NewsWritten by Music Feeds on January 28, 2016
The Rubens have fired back at Steve Kilbey, frontman of seminal Aussie rock outfit The Church, following his controversial review of their Hottest 100-topping track Hoops for The Guardian.
Kilbey expressed his disappointment at the track being voted in at number 1, saying he was hoping for something a bit edgier.
“Nope, my readers, The Rubens do not rock,” he wrote. “It’s another wry bouncy (little) song, pleasant and innocuous and harmless and twee. No electric guitars were harmed during the making of this record, and no revolution is preached. Catchy to the max, but no oomph or grunt or even twist. This old curmudgeon shrugs his shoulders.”
He continued: “Why this song is No 1 eludes me. Triple J listeners have gone a bit soft, I guess… Tell me what the youngsters who like a bit of bite listen to these days, ’cause it surely ain’t Triple J … is it?”
After sparking a right shitstorm among the J faithful, the rock veteran also took to Facebook to defend his critique, adding: “Even when i was young and very beautiful , let me assure you, i would not have liked the Rubens et al. Its not because i am old that i dont like them, its because i came to review rocknroll and i found limp bland pop.”
The Rubens have now responded to Kilbey’s diss.
“I don’t really understand it. I don’t know what it means to be soft,” keyboardist Elliot Margin told The Music. “It’s a listeners’ poll, people vote for what they like or think should do well, what they’re proud of, and people get angry at results because that’s human, we’re all invested in it and it’s a big thing.
“I don’t really understand how people go soft, or how people vote soft,” he continued. “I don’t get angry at people for eating peanut butter sandwiches when I don’t like peanut butter. Each to his own.”
And of course, he’s exactly right. For those who are upset about The Rubens winning the Hottest 100, slagging off the band and their music won’t accomplish anything except to piss off Rubens fans and distract from a much more important issue.
The question is not whether or not Triple J listeners are wrong for liking The Rubens – musical taste is and always has been subjective. The question is whether or not Triple J itself is doing its job as a taxpayer-funded public broadcaster in exposing its listeners to enough other new music in a variety of alternative genres.
Including those that aren’t so – as Kilbey says – “soft”.
Or that “youngsters who like a bit of bite” can listen to.
Or, to use Elliot Margin’s metaphor, are peanut butter sandwiches on their menu at all?
And if not, why have they stopped supporting peanut butter sandwiches? Is that fair, when we’ve always relied on them for peanut butter sandwiches in the past? And if so, where else can hungry listeners go to get their hands on fresh Australian peanut butter sandwiches?
Either way, you guys think about that. I’m going to go make myself a peanut butter sandwich.
Gallery: 15 Things The Triple J Hottest 100 Taught Us About Ourselves
The urge to vote remains strong:
After a record-breaking number of votes were lodged last year (2,099,707), participation in this year's Hottest 100 has stayed relatively consistent, with 2,094,350 votes being cast by music fans in 172 countries around the world. Democracy does work!
Aussies love Aussie music:
The 2015 Hottest 100 marks the 3rd consecutive year that a homegrown artist has taken out the top spot. The Rubens bagged the number #1 position this year with Hoops, following Chet Faker in 2014 and Vance Joy the year before.
Not to mention we also saw multiple entries in the countdown from several other Aussie artists, with Tame Impala and Courtney Barnett nabbing four songs apiece to dominate 8% of the list.
Altogether, 54/100 songs in the Hottest 100 were brought to us by true blue fair dinkum Straya'n artists.
Underdogs really can conquer the odds:
Just like Rocky Balboa, The Karate Kid, The Mighty Ducks and Frodo Baggins before them, The Rubens claimed the 2015 Hottest 100 crown against all the odds.
Flying in the face of the statistical 'Swarm Theory' - which posits that artists who have multiple songs in the countdown are more likely to take out the top spot - the Menangle-bred indie rockers became only the third act in Hottest 100 history to take out the #1 position without having any of their other songs chart in the countdown.
*Cue triumphant Joe Esposito power anthem*
Kendrick Lamar is so hot right now:
Lamar's stock is well and truly on the rise Down Under. The Bluesfest headliner skyrocketed from the #53 position in 2014 with his song i all the way up to #2 this year with his massive hit King Kunta.
Not to mention his other tune Alright - which formed the unofficial anthem for the Black Lives Matter movement over in the States - also seemed to make an impact here in Aus, hitting the countdown at number #37 this year.
Triple J listeners remain immune from Bieber Fever:
Despite a betting company-led campaign to boost the Biebs into the big list - and his tracks What Do You Mean and Where Are U Now with Jack U being hotly tipped by the bookies to chart - the 2015 Hottest 100 remained a Bieber-free zone.
Prior to unveiling the countdown, Triple J also confirmed that zero troll campaigns had been successful in affecting this year's results. However, unlike the great Taylor Swift brouhaha of 2014, the station never announced Bieber's disqualification, meaning that the controversial popstar simply must not have racked up enough votes to chart.
