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Capping off a phenomenal year of music, the triple j Hottest 100 of 2020 featured close calls, political appearances, and plenty of good tunes.

It was over 30 years that the idea for the Hottest 100 first coalesced in the mind of its creator. Who would’ve known that in 2021, it would be the biggest music poll in the world?

The fact is, it was never meant to be something long-lasting. But when 2JJJ staffer Lawrie Zion floated the idea of a one-off poll – not unlike the annual Hot 100 run by Brisbane’s 4ZZZ – for listeners to vote for their favourite songs, the notion took hold and quickly became far popular than anyone could have predicted.

Similarly dubbed the Hot 100, the inaugural poll in 1989 saw the iconic English outfit Joy Division take the top spot with “Love Will Tear Us Apart”. By the third countdown (which took place in early 1992 and had been renamed the Hottest 100), Seattle grunge rockers Nirvana had stormed the charts, with their tracks “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and “Lithium” – both of which were mere months old – scoring the #1 and #3 positions, respectively, while Joy Division were adorned with a respectable silver medal.

Taking the following year off to retool the countdown somewhat, the Hottest 100 returned in early 1994, this time with the intent of listeners ranking their favourite songs from the previous calendar year. From humble beginnings that saw the inaugural yearly poll attract 50,000 voters, its popularity has grown exponentially ever since, with the 2020 poll attracting 2,790,224 votes.

Despite attracting some controversy over the years by way of banned songs, presenters rigging the countdown, campaigns to “troll the poll“, leaked results, and even a successful push to change the date of the annual poll, the Hottest 100 has remained one of the most popular events in not just Australian music history, but around the world.

With the 2020 countdown recently taking place on January 23rd, we’re taking a deeper look at the poll that stops the world.

A Close Call

For a few years now, triple j have helped to stoke the fires of curiosity in the weeks leading up to the countdown by sharing a few facts about the poll itself. Ahead of the 2013 ‘Twenty Years of The Hottest 100’ poll, they revealed that 1997 was the year with the most tracks featured, while the days leading up the 2019 countdown revealed that it had broken voting records, with 3,211,596 votes serving as the new high point.

This year, the station revealed that things were close. Really close. In fact, triple j announced that with just three days to go before voting closed, a mere 350 votes separated the top two spots. Now, this isn’t unheard of. Back in their 2009 All Time countdown, one solitary vote stood between Queens of The Stone Age’s “No One Knows” and The Beatles’ “Hey Jude”. In 2007, the number one spot was decided by just 13 votes, with Muse beating out Silverchair at the last moment.

This year wasn’t set to be quite as notable, but the question did remain as to what the top two tracks could be. According to Nick Whyte’s Warm Tunas website, which uses social media to attempt predicting the results, the race was between Glass Animals’ “Heat Wave” and Ball Park Music’s “Cherub”. Meanwhile, Sportsbet had the odds on Glass Animals topping the poll, with Spacey Jane’s “Booster Seat” coming in second.

As it turned out, Sportsbet was on the money, with Glass Animals becoming the first British act to top the countdown since Mumford & Sons’ infamous win in 2009, with Spacey Jane being given the silver medal. (Ultimately, Ball Park Music would be relegated to #4, while Flume’s “The Difference” made it to #3, giving Flume the honour of having achieved every position in the top five).

While it’s not known just how many votes separated the top two songs in the end, there were a couple of important takeaways in the end. Most notably, Glass Animals encouraged their fans to vote by promising that they would get an image of Australia tattooed on their rear ends if they won. While speaking to triple j upon their gold-medal placing, it was clarified that the promise would indeed be kept.

Secondly, the amount of votes was – for the first time in many years – less than the previous year, with only 2,790,224 votes coming in this year as compared to 3,211,596 votes in 2019. While there’s no concrete way of saying whether Glass Animals would’ve become a clear winner earlier in the piece had voting numbers been higher, it does raise a question as to whether or not the 2021 countdown will once again break records, or if the Hottest 100 might have reached a voting peak.

Getting Political

At #12, the Hottest 100 of 2020 featured a brief brush with politics thanks to Mashd N Kutcher and their track “Get On The Beers”, featuring Victorian Premier Dan Andrews. A remix track that utilised his now-iconic “Get on the beers” speech from March of 2020, the tune was something of a viral success, reaching #2 on the iTunes charts, and even racking up more than 1.5 million streams on Spotify.

Upon its placing in the poll, Andrews himself appeared with a recorded message of thanks, along with his own personal prediction about the future of the countdown.

“I want to congratulate Mash N Kutcher for making it into the Hottest 100,” Andrews began. “I haven’t heard a lot of their work, but this particular song I’ve heard once or twice.

“I’m pleased to be in great company among other celebrated Hottest 100 novelty artists like Denis Leary, Adam Sandler, and Pauline Pantsdown. I think we can all agree their contributions have stood the test of time.

