SOMETIMES picking the winner of triple j’s Hottest 100 is easy.
Every so often you get a sure-thing, an unbackable favourite – think Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ Thrift Shop in 2012, Gotye’s Somebody That I Used To Know in 2011, Franz Ferdinand’s Take Me Out in 2004 or Mumford & Sons’ Little Lion Man in 2009 (the latter was actually leaked so everybody nailed that one).
Other times it’s anyone’s guess. In the lead-up to the 2013 poll, any of the top four finishers were considered possible and plausible winners, while last year’s countdown had pundits pointing to almost everything in the top 10 as a likely victor.
This year, it looks like a one-horse race, but a roughie has emerged that may cause an upset, which will make for an interesting countdown.
Before we cast our eye over this year’s competitors, a disclaimer – I don’t really listen to triple j anymore (I prefer Double J AKA triple j for old people). But over more than 20 years of listening to the Hottest 100, patterns have emerged (side note: I was pretty close with my predictions in 2015 and 2014). Outside the usual high rotation, a few key factors have become apparent in recent years which can help you become an instant expert in predicting the countdown.
Firstly, there are the bookmakers – Sportsbet have done a good job in recent years of highlighting likely winners.
Secondly, there are the “Warmest 100s” and their ilk – people sharing their votes on social media has given boffins a chance to sift through Twitter/Facebook/Instagram and compile a proto-Hottest 100. This year the key one is Nick Whyte’s 100 Warm Tunas, which you can listen to as a Spotify playlist. It is estimated to have been compiled from 2.75 per cent of the total vote.
Thirdly, there is the often overlooked factor of mainstream crossover. In recent years, as triple j’s power as a tastemaker has grown amid a diminishing and diversifying music industry, the top songs of the Hottest 100 have usually done well on the ARIA charts.
Aside from the aberration of 2007’s Knights Of Cydonia, the last time a Hottest 100 winner failed to chart was Bernard Fanning’s 2005 winner Wish You Well. In the past five years, every victorious song has reached the ARIA top 10, including two #1s.
With all this in mind, let’s look at who is likely to do well in this year’s triple j Hottest 100.
Flume (feat. Kai) – Never Be Like You
The bookies have this glitchy modern torch song as strong favourite and for good reason. The song spent 43 weeks in the ARIA charts, including hitting #1, and Flume won a huge haul of ARIA Awards this year. But more importantly, triple j loves Flume big time because he’s “one of theirs” – the Sydney producer known to his mum as Harley Streten was discovered through triple j’s Unearthed website – so his tunes have been getting some serious airplay all year. He’s had six songs in previous Hottest 100s, including 2012’s #4 track Holdin’ On, but he’s only two albums into his career so triple j aren’t sick of him yet (a la Coldplay, Green Day, Red Hot Chili Peppers etc – all bands triple j largely ditched when they got too old). The only thing standing in his way could be the “Warm” prediction, which initially predicted Flume would only place at #2. The latest figures (as of 3pm, January 20) now give Flume a slim victory.
Amy Shark – Adore
Flume’s biggest rival, according to 100 Warm Tunas, is another Unearthed discovery. Back in August, Amy Shark’s Adore was featured on triple j and it’s belatedly reached the charts, debuting at #40 this week. This gorgeous indie ode to teenage love could gift triple j that most elusive of beasts – a solo female #1. Women have only featured on the Hottest 100-winning track four times, with New Zealand’s Lorde coming one short of top spot in 2013 – the best showing by a solo woman to date. But can Shark snare the big prize? It would be an unlikely upset if she did.
Tash Sultana – Jungle
ARIA: Did not chart
If 100 Warm Tunas is correct, then female vocals could feature on the top three tracks, which would be an awesome and unheralded feat. In some years, there’s barely been a woman in the top 10. Both Sportsbet and 100 Warm Tunas predict this could go as high as #3, with only a lack of crossover appeal likely to keep it from going any higher. Should Jungle pull off a surprising victory, it would be the winning track with the longest intro since Muse’s Knights Of Cydonia – this reggae-ish number has the typical loop-pedal start where it takes forever setting up every bit on the song before the lyrics kick in.
Violent Soho – Viceroy
ARIA: Did not chart
I prefered this track’s intro when it was an Interpol song, but that aside, this is a lock for the top 10, probably as the lone “proper rock” song. Cue the complaints from “old people” about triple j being “a pile of rubbish” these days because there are no guitars and hey, who remembers the good old days of Nirvana/Powderfinger/Green Day etc. Whatever. Viceroy will likely give Violent Soho their best outing to date – Covered In Chrome came in at #14 in 2013 (a fact that history may find odd because it should have gone higher, but it was a tough year). But it won’t go #1. The last time something this distorted went to the top was Kings Of Leon’s Sex On Fire in 2008, which feels like forever ago.
DMAs – Believe (Like A Version)
ARIA: Did not chart
Every year there feels like an increasing danger that Like A Versions (triple j’s weekly covers segment) will run amok and take over the Hottest 100, making the countdown even more narcissistic than it’s sometimes regarded as being (ie. it’s full of Unearthed bands and is less the temperature gauge of Australia’s alternative music scene that it once purported to be and more triple j patting itself on the back). Thankfully each countdown has only had a couple of Like A Versions make it in – the most being three in 2013 and 2014. This year will probably see the first Like A Version crack the top 10 (previous best is The Herd’s cover of I Was Only 19, which reached #18 in 2005) because DMAs cover of Cher’s Believe was something that had to be heard to be, well, believed. By way of comparison, it’s had 1.4 million hits on YouTube – compare that with Temper Trap’s Thick As Thieves getting “only” 130,000 or Spit Syndicate’s Know Better clip having 110,000. Expect this to go high.
