Wednesday, July 15, 2009

JJJ listeners vote on the All-Time Hottest 100 Songs by White Males

Australia’s national yoof-radio station Triple J has just released the results of its “Hottest 100 of All Time” voting poll. And to anyone who has ever listened to this station, the results are not particularly surprising. Here is the list in full:

1. Nirvana - Smells Like Teen Spirit
2. Rage Against the Machine - Killing In The Name
3. Jeff Buckley - Hallelujah
4. Joy Division - Love Will Tear Us Apart
5. Radiohead - Paranoid Android
6. Queen - Bohemian Rhapsody
7. Jeff Buckley - Last Goodbye
8. Red Hot Chili Peppers - Under The Bridge
9. Foo Fighters - Everlong
10. Led Zeppelin - Stairway to Heaven
11. John Lennon - Imagine
12. Oasis - Wonderwall
13. Radiohead - Creep
14. The Verve - Bittersweet Symphony
15. Radiohead - Karma Police
16. Pink Floyd - Wish You Were Here
17. Hilltop Hoods - The Nosebleed Section
18. Muse - Knights Of Cydonia
19. Metallica - One
20. White Stripes - Seven Nation Army
21. Powderfinger - These Days
22. Massive Attack - Teardrop
23. Hunters & Collectors - Throw Your Arms Around Me
24. The Beatles - A Day in the Life
25. Pearl Jam - Alive
26. Michael Jackson - Thriller
27. Powderfinger - My Happiness
28. Radiohead - Fake Plastic Trees
29. Pixies - Where Is My Mind?
30. Jimi Hendrix - All Along the Watchtower
31. Metallica - Enter Sandman
32. New Order - Blue Monday
33. Silverchair - Tomorrow
34. The Living End - Prisoner Of Society
35. Smashing Pumpkins - 1979
36. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - Into My Arms
37. Tool - Stinkfist
38. The Killers - Mr Brightside
39. Pearl Jam - Better Man
40. Nirvana - Come As You Are
41. Michael Jackson - Billie Jean
42. Bloc Party - Banquet
43. The Beach Boys - God Only Knows
44. The Beatles - Hey Jude
45. Queens of the Stone Age - No One Knows
46. Faith No More - Epic
47. John Butler Trio - Betterman
48. Beastie Boys - Sabotage
49. Guns 'N Roses - Sweet Child O' Mine
50. Crowded House - Don't Dream It's Over
51. Smashing Pumpkins - Bullet With Butterfly Wings
52. You Am I - Berlin Chair
53. Pink Floyd - Comfortably Numb
54. The Cure - Close To Me
55. Bob Dylan - Like A Rolling Stone
56. Jeff Buckley - Lover, You Should Have Come Over
57. Tool - Forty Six & 2
58. Daft Punk - Around The World
59. Augie March - One Crowded Hour
60. Johnny Cash - Hurt
61. Blur - Song 2
62. Nine Inch Nails - Closer
63. AC/DC - Thunderstruck
64. Violent Femmes - Blister in the Sun
65. Underworld - Born Slippy
66. Elton John - Tiny Dancer
67. Ben Folds Five - Brick
68. Blink 182 - Dammit
69. Jeff Buckley - Grace
70. The Prodigy - Breathe
71. The Smiths - How Soon Is Now?
72. The Shins - New Slang
73. The Clash - London Calling
74. Nirvana - Lithium
75. Green Day - Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life)
76. The Stone Roses - Fools Gold
77. Gotye - Hearts A Mess
78. Smashing Pumpkins - Today
79. David Bowie - Life on Mars
80. The Rolling Stones - Paint It Black
81. Pulp - Common People
82. System Of A Down - Chop Suey!
83. Placebo - Every You Every Me
84. Bob Marley & The Wailers - No Woman, No Cry
85. The Dandy Warhols - Bohemian Like You
86. The Beatles - Come Together
87. Coldplay - Yellow
88. The Rolling Stones - Gimme Shelter
89. Rage Against the Machine - Bulls On Parade
90. Kings of Leon - Sex on Fire
91. AC/DC - Back In Black
92. Bon Iver - Skinny Love
93. Massive Attack - Unfinished Sympathy
94. Modest Mouse - Float On
95. Stevie Wonder - Superstition
96. Daft Punk - One More Time
97. Midnight Oil - Beds Are Burning
98. Led Zeppelin - Kashmir
99. TV on the Radio - Wolf Like Me
100. Franz Ferdinand - Take Me Out

Do a google search for this and you’ll find the usual response from fanboys everywhere:

“OMG I can’t believe that no Cannibal Corpse tracks made the list!”
“How could an Elton John song be at #66 when only one Kings of Leon track came in at #90? Shows that JJJ is controlled by old people!”
“What, how could One by Metallica only be #20? That’s easily the best song of all time!”

Such responses to best musical whatevers of all time are always amusing to read.

Much has been made in the media about the almost complete lack of female artists in the list. The only female voices represented were the two Massive Attack tracks.