“However, what’s clear is that now a politician has made the Hottest 100, this is probably going to be the last Hottest 100. It’s not longer hot. So, I’m sorry to all the Gen X-ers out there who have to bid farewell to their most important annual cultural tradition. I can now officially declare that it is time to get on the beers.”

As Andrews alluded to, this isn’t the first time a politician has made the countdown though. In fact, Pauline Pantsdown made history in 1997 with his track “I Don’t Like”, which sampled controversial politician Pauline Hanson. Famously, the track was banned from airplay, meaning that despite being voted in at #5 in the 1997 poll, it was left out of the broadcast. As a response, Pantsdown again tackled Hanson the following year, with “I Don’t Like” reaching #58.

But even outside of politicians featuring in a musical sense, there have been a few other appearances over the years. In 1997, former Prime Minister Gough Whitlam congratulated his “eponyms” The Whitlams when they reached the #1 position with “No Aphrodisiac”. 15 years later, then-Prime Minister Julia Gillard welcomed Flight Facilities into the #17 position by introducing her favourite song of the year, “Clair De Lune”.

Soundtracking the Countdown

While ostensibly a collection of the best songs of the past year, it’s not unheard of for tracks that soundtracked blockbuster movies to make it into the annual poll. In 1996, Adam Clayton & Larry Mullen’s “Theme From Mission: Impossible” reached #68, while Decoder Ring’s “Somersault” reached #91 in 2004.

This year, 2019 winner Billie Eilish appeared at #90 with “No Time To Die”, the theme song to the forthcoming James Bond film of the same name. Notably, this is the second time that a theme to a James Bond movie had appeared in the countdown, with Jack White and Alicia Keys bringing “Another Way To Die” to #87 in the 2008 countdown.

Oddly, this is however the first time a movie theme has made it in prior to the film itself being released, with No Time To Die not set to arrive until October 8th. (And for those interested in esoterica, Propellerheads’ “History Repeating” did manage to bring Shirley Bassey into the countdown in 1998, with Bassey recording the themes to Goldfinger, Diamonds Are Forever, and Moonraker.)

Countdown Coverage

Ever since the 1993 poll, cover songs have featured almost every year (with 2008 being the only exception). To date, the record amount of covers belongs to 1996, when a massive eight musical tributes made it in, with artists such as Pearl Jam, Foo Fighters, Hole, Ministry, and The Fugees having a go at a classic tune.

From 2005 onwards though, Like a Version performances have increasingly become more common, with the 2019 countdown now matching 2016’s record of four tracks from the station’s studios hitting the countdown. Surprisingly, the notion of a cover song recorded outside of the walls of triple j now seems to have become a thing of the past.

Though 2019 featured the likes of Bugs and G Flip featuring with their covers of Mallrat’s “Charlie” and the 2001 version of “Lady Marmalade”, respectively, it also included a rare cover version not recorded for Like a Version.

At #92, Thelma Plum featured with her version of Powderfinger’s “These Days”, which previously reached the #1 position back in 1999. Interestingly, this is the second year in a row that an independent cover had made the countdown, with Lana Del Rey breaking a five-year drought with her version of Sublime’s “Doin’ Time” in 2019.

Indigenous Excellence

While 2019 was deemed a turning point for Indigenous artists in the countdown thanks to Thelma Plum reaching #9 with “Better In Blak”, 2020 has been seen as an even further improvement, with the countdown breaking the previous record for Indigenous artists in the countdown.

While The Kid LAROI managed to bring two tracks into the mix, Thelma Plum, Sycco, Beddy Rays, and Birdz, all charted once, with Birdz also ensuring the Badtjala language made it into the countdown for the first time.

triple j’s Hottest 100 for 2020

#100. ‘Kool’ – BENEE
#99. ‘Itch’ – Hockey Dad
#98. ‘Your Man’ – Joji
#97. ‘Audacity (feat. Headie One)’ – Stormzy
#96. ‘Germaphobe’ – Hockey Dad
#95. ‘Loose Ends (feat. G Flip)’ – Illy
#94. ‘Rain (feat. Tay Keith)’ – Aitch x AJ Tracey
#93. ‘Lemonade (feat. Don Toliver, Gunna & NAV)’ – Internet Money
#92. ‘These Days’ – Thelma Plum
#91. ‘Charlie’ – Bugs

#90. ‘No Time To Die’ – Billie Eilish
#89. ‘In Her Eyes’ – The Jungle Giants
#88. ‘HEART ATTACK (feat. lau.ra)’ – BRONSON
#87. ‘Three Leaf Clover’ – Teenage Joans
#86. ‘Laugh Now Cry Later (feat. Lil Durk)’ – Drake
#85. ‘Too Tough Terry’ – Dune Rats
#84. ‘Chicken Tenders’ – Dominic Fike
#83. ‘Down For You’ – Cosmo’s Midnight & Ruel
#82. ‘The Clap’ – The Chats
#81. ‘Weightless’ – Spacey Jane

