Flat White

Triple J's Hottest 100 – there's an elephant in the room

27 January 2022

3:00 PM

27 January 2022

3:00 PM

As most people know by now, a few days ago The Wiggles became the first ever debutant band to win ABC Australia’s Hottest 100.

The surprise win was a cover of Tame Impala’s 2012 song Elephant. It was also the first cover song to ever win the competition run by ABC’s radio station Triple J.

It was a good cover, sure. However, many have been puzzled at how the song was able to suddenly rise to such lofty heights.

After all, The Wiggles track never made a blip on the Australian scene. Released in March 2021, the song failed to make it onto the ARIA charts. As of the morning of January 25, it only has 1.3 million streams on Spotify. Its YouTube views are a paltry 3 million.

However, despite this relative lack of interest or popularity, it somehow managed to beat the megahit Stay by local 18-year-old Aussie talent The Kid LAROI, released in July 2021.

That would be the same Stay that was an Aussie number one for 14 consecutive weeks, as well as hitting number three in the US charts and number five in the UK charts.

The same Stay that on November 4, 2021 exceeded 1 billion streams on Spotify, a record for the platform, plus 449 million YouTube views to date.

It is all very difficult to explain. Logic dictates that a song with more than 1,000 million streams on Spotify would get more votes than a song with just over 1 million streams.

Curious, wouldn’t you agree?

The surprises don’t stop there. The Wiggles beat a bevy of massive hits by local and global acts that on the face of it, would normally have the rub over the famous children’s entertainers.

Take Lizzo’s Rumours with Cardi B. It had 21 million streams on YouTube and another 25 million on Spotify within a week of release.

Or Olivia Rodrigo’s Good 4 U, which was number one in the US, UK, Australia, and countless other countries. It has amassed more than 600 million Spotify streams.

The top 20 tracks on The Hottest 100 all exceeded The Wiggles in streams, views, and ARIA chart rankings.

So what’s going on?

According to the pro-Wiggle militia, nothing is going on. You get a maximum of ten votes and once the votes were tallied, the Wiggles were on top. Get over it, boomer.

Maybe.


We are also told that the surprise win was a nostalgic nod to the voters’ childhoods. And yes, Triple J’s ‘The Tally Room’ report that more than 85 per cent of the voters were under 30 years old. Maybe some voted Wiggle as a joke, or from nostalgia. But enough for the song to win?

Who knows.

There’s another problem, too. 100 per cent of The Kid LAROI’s massive fan base are also under 30. Are we seriously meant to believe that heaps of them voted for The Wiggles before The Kid? Pull the other one.

Perhaps the ABC could help us understand this puzzling outcome. The problem is that the ABC does not publish the actual votes in detail, how they are counted, or who counts them.

In fact, the ABC has a poor transparency record when it comes to what they describe as ‘the world’s greatest music democracy. Some may recall that Taylor Swift was excluded from the Hottest 100 in 2015. It was an outrageous, inexplicable decision. Requests were made for ABC records about the decision under FOIA, but the ABC refused to release anything.

Seems odd behaviour for a publicly owned broadcaster certain of its innocence, doesn’t it?

Well, I did a bit of digging and it turns out that the ABC also haven’t told us a few things in 2021/2022. For example, did you know that the ABC helped The Wiggles write the song?

Don’t believe me? It’s true. As Wiggle #1 Anthony Field unwisely disclosed in an interview with the ABC on 23 January 2021:

Nick Webb and Natalie Waller from ABC Music were kind of advising [us] because this is all a new area to me. Contemporary music. And they said, “It sounds like a cover band.”

He said it was suggested that the band include their own twist on the cover.’

Huh? So The Wiggles and ABC staff were working together on a winning entry to a competition managed by … the ABC?

Field’s disclosure checks out. Turns out, the ABC weren’t just helping the Wiggles write the song. Did you know that the song was recorded in an ABC studio, on March 5, 2021? And was then released by ABC Music on March 12, 2021?

It’s going to be a track on the album ReWiggled, set for release this year by, yep you guessed it, ABC Music.

So let me get this straight. The ABC have an interest in making money from the sale of a song that they allowed into their own competition.

Would have been nice to know that before voting.

It gets worse. Did you know that the ABC and The Wiggles are in business together? In fact, they’ve been doing business together for decades.

It’s true.

Some people may not be aware of this, but in July 2021 The Wiggles and the ABC signed a new global licensing deal, under which the ABC has the right to sell The Wiggles (woke version) throughout Australia and the world.

The ABC has big plans for their star act, and The Wiggles just happened to win the ABC owned and managed Hottest 100.

Wow. What a coincidence.

Putting aside the issue about how on earth this song beat far more popular songs and bands in the under 30 demographic, you may also think that this looks like a gob-smacking conflict of interest, and that the ABC should never have permitted The Wiggles to enter an ABC competition. It certainly looks like a major breach of ABC’s own editorial rules, specifically their conflict of interest policy, which explicitly states:

‘Any work that involves endorsing a commercial product or service is extremely high risk.’

In this case just by allowing The Wiggles into the Hottest 100, the ABC appears to have endorsed and is possibly profiting from an ABC product and band that the ABC itself has a commercial partnership with.

Voters should have been made aware of all this. It appears that they weren’t informed. I have looked as much as I can on the ABC, Triple J and Hottest 100 websites. Nowhere can I find the conflict of interest disclosed or ABC’s business relationship with The Wiggles, explained.

Not just that.

Looking at the other entries in the Hottest 100, I can’t see any other band on the list that has a commercial relationship with the ABC.

So does it matter? Well, put it this way. Any band that manages to make the Hottest 100 – let alone win it – immediately gets more radio, more streams, more views, more festivals, and huge media exposure.

Ditto, the managers and labels that took the risk of supporting them. It mainlines that band, as well as Australian music, into the domestic and international music scenes.

So it’s important that the ABC ensures that the legitimacy of the result cannot be called into question. However a bizarre result where The Wiggles and the ABC both benefit from an ABC competition raises serious questions, at least to me.

Perhaps The Wiggles and the ABC could have chosen another Tame Impala track to cover. After all, it won the Hottest 100 of the 2010’s. The song?

The Less I Know the Better.’

Obviously, there may be perfectly innocent explanations for all of the above. And we are not suggesting any impropriety whatsoever on the part of the ABC, any of its employees, or anyone connected with the Wiggles. But it would be nice to be reassured.

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