Looks like you win again, taste elitists #Biebs4life
It's still very much a man's world:
Although female representation in the Hottest 100 was up from last year, with 37 songs in total featuring female vocals (made up of 33 songs with lead female vox and four with both female and male vox) compared to 32 in 2014, that's still a whopping 63% of tracks dominated by male artists.
And despite the voter breakdown being fairly evenly split when it comes to gender, with 53% males, 46% females and 1% "other", the only female artists to feature in the list's top 10 were guest vocalists in the form of MØ on Major Lazer and DJ Snake's Lean On and Lorde on Disclosure's Magnets.
Voters followed their animal instincts:
Here's a super fun fact: it turns out that 12 acts to feature in the 2015 Hottest 100 had one wild thing in common: their affinity to the animal kingdom.
Boy & Bear, The Wombats, Peking Duk, Tame Impala, Drake, DJ Snake, Snakehips, Foals, Jai Wolf, Birds of Tokyo, The Cat Empire and Ratatat are all named after little critters.
And, factoring in the multiple songs that some of them scored in the list, that makes an ani-maniacal 18% of the Hottest 100 this year related to all things feathery, furry or scaly.
...And felt the need for speed:
The average BPM for songs in the countdown rose to an unprecedented 123 BPM this year - a decidedly dancey tempo for a list that used to champion guitar music.
We were also partial to some blasts from the past:
Thanks to the growing trend of hip-hop artists sampling the work of musicians past, Rod Stewart and George Clinton both made cameos in the Hottest 100 of 2015 through A$AP Rocky and Kendrick Lamar, while Macklemore recruited old school rap champ Kool Mo Dee for his tune Downtown, which charted at #18. We also saw the return of The Chemical Brothers - who made their first Hottest 100 appearance in 1996 - with 2015’s Go becoming their 11th ever song to chart.
And two heads were often better than one:
A whopping 24 of the tracks in the Hottest 100 also featured guest vocalists. That's up from 17 last year, and basically forms a bloody quarter of the entire list, demonstrating the prominence of genres like electronica and hip hop (which often rely on guest singers) in this year's poll.
Three such tracks featured in the top 10: Major Lazer & DJ Snake – Lean On (feat. MØ) at #3, Hermitude – The Buzz (Feat. Mataya/Young Tapz) at #8 and Disclosure – Magnets (Feat. Lorde) at #10.
Heavy music still isn't feeling much love:
Heavy rock and metalcore made up only 6% of the countdown this year. And the six heavy songs that did chart were brought to us by just 3 artists. In addition to Bring Me The Horizon (3) and The Amity Affliction (1) - who were also the only two heavy acts to chart last year - Parkway Drive also snagged two entries with Vice Grip coming in at number #58 and Crushed at number #48.
Last year, the highest position that a heavy song received on the chart was The Amity Affliction's Pittsburgh at #22. This year it was the same band with Shine On at #25.
It begs the question: is the problem a lack of airplay on triple j's behalf or a lack of interest on the voting public's behalf?
However, there was a stronger show of support for guitar-based music in general
Compared to last year's top 10, which consisted of pretty much zero artists who routinely rely on electric guitars, this year saw a stronger showing of guitar-based music in general. Not only did indie-rockers The Rubens take out the top spot, the top 10 included two songs from psych-rockers Tame Impala, while homegrown punks Violent Soho came in at #15 with Like Soda. It'd be interesting to see - if jjj did up their support of heavy music this year - whether this Hottest 100 statistic would also change.
The Hottest 100 is very much a reflection of triple j's playlist:
Not only have all of the songs to feature in the Hottest 100's top 10 received high rotation over the past year, there were no tracks to appear in the countdown that haven't been given at least some love on JJJ's flagship station. 30 songs were from artists that were first heard on triple j Unearthed, while 14 songs were from eight previous J Award winning artists. On the flip-side, zero songs from non-triple j supported Australian artists which were equally huge in 2015 (such as the ARIA-chart topping hip-hop artist Kerser's Next Step or fellow number 1-hitting Troye Sivan's WILD) appeared on the list at all.
People are getting better at predicting the results of the Hottest 100:
For the most part, the spoiler lists that we saw floating around the internet in the lead-up to the Hottest 100 countdown were pretty accurate, especially when it came to the top 10.
The Rubens' Hoops (#1), Kendrick Lamar's King Kunta (#2), Major Lazer & DJ Snake's Lean On (feat. MØ) (#3), Tame Impala's The Less I Know The Better (#4) and Let It Happen (#5), and The Weeknd's Can’t Feel My Face (#9) were all hotly tipped by the bookies - and leading Hottest 100 prediction blogs - to chart in the top 10. Which they did.
There's one thing we can all agree on when it comes to Australia Day:
The controversy surrounding the origins of Australia Day and its meaning for our Indigenous Australians seemed to divide the nation more than ever this year. But regardless of the negative connotations that the public holiday holds for many, one thing that seems to bring us all together is the tradition of listening to the Hottest 100.
Through music, and their strategically-timed charity initiatives raising money for indigenous education, triple j continues to give us all something to rally around on a day that tends to divide us.
On ya, legends.