While we’re in Hottest 100 territory with Billie Eilish, Bad Guy and a relieved triple j (which you can read about here …), Wind Back Wednesday hooks up the FM dial to recall those crazy old days – a mere three years ago – when the idea of triple j’s audience taking a chance, on anything, seemed excitingly bold.
Given this year’s Hottest 100 result and the first female poll winner breaking ground, it’s worth noting that in 2016, the year before this opinion piece was published, triple j’s audience chose the trad-as-anything Rubens over the earthshaking brilliance of Kendrick Lamar. Danger was not their middle name.
Warning: may contain gratuitous reference to an item of clothing which got right up the noses of some people.
Both Rihanna and Beyonce in the triple j hottest 100? Guy Sebastian too? And you thought Brexit and Trump upended long-held beliefs and the world order.
More significant in its own way than the win by Flume with Never Be Like You, was how the two northern hemisphere pop/R&B giants and the man who has never quite been able to shake off the smell of Australian Idol winner for the cool kids, appeared in the ultimate cool kids contest for the first time on Australia Day.
This after being played for the first time on the ABC’s youth network in 2016.
It might be enough to forgive the voters for the countless bland EDM tracks, the new-age-hippie mellow tunes – or the combination of both – foisted on us through the hottest 100.
But in any case, it suggested the listener poll could be rescued from its history of insular exclusions which once would have blocked most of the R&B songs dotted through the 2017 list.
Rather than reheating the culture wars of two years ago, when Beyonce made another genre/generation/career-defining album which triple j ignored because it was “too commercial” (when in fact commercial radio wet themselves with fear of playing its radical reinvention), maybe it’s time to pay a little credit to the station and its listeners.
Playing Beyonce’s Lemonade album, was a belated but still worthy correction for triple j even as the complaints rained from certain quarters who couldn’t see past the name to the music and songs, such as the #66 song, Hold Up.
And if Rihanna made it past the anti-R&B and anti-women whiners mainly as the add-on to Drake’s Too Good, then consider it still a reasonable first step.
Though once again the triple j audience couldn’t quite bring itself to put a woman alone atop the hottest 100, yet another runner-up spot being the best result, with Amy Shark’s Adore falling short and guest vocalist Kai sharing the glory with Flume on Never Be Like You.
Equally as radical as the appearance of once-cursed pop figures – and radical is not a word normally associated with the safe-programming triple j or its highly conservative listeners – was the surge in support for genuinely hard metal.
Three appearances each in the bottom 50 from Violent Soho (who returned for a fourth spot in the top 15) and the surprise packet Amity Affliction showed two things: that the station can play heavy stuff outside a dedicated metal program and build an audience; and that when a genre’s fans get organised and vote as a bloc, things happen.
Not surprisingly, given the frequency of plays across the day and night, but also the inherent old-fashioned leanings of its audience, there were several appearances from the station’s covers segment, Like A Version.
These included Sebastian’s moment in the hipster sun, Keeping Score, and perhaps most amazingly, the Australian Oasis Show – aka Sydney’s DMA’s –making it to #6 with a Wonderwall-ish cover of Cher’s Believe.
Still, it was merely a waystation to the crowning of Flume, Sydney’s Harley Streten, who made his first appearance at 95, with the anticipation of multiple entries ahead and this was realised with his second at 37, his third at #8 (Say It) and, inevitably, #1.
No one was surprised. But then surprise is not something cardigan wearers like the triple j audience appreciate.