We listened to an hour of Smooth FM and triple j to see who has the sickest tunes

Following the news that younger listeners are getting more and more into golden oldie stations as opposed to the national youth broadcaster, we decided to test it out for ourselves and see what all the fuss was about. We tuned into Sydney’s SmoothFM- and triple j for one hour in the afternoon, to see who would win in the tunes stakes if they were stacked against one another.

This is peak Drive radio time, a pretty important time to be nabbing the ratings. Expectations were high on both counts: we expected a lot of easy listening and rock classics from Smooth, perhaps some Michael Buble followed by some Duran Duran? Maybe some Fleetwood Mac? On the other side we expected the standard triple j fare – mix of alternative, hip hop, indie. Veronica & Lewis are amiable hosts for the Drive slot, so some nice pitter patter between them was on the cards as well. Essentially, we expected to both love and hate SmoothFM, and to be pretty familiar with the triple j playlist. In terms of enjoyment though, we had no idea who would win out.

We’ve broken it down into a few rounds, with a winner declared at the end. May the best tunes win.

Round 1 (3.28pm-3.40pm)

Computers at the ready, we tuned in – and holy shit right off the bat SmoothFM are crushing it with a classic from Dolly Parton with ‘Nine to Five’. This song is legendary – if this isn’t on your daily pump up playlist then you’re doing life wrong. It goes up again Glass Animals ‘Season 2 Episode 3’ that’s playing on triple j – a durable track to be sure, but can’t hold a candle to Parton. Next up on Smooth is….ads. So many ads. triple j cuts in with Dimension’s ‘Automatik’. We flick back to Smooth and oh, yep, they’re still playing ads. triple j then overtakes them with The Hard Aches ‘Glad That You’re Gone’, and Smooth finally comes back in with…oh no….Jason Mraz has made an appearance. No. No. No. This song was tedious the moment it came out and after the next 200,000,000 plays it hasn’t improved. Zero points Smooth.

triple j’s sickest tune: The Hard Aches – ‘Glad That You’re Gone’
Smooth FM’s sickest tune: Dolly Parton –  ‘Nine to Five’….obviously

WINNER: triple j

Round 2 (3.40-3.50pm-ish)

It’s The Beach Boys  ‘God Only Knows’, up against some host chit chat from Veronica and Lewis. Sorry guys, but The Beach Boys’ slick harmonies run rings around you. Also does anyone else find it hard to listen to any song by The Beach Boys without seeing Cadbury chocolate dance in front of your eyes? Then it’s on to the disco tracks from two different eras: Deniece Williams’ ‘Let’s Hear It For The Boy’  from Smooth and Owl Eyes’ ‘Love Run Dry’ from triple j. Both strong songs, but Williams’ is a Certified Banger. Danny Brown comes in strong for triple j with ‘When It Rain’, but it’s swiftly eclipsed by a slick Stevie Wonder -with ‘I Just Called To Say I Love You’. We were expecting many things, but we forgot about Wonder – who might be one of the smoothest men to ever grace the earth. SmoothFM, you just killed it.

triple j’s sickest tune: Owl Eyes –  ‘Love Run Dry’
Smooth FM’s sickest tune: Stevie Wonder – ‘I Just Called To Say I Love You’


Round 3 (3.55 – 4.05pm-ish)

Right so this round is a little easy because SmoothFM didn’t actually play any songs. There are A LOT of ads on this station, particularly about life insurance and iron deficiency, which I didn’t realise had such a big presence in advertising. Then some traffic updates. Then some more ads. Then the news. So we just basically went through 10 solid minutes without hearing one song, which – seeing as the station’s motto is “more music, less talking” – is a little odd. triple j had some host patter and then the news, but they did manage to play a great song in Honne & Izzy Bizu ‘Someone That Loves You’. So really they win by default, which as The Simpsons taught us, is the two sweetest words in the English language. Also, we are halfway through and we haven’t heard a single track by Michael Buble yet? Given that the Boob is the spiritual leader for all easy listening stations, this is a curious omission. We still have a while to go, so here’s hoping.

triple j’s sickest tune: Honne & Izzy – ‘Someone That Loves You’ wins by default
Smooth FM’s sickest tune:  Traffic updates?

