be career altering for bands. “Making it into the hottest 100 can inspire more people to download a band’s songs, go see them live, or even encourage other radio stations to add the songs to rotation. The benefits can be massive,” he says. “Everyone who has made the top 10 has had some notable success not just in Australia but also overseas,” adds Malani.
It’s at this time of year that musicians reach out to their fans on social media, reminding them who to vote for. “I think it’s lame to not do anything [to encourage your fans to vote]. Bands can do whatever, they can ask their fans!” says Malani.
So fill up the esky, check the BBQ gas bottle and let’s hope this year’s Triple J hottest 100 number one escapes the public backlash deriding it as the “worst song ever” it too often recieves!
To donate to AIME visit aimedonationsraisely.com
Party-girl locals izzy and lauren talk celebrating on Australia Day…
What goes hand in hand with the hottest 100 countdown?
Izzy: Being with all of your mates with an icy cold VB in your hand!
What’s your favourite thing about Jan 26th?
Izzy: Dressing up in some sort of Aussie flag bikini and decking out in temporary tattoos
The key to a good Australia Day party is…?
Lauren: The music, a BBQ and, of course, an esky full of ice cold drinks.
What did you vote for as your number one and what are you going to do if/when it’s played on Australia Day?
Izzy: Hayden James’ ‘Something About You’. When I hear it I’m going to feel amazing and I’ll have to pull out some groovy moves
Lauren: Carmada’s ‘On Fire’ (featuring Maribelle). I’ll scream “I love this song!” jump up and start dancing!