Childish Gambino – Redbone
This wonderfully weird slow funk jam is part-Prince (and part-Funkadelic and part-Outkast) so maybe it’s fitting it performs well in honour of the dearly departed Purple One. Childish Gambino AKA Donald Glover AKA Troy from Community has a huge following on triple j and this is the kind of oddball pop that belongs in the top 10. Maybe it’s wishful thinking, but expect this to go high.
Illy (feat. Vera Blue) – Papercuts
Odds: Eighth favourite
IT’S fair to say the cultural cringe of Aussie hip-hop is gone (except in “old people”). Could this be the year that a local rapper finally takes the top spot? If not for the juggernaut of Flume, you would think Illy or Hilltop Hoods would be a good shot for #1 and it’s a coin toss as to which one will go highest. Both will definitely do well and be in the top 10, although I suspect Hilltop Hoods has the edge on Illy.
Big Scary – The Opposite Of Us
ARIA: Did not chart
There’s a touch of the “Hoops” about this one. It’s a little downbeat, has a slight hip-hop groove to it, and it’s highly inoffensive – all qualities of last year’s #1. Heartache seems to be big this year (even more than usual) so maybe this has struck a zeitgeisty chord, but just like I said about Hoops last year, I’m going say this doesn’t have the X factor required to go to #1. Prove me wrong, Big Scary.
Peking Duk (feat. Elliphant) – Stranger
Peking Duk let me down last year – I thought Say My Name was a definite for the top 10 but it only reached #30. This time, I’m even more certain they’ll go top 10 with this banger. It’s hitting in the same ballpark sound as Flume, so it should go well. The film clip is awesome too, and maybe that will earn it a few more votes.
Flume (feat. Tove Lo) – Say It
The swarm theory goes that the winner of the Hottest 100 tends to have a numerous songs in the countdown – ie. if you put all your eggs in one basket you’re less likely to win. The Rubens in 2015 was the first band since Augie March in 2006 to top the poll without having any other tracks in the top 100. It was only the fifth time that has happened, hence the emergence of this so-called swarm theory. Should Flume do what is expected and take top spot, the odds are good he’ll have other songs in the countdown, with Say It being the next most likely. A winner having two or even three tracks in the top 10 is not unheard of – Chet Faker, Kings Of Leon and Powderfinger have all done it. If Say It goes top 10, it’s more than likely Never Be Like You will win.
The Smith Street Band – Death To The Lads
ARIA: Did not chart
There’s probably only room for young shouty Aussie punk band in the top 10, and that spot’s been taken by ARIA winners Violent Soho. The anthemic, easily yellable chorus of this one will send it high, but not into the top 10.
The Weeknd (feat. Daft Punk) – Starboy
The Weeknd’s Can’t Feel My Face was a ripping track that probably should have gone higher than #9 last year, but this doesn’t feel like as big of a banger as that. It’s one of a couple of pairings with Daft Punk that will rate well and might sneak into the top 10. But this going higher in the poll than Can’t Feel My Face would feel like an injustice, even though the odds on this one have been progressively shortening.
Hilltop Hoods (feat Montaigne & Tom Thum) – 1955
If an Aussie hip-hop act was going to finally top the table, it would be poetic if it was Hilltop Hoods, the most successful hip-hop group in the history of the Hottest 100. They’ve reached #3 three times – what are the odds of them doing it a fourth time? I’d say pretty good – 1955 is one of their best tracks and deserving of a top three finish. If the pundits are right and it’s a two-horse race between Flume and Amy Shark, then the Hoodies could lock down another #3.
Also watch out for:
A.B. Original (feat. Dan Sultan) – January 26
Odds: $26, Warm: #21, ARIA: Did not chart
Montaigne – Because I Love You
Odds: $26, Warm: #29, ARIA: Did not chart
Milky Chance – Cocoon
Odds: $26, Warm: #18, ARIA: #25
The XX – On Hold
Odds: $26, Warm: #22, ARIA: #45
Catfish & The Bottlemen – 7
Odds: $51, Warm: #12, ARIA: Did not chart
Mura Masa (feat. A$AP Rocky) – Love$ick
Odds: $34, Warm: #13, ARIA: #18
Miike Snow – Genghis Khan
Odds: $34, Warm: #17, ARIA: #44
The Avalanches – Frankie Sinatra
Odds: $81, Warm: #40, ARIA: #34
MATT NEAL’s predicted top 10
- Flume (feat. Kai) – Never Be Like You
- Amy Shark – Adore
- Hilltop Hoods (feat. Montaigne & Tom Thum) – 1955
- Childish Gambino – Redbone
- DMAs – Believe (Like A Version)
- Violent Soho – Viceroy
- Illy (feat. Vera Blue) – Papercuts
- Peking Duk (feat. Elliphant) – Stranger
- Tash Sultana – Jungle
- Flume (feat. Tove Lo) – Say It
* Odds and 100 Warm Tunas predictions correct as of January 20.