Entertainment Music The curious case of Taylor Swift vs Triple J

The curious case of Taylor Swift vs Triple J

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Should Taylor Swift’s hit song Shake It Off be allowed to win the Triple J Hottest 100? That’s been the debate on every young Australian (and some older) music lovers’ lips for the past week.

Swift and her song have been championed in a #Tay4Hottest100 social media campaign that has seen thousands of her fans vote for her song to win the classic Australian summer music countdown.

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It also sparked a change.org counter petition to have the song removed from the voting list on the site – even though it probably isn’t eligible.

Ahead of the final nominations being revealed on Monday night, The New Daily editors Patrick Elligett and Susannah Guthrie have thrashed it out to decide the case for and against Shake It Off being crowned Australia’s favourite song for 2014.

The case against
Patrick Elligett, Director of News

I think Taylor Swift should be allowed into the Hottest 100. I also think doctors should be allowed to smoke while working at incubators.

Why not? We live in a democracy don’t we?

The push to see pop queen Swift’s song Shake it Off (I think it’s a song about being attacked by leeches in the jungles of Borneo) included in Triple J’s annual Hottest 100 is little more than a hijacking attempt. It’s like going to a Beatles concert and complaining because they didn’t play any Elvis.

I’m the first to admit that Triple J may have lost its way. I was a die-hard fan, before I was killed off sometime in the mid naughties by a barrage of soulless hip-hop gunfire, easy listening surf music torpedoes and someone ‘featuring’ landmines. Or maybe I’m just getting old.

Triple J has been the champion of unconventional artists, like the brilliant Nick Cave. Photo: AAP
Triple J has been the champion of unconventional artists, like the brilliant Nick Cave, and it should remain that way. Photo: AAP

But with every fibre of my being I want Taylor Swift fans to keep their hands off the Hottest 100. It’s sacrosanct.

There’s already a chart for the most popular music in Australia. It’s called the ARIA chart. A chart which Swift and others like her dominate.

Triple J has never played or promoted the leech song. The station has always unashamedly favoured indie acts and Australian musicians. It strives to provide an alternative to mainstream music.

Anyone who wants more Taylor Swift need only turn the dial to the nearest commercial station on the FM spectrum. They won’t have to wait longer than 180 seconds before her track comes around again on the playlist.

Australian music would be in a very poor state without the ABC youth radio station’s bias towards lesser known acts and commitment to ‘unearthing’ new talent.

Nick Cave, Powderfinger, The Whitlams, Silverchair, Jebediah, The Living End, Missy Higgins, Grinspoon, Eskimo Joe, Wolfmother. If Triple J hadn’t given these artists a stage to showcase their talents, these cherished local acts may never have received the chance to make their mark.

The Hottest 100 claims to be the ‘world’s biggest music democracy’, it’s true, but it’s a democracy comprised of like-minded listeners. Canada is a democracy, but it doesn’t mean Australians can vote in their elections.

It’s not cultural elitism or commitment to local music keeping Taylor Swift out of the Hottest 100, it’s also common sense. Do we really need more of the same clogging up our radios? Triple J survives and thrives by providing young music lovers with an alternative.

Admittedly, there have been a few Hottest 100 tracks in recent years that haven’t fit this description and enjoyed plenty of commercial success: most notably Macklemore’s Thrift Shop and The Offspring’s Pretty Fly For a White Guy. But those songs were played on Triple J – the leech song was not. Listeners liked them enough to vote for them at the time. It wasn’t the result of a hijacking.

Mercifully, Triple J reserves the right to veto any song it deems inappropriate. Let’s hope they do so on this occasion.

The case for
Susannah Guthrie, Life Editor

When Gough Whitlam’s government started Triple J in 1975, it was with the intention of creating a radio station that catered to Australian youth.

Forty years later and what are Australian youth doing? Among other things, we’re listening to the earworm hits lovingly crafted by the closest thing this generation has to Stevie Nicks: American music darling Taylor Swift.

Of course, that’s not all we’re listening to. We’re a multifaceted bunch, us young Aussies. We’ve got wide-ranging tastes, from Brit indie rock outfit alt-J to local treasures like Vance Joy and The Smith Street Band.

‘Shake It Off’ is catchy, upbeat and has a powerful message. What’s so bad about that? Photo: Getty

However, dotted through it all, whether as a guilty pleasure or an unabashed party favourite, is Swift’s self-confidence anthem Shake it Off.

The song’s absence from the nominees list for this year’s Hottest 100 was notable. Particularly because it retained the top spot on Aussie charts for the better part of 2014 and sits at number three on the ARIA singles chart.

Outraged, Swift fans have banded together to push it to the top of the pile, much to the disdain of 90 per cent of social media users.

But why is the notion Shake it Off should get a mention on the iconic Australia Day wrap-up such a contentious one?

Shake it Off is an undeniably great song. It’s catchy and upbeat with a powerful message and is arguably better written and more likeable than at least half of the other contenders, or at least some of the past winners (Pretty Fly for a White Guy anyone?).

This is not an unpopular opinion either. Swift’s album 1989 received soaring critical acclaim, with Rolling Stone placing it in the number 10 spot on their list of the 50 best albums of the year.

The fact that Triple J chose not to play Shake it Off on their station throughout 2014 says more about their selective, snobbish attitude than Swift’s songwriting skills.

Their slogan is “we love music” yet their definition of music is a sadly narrow one.

The hullabaloo surrounding Swift’s late entry onto the list – courtesy of her loyal fanbase – calls to mind a quote from American playwright Rod Serling.

(Fun fact: the same quote is also used in the song Two Bodies by Aussie duo and fellow Hottest 100 nominees Flight Facilities.)

“I don’t think calling something commercial tags it with a kind of an odious suggestion that it stinks, that it’s something raunchy to be ashamed of,” Serling said in an interview.

“If you say commercial means to be publicly acceptable, what’s wrong with that?

“The suggestion made by many people that you can’t have public acceptance and still be artistic … I have to reject that.”

So why should Taylor Swift be penalised for being popular?

She wrote a killer song that resonated with music lovers of all ages and backgrounds. The suggestion she should be excluded from a list celebrating just that is ridiculous and mean-spirited.

In fact, she should write a song about it.

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