What you won’t hear most Australian media mention is how white the list is. The only songs by what you might consider “black” artists are Stevie Wonder’s Superstition, Bob Marley’s No Woman No Cry, Massive Attack’s Unfinished Sympathy, Jimi Hendrix’s All Along the Watchtower, and Wolf Like Me by black rock band TV on the Radio. Oh, and Michael Jackson’s Thriller and Billie Jean (I guess he counts as black). You could possibly include the Prodigy (Breathe) and Bloc Party (Banquet) but that’d be stretching it really.

Hang on, I hear you say, so what? It's about songs people like, nothing to do with the skin colour of who sang it. True. Except for a few factors. Hip-hop and reggae, genres thoroughly dominated by the black diaspora, are basically unrepresented, and the only 2 songs on the list that could be considered hip-hop are by white artists. One Stevie Wonder song and 2 MJ songs aside, there is no classic soul or funk. Any objective list would surely include 10 songs from Motown's 60s catalog alone. And while I accept that the JJJ audience are too young to remember much of that music, there is virtually no recent black music either.

Now don’t get me wrong, I ain’t saying that JJJ’s listening audience are a bunch of sexist and racist bigots. Check through my vast CD collection and you’ll find mostly male and mostly black artists - we all have our musical tastes which lean in particular directions. It does indicate that the JJJ audience has a fairly crap attitude towards music. (Or maybe it's my attitude that is crap, since I don't believe Smashing Pumpkins are so wonderful as to have 3 of the 100 greatest songs ever written... )

Of course, JJJ has been a really crap station for at least 10 years now, so it’s not like I should really be paying it any attention. But many people see it as somehow representative of what our nation’s youth are listening to. Which it isn’t. Most of Australia’s youth are listening to the Black Eyed Peas’ repulsive new single Boom Boom Pow and rubbish like that. No, JJJ’s list reflects the music tastes of mostly white so-called alternative-rock fans aged 15-30 whose idea of good music automatically includes shaggy haired white guys playing loud guitars. It is the audience that JJJ has been breeding for some time now.

It's a shame, because due to its popularity with a certain segment of Australia's population, JJJ can have a role in broadening listeners' tastes. But they just don't play any music by black people, unless those black people play alternative rock. They don't play hip-hop unless they are Australian (which generally means white). I'm not suggesting they start playing commercial R&B, of course not. But the best non-mainstream black music has just not got a look in on JJJ - D'Angelo, Nas, Wu-Tang, Erykah Badu, Donnie, Common, Lauryn Hill, Fishbone, Outkast and others.

Not that I disagree with everything in the list; indeed, there are plenty of classic songs on that list (Bittersweet Symphony, Unfinished Sympathy, Bohemian Rhapsody, God Only Knows). But there is plenty that is completely laughable as well.

So despite just poking fun at those who complain at the content of such lists, I’m gonna reduce myself to that level as well. Here goes:

#2 Killing in the Name? Good lord, I don’t mind a bit of RATM once in a while, but should this song really be anywhere on this list? I mean, number 2 – come on.

#9 Everlong – Foo Fighters are the epitomy of everything that’s wrong with the JJJ playlist – not objectionable, just utterly unexceptional. But they have guitars!

#17 The Nosebleed Section – if this is the best hip-hop song ever written, I will eat my own ass.

#21 and #27 Powderfinger songs – see Foo Fighters, above.

#33 Silverchair's Tomorrow? Even Daniel Johns, who wrote it, is embarassed by that song.

Ok smartypants, I hear you say. What SHOULD be in the list, then?

Well, I’m not gonna make a list of my own, but you can’t make such a list without the following songs:

Marvin Gaye – What’s Going On
U2 – One
Sam Cooke – A Change is Gonna Come
The Strokes – Last Night
Aretha Franklin – Respect
Dee-Lite – Groove is in the Heart
Jimi Hendrix – The Wind Cries Mary
The Impressions – People Get Ready
The Doors – Touch Me
Martha & the Vandellas - Heatwave
Wu-Tang Clan – C.R.E.A.M.
James Carr - Dark End of the Street

But if you still are worried that young Australians might be sexist or racist in their musical tastes, have no fear. Should the commercial networks (which the vast majority of young people ACTUALLY listen to) ever do their own 100 greatest songs of all time, both black people and women will be well-represented. Lots of Britney, P Diddy, and S Club 7. How’s that for diversity? BEP’s My Humps and Eiffel 65’s I’m Blue would compete for top spot. And then we’d all be happy, right?


  1. i totally agree on the foo fighters' tepid blah-ness. honestly what's the big deal? and yes boom boom pow makes me want to jump off a building. but my humps is kinda catchy. you gotta admit it. say it. SAY IT. :D

    no jimmy eat world and only one bloc party song? a rubbish list indeed! LOL.

  2. I can't believe you are defending "My Humps", JJ! Yes, it is catchy, but like herpes, its not in a good way.

    Can't say I've ever listened to a lot of Jimmy Eat World, but I dare say if you played me one of their songs back-to-back with Foo Fighters, I may not know which is which.

    Bloc Party? Decent band. Have they recorded one of the 100 best songs of all time? Nah. I do rate "The Prayer" though.