The Hottest 200 Of The Decade Has Been Completely Chaotic So Far
The Hottest 200 of the Decade is shaping up to be the strangest triple j countdown in history. So what's going on?
Over the last few days, we’ve been fed the Hottest 200 in dribs and drabs, getting little bursts of the countdown in the mornings and the afternoons. And guess what — it’s been totally bonkers.
That’s in contrast to triple j’s regular Hottest 100 which is, for the most part, totally dependable. There are surprises, sure — who was expecting Billie Eilish to take out the top spot earlier this year, particularly given the crowded field?
But it’s usually pretty easy even for a total radio neophyte to make guesses about which songs will do well. The more saturation that a song gets on the airwaves, the more likely you are to see it at the top of the list. Simple as that.
Well, usually. The Hottest 100 of the Decade is a different proposition entirely, and the list so far has been totally unpredictable. Tyler, The Creator’s ‘Yonkers’ above Tones And I’s ‘Dance Monkey’? Hell, ‘Dance Monkey’ coming in so low to begin with? Middle Kids’ immensely popular ‘Edge of Town’ barely making it into the countdown at all, just about scraping in at the 195th spot? Bluejuice getting in full stop? BENEE going back to back, along with Frank Ocean??
The list so far has seen recent favourites snubbed in favour of older, less radio-friendly songs. That’s surprising. It’s also followed no clear whim — although 2012 has been the most popular year for songs in the countdown, votes are scattered across the entire decade, with only a slight preference to more recent years. That’s even more surprising.
There’s just been no way to predict any of the results. Higher spots haven’t gone to more famous acts. More radioplay hasn’t equalled a more significant position — if that were true, ‘Uptown Funk’ wouldn’t be slumming it in the doldrums. Hip-hop has been surprisingly well represented — Tyler, The Creator was always expected to do well in the 100, being so beloved in Australia, but he’s already had two songs in the countdown. And though a lot of love has been shown to Australians, that love has been surprising in and of itself: at the risk of repeating myself, what is Bluejuice doing in there?
The Hottest 200 of the Decade has been totally unpredictable, an antic, confusing mix of snubs, flubs and surprise wins — which means that, most likely, the Hottest 100 will be as well. So, what gives?
There Are Just So Many Songs To Choose From
Usually, the Hottest 100 boils down to a competition between the biggest songs in the world — ‘Dance Monkey’ versus ‘Bad Guy’, for instance, or ‘King Kunta’ versus ‘Hoops’ (lol). These are huge songs with a huge profile, and quickly become consensus picks; kinda like how frontrunners in the American election tend to be the folks with the name recognition and massive profile, no matter how often they threaten to actually beat up voters.
The problem with the Hottest 200 of the Decade then, is that the field of popular songs in contention is, well, massive. Consensus picks emerge — ‘Somebody That I Used To Know’, ‘Royals’, ‘Innerbloom’ — but there are so bloody many of them that you could probably construct an entire Hottest 200 list of massive, status-changing pop songs.
To push our previous metaphor then, imagine an American election where every major US celebrity ran for President. It would be madness, with votes getting fractured every which way, and trends fluctuating all over the place.
Voters only get ten picks, remember, and there are at least 50 massive pop songs from the last decade most of us could name without even really having to think about it.
The Vote Distribution Is Wild
Usually, to get into the Hottest 100, you have to get a lot of votes. Not so with the Hottest 100 of the Decade. The vote distribution is so bonkers, with so many songs to choose from, that it’s much easier to crack the Hottest 200, requiring way fewer votes. You don’t need to be a massive pop song — you just need to be on the mind of a chunk of the Australian public.
Which means that you can be a weirdo Arctic Monkeys deep cut like ‘Arabella’, and still get pretty high on the countdown.
Our Memories Are Fallible; That Means The Hottest 200 Is Too
Usually, you don’t have to cast your mind very far back to remember the biggest pop hits of the last 12 months. Casting your mind back over the last 120 months, however, is a very different proposition indeed.
— Matt Neal (@DrMattNeal) March 12, 2020
There are just so many songs to churn through, and some hits simply don’t have the same staying power as others. That’s probably the only way to account for the low performance of songs like ‘Edge of Town’ and Mark Ronson’s ‘Uptown Funk’, which came in at 195 and 158 respectively despite each changing the shape of the music industry, in their own way.
Basically, if a song hasn’t been getting shoved into your face for a few years, then it doesn’t have a chance.
The Hottest 100 of the Decade uses non-preferential voting — each song that you put in your top ten gets the same value vote as the other. That means that for a song to rank well, it just has to appear in a lot of top tens.
It doesn’t have to be people’s most beloved song, just the song most people are willing to chuck into the mix. As a result, songs do better if they’re broadly liked by a lot of people, rather than being extremely well-liked by a few.
Hence, there’s barely any sub-genres represented on the list — no metal so far; very little indie. It’s all pop and hip hop, making it a strangely unrepresentative breakdown of the country’s taste.
Like I say: whole thing’s bonkers.
Joseph Earp is a staff writer at Junkee. He tweets @Joseph_O_Earp.