Taylor Swift vs. Triple J

Taylor Swift, Tay, Swifty, T-Swizzle, Lemon Drizzle – whatever her current nickname is – is now in the running to top Australia’s “biggest music democracy,” the Triple J Hottest 100. Articles have exploded left, right and centre – all stemming from a *cough* ‘grassroots campaign’ from everyones favourite Buzzfeed. But why exactly is the debate so heated? Why should it matter if Taylor Swift tops, or even registers, on the Triple J Hottest 100?

One of the reasons this debate has ignited so much heat is because it has ensnared the two extremes of music fans and put them in a boxing ring. It’s pure, commercial pop vs. Triple J. Each of the warring parties would love nothing more than to draw blood. Countless Facebook comments are along the lines of ‘wouldn’t it be funny if Taylor Swift won, just to stick it to the hipsters’. Likewise, many Triple J fans want Taylor Swift unceremoniously booted merely because she is what they would describe as ‘putrid pop trash’. Neither are especially valid arguments or helpful to the debate. First rule of arguing – don’t make it personal.

This debate also has nothing to do with the quality of Shake It Off. Whether you think it is a superb masterpiece created by the Queen of Pop herself, or a pathetic excuse of a song that typifies everything that is wrong with contemporary music – it doesn’t matter. Maybe even Triple J presenters Matt & Alex love nothing more than to while away a lazy afternoon drinking cocktails and bopping to Shake It Off. Doesn’t matter. This is a matter of eligibility.

The emphasis and purpose of Triple J is giving support to emerging, upcoming, new Australian artists and those around the globe. It is almost unparalleled in being able to expose new talent to the masses of hungry music fans quickly. Taylor Swift can hardly be described as emerging. However, many will argue that she is eligible because chart-topping megastars such as Lorde, Gotye and Lily Allen still feature on the list. However, this is because Triple J supported them as upcoming artists, and continues to support them after they have made it.

Ironically, Triple J heavyweight Vance Joy is in the running for the Hottest 100 but is also Taylor Swift’s supporting act on her global tour. But the difference is that Vance Joy was fostered, supported and honed by Triple J. In return, he has made time for countless interviews, created publicity and support for Triple J and headlined at Triple J festivals. Hence his success feeds directly back into support for emerging artists, and gives them a shot at what he’s achieved. Conversely, Taylor Swift has done approximately nothing for Triple J, and the host of young musicians it supports. She has been airlifted in from the top by hoards of fans that likely don’t understand the importance or background of the Hottest 100. The fact that she picked up Vance Joy is due to the success of Triple J in promoting his music.

We must also ask, what exactly is the point of this campaign to get Lemon Drizzle to the top? She has topped charts across the globe, is a millionaire and one of the most influential people in the world. She is being voted to the top by her fans for a kick and a laugh, encouraged by the ‘journalists’ at Buzzfeed. Now, potentially thousands of Taylor Swift fans around the world are now voting in an Australian countdown, who have no knowledge of what the countdown means in Australian culture and its importance. Triple J is a musical representation of the unspoken Australian tradition of supporting the underdog.

Whether Triple J takes this as a joke and allows her to enter, or whether it shuts down her campaign is yet to be seen as they refuse to comment while the votes are still being counted. But this year is now critical for setting a precedent. If Taylor Swift is allowed in this year, what is stopping the masses of Katy Perry ‘KatyCats’ or Lady GaGa’s ‘Little Monsters’ from infiltrating the countdown next year, just because they have the power of a global and obsessive fan base? Before long, it could be a minefield of Little Swizzlers or Kitty Monsters…

However, there is hope yet. Triple J may discount Shake It Off as it has not been played on the station this year and The Hottest 100 is a celebration of the music played and enjoyed by fans of the station. However, believe it or not, people have charted without any airplay before. Yet this came a result of the demographic of Triple J mutually enjoying a song enough to allow it to chart and hence still in the spirit of the countdown.

Another promising rule is that votes cannot be fostered by a commercial campaign. Whether commercial or not, the campaign cannot be classified as ‘grassroots’. Ordinary people generally run grassroots campaigns. The fact that Buzzfeed is a massive company that has a slew of almost 5 million likes on Facebook hardly classifies as a group of ordinary folk. In reality, it is a group of ‘journalists’ (I use that term liberally) who are able to foster a powerful campaign from the very top, and put it on 5 million newsfeeds. Hardly grassroots. It’s also hardly fair to those emerging, struggling artists who have absolutely zero chance of being the subject of a Buzzfeeds post – and hence a massive voting campaign.

Love her or hate her, The Hottest 100 is not a countdown Taylor Swift should be allowed to infiltrate. The millionaire pop princess is everything The Hottest 100 is not.

And please, don’t tell me to shake it off. Haters are going to hate for a reason.