#80. ‘Freaks’ – FISHER
#79. ‘my future’ – Billie Eilish
#78. ‘Lady Marmalade’ – G Flip
#77. ‘House Arrest’ – SOFI TUKKER & Gorgon City
#76. ‘Baby It’s You’ – London Grammar
#75. ‘Photo ID’ – Remi Wolf
#74. ‘Scream Drive Faster’ – LAUREL
#73. ‘Don’t Need You’ – Genesis Owusu
#72. ‘Way Down’ – Ocean Alley
#71. ‘Obey’ – Bring Me The Horizon & YUNGBLUD

#70. ‘Low’ – Chet Faker
#69. ‘Second’ – Hope D
#68. ‘Lie To Me’ – Vera Blue
#67. ‘Boss Bitch’ – Doja Cat
#66. ‘Fantasising’ – Skegss
#65. ‘C’MON (feat. Travis Barker)’ – Amy Shark
#64. ‘Soak Me In Bleach’ – The Amity Affliction
#63. ‘Day & Age’ – Ball Park Music
#62. ‘Run’ – Joji
#61. ‘Pretty Grim’ – Ruby Fields

#60. ‘GO (feat. Juice WRLD)’ – The Kid LAROI
#59. ‘Gimme Love’ – Joji
#58. ‘Fly Away’ – Tones And I
#57. ‘Sobercoaster’ – Beddy Rays
#56. ‘On The Line’ – San Cisco
#55. ‘I Think You’re Great’ – Alex The Astronaut
#54. ‘Blue (Flume Remix)’ – Eiffel 65
#53. ‘In Your Eyes’ – The Weeknd
#52. ‘The Glow’ – DMA’S
#51. ‘Your Love’ (Déjà Vu)’ – Glass Animals

#50. ‘Nothing To Love About Love’ – Peking Duk & The Wombats
#49. ‘Wishing Well’ – Juice WRLD
#48. ‘Ain’t It Different (feat. AJ Tracey & Stormzy)’ – Headie One
#47. ‘Animals’ – Architects
#46. ‘Pretty Lady’ – Tash Sultana
#45. ‘as long as you care’ – Ruel
#44. ‘You & I’ – G Flip
#43. ‘together’ – Ziggy Alberts
#42. ‘WHATS POPPIN’ – Jack Harlow
#41. ‘I Still Dream About You’ – The Smith Street Band

#40. ‘Come & Go’ – Juice WRLD & Marshmello
#39. ‘Righteous’ – Juice WRLD
#38. ‘Parasite Eve’ – Bring Me The Horizon
#37. ‘SO DONE’ – The Kid LAROI
#36. ‘forget me too (feat. Halsey)’ – Machine Gun Kelly
#35. ‘Running Red Lights (feat. Rivers Cuomo & Pink Siifu)’ – The Avalanches
#34. ‘Everybody Rise’ – Amy Shark
#33. ‘Breathe Deeper’ – Tame Impala
#32. ‘Criminals’ – DMA’S
#31. ‘Reasons’ – San Cisco

#30. ‘Bagi-la-m Bargan (feat. Fred Leone)’ – Birdz
#29. ‘Dribble’ – Sycco
#28. ‘Straightfaced’ – Spacey Jane
#27. ‘Under The Thunder’ – Skegss
#26. ‘No Plans To Make Plans’ – Lime Cordiale
#25. ‘Reality Check Please’ – Lime Cordiale
#24. ‘Blue World’ – Mac Miller
#23. ‘Good News’ – Mac Miller
#22. ‘Complicated’ – Eves Karydas
#21. ‘Energy’ – Stace Cadet & KLP

#20. ‘Addicted To The Sunshine’ – Lime Cordiale
#19. ‘You should be sad’ – Halsey
#18. ‘Tangerine’ – Glass Animals
#17. ‘Is It True’ – Tame Impala
#16. ‘Screw Loose’ – Lime Cordiale
#15. ‘Skin’ – Spacey Jane
#14. ‘Tombstone’ – Ocean Alley
#13. ‘Rockstar’ – Mallrat
#12. ‘Get On The Beers (feat. Dan Andrews)’ – Mashd N Kutcher
#11. ‘On Our Own’ – Lime Cordiale

#10. ‘Therefore I Am’ – Billie Eilish
#9. ‘I’m Good?’ – Hilltop Hoods
#8. ‘Sending Me Ur Loving’ – The Jungle Giants
#7. ‘Hyperfine’ – G Flip
#6. ‘WAP (feat. Megan Thee Stallion)’ – Cardi B
#5. ‘Lost In Yesterday’ – Tame Impala
#4. ‘Cherub’ – Ball Park Music
#3. ‘The Difference (feat. Toro y Moi)’ – Flume
#2. ‘Booster Seat’ – Spacey Jane

#1. ‘Heat Waves’ – Glass Animals

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