WINNER: triple j

Round 4 (4.05pm-4.15pm-ish)

First up on the j’s is sports news. Fascinating. Now on SmoothFM they have the Mystery Word Segment! We totally forgot that commercial stations did things like this. Carol from Bowral rings in. We all wait with baited breath. She guesses the mystery word is ‘camel’. She gets it wrong. GODDAMN IT CAROL. It’s okay, because Smooth bring it back with a Springsteen classic ‘I’m On Fire’, and it only gets better – ABBA’s ‘Gimme Gimme Gimme’ is up next. Honestly, ABBA have written some of the best songs in the modern canon and if you’re unconvinced, listen to this song. It’s dominating triple j, who are back to chatting about something or other but who cares because ABBA is playing. triple j are done chatting, and start off again with lovely new tune by Gretta Ray: ‘Drive’, which swiftly melts into The National’s ‘Graceless’. A nice run by the j’s. Alannah Myles’ ‘Black Velvet’ closes the round for Smooth, which is okay but we can’t tear ourselves away from Matt Berninger’s pain.

triple j’s sickest tune: The National –  ‘Graceless’
Smooth FM’s sickest tune: ABBA – ‘Gimme Gimme Gimme’ should be played on every radio station, every day. It should be a law.


Round 5 (4.15-4.35-ish)

Okay the triple j hosts are chatting at length about Playschool. Smooth is cranking some Bruno Mars with ‘When I Was Your Man’. Bruno – you’ve released some top songs, to be sure, but this isn’t one of them. It gets even more whiny with Billy Joel’s ‘My Life’, whereas triple j go for Drapht’s brilliant song ‘Mexico’, featuring Dune Rats. triple j keep it rolling with Alex Lahey’s new shit hot single ‘Ivy League’, but it slams right up against an absolute killer in Maxi Priest’s ‘Close To You‘. This is a tough. Seriously tough. But then again Bruno Mars was in here so…

triple j’s sickest tune: Alex Lahey – ‘Ivy League’

Smooth FM’s sickest tune: Maxi Priest – ‘Close To You’

WINNER: triple j

Round 6 (4.25-4.40-ish)

Smooth have really upped the ante here and picked one of the smoothest men alive – Lionel Richie is here with ‘Easy Like Sunday Morning‘. You can almost smell the coffee and pancakes drifting through your open plan house. Polographia come in for triple j with ‘Sly’, then Alunageorge ramps up the electro soul with the excellent ‘I Remember’. Both top songs, but I’m still thinking about Lionel Richie at this stage. Smooth comes in with…okay this is a traffic report. There’s a jam at Milsons Point. After a few more ads about rug sales (glad to see that all rug stores are still having sales) they come back with Air Supply’s banger ‘All Out Of Love‘, against The Hollow’s ‘A Perfect Circle’ for triple j. It’s a solid ending from both, and quite indicative of this competition as their may not be too more different songs out there.

triple j’s sickest tune: Alunageorge – ‘I Remember’
Smooth FM’s sickest tune: Air Supply ‘All Out Of Love’

WINNER: triple j

And the winner is…

Looking back, it’s surprisingly tougher than we estimated. SmoothFM definitely played some undisputed classics over the hour (Dolly Parton, ABBA, Springsteen), but the ads are a killer for the vibe (seriously, 10 minutes of solid ads takes a level of fortitude to get through), which is where triple j win out every time. triple j has always balanced green songs with well worn deep cuts (Gretta Ray falling just before The National for example), which makes listening a fairly mixed bag, but an enjoyable one. SmoothFM, you played well. Just maybe chill on the ads about iron deficiency next time.

triple j’s sickest tune of the hour: Alex Lahey – ‘Ivy League’
Smooth FM’s sickest tune of the hour: Easy. ABBA – ‘Gimme Gimme Gimme’.