In January of 2017, Ben Lawson made headlines by heading to Facebook and commenting on every song that made it into the triple j Hottest 100 of 2016 by jovially noting that, “ya joking, shoulda been higher”. Just nine years earlier though, countless fans around the country would’ve agreed with this sentiment when the annual countdown reached the pointy end.
For context, in January of 2008, the Hottest 100 had almost been going for two decades. Launching its annual “All Time” countdowns in 1989, the three-year run came to an end in 1991 before a year off ensued, and the countdown returned in 1994, allowing listeners to vote for their favourite song of the previous calendar year.
In the years that followed, the annual poll gradually became a point of national pride, with listeners the world over gathering to revel in the majesty of the music that had soundtracked their year. By the 2007 poll, it had reached new heights, with over 700,000 votes being counted. 12 years later, that number exploded, with 3.2 million votes being cast in the 2019 countdown.
Earlier today, triple j announced that the Hottest 100 of 2021 was something of a tight race, with just five votes separating the songs at positions #3 and #4 and only a few days of voting to go. However, those with an ear for musical history would undoubtedly have had a flashback to the events of January 26th, 2008, when the Hottest 100 of 2007 finished with a surprising upset.
With the countdown being broadcast live from The Domain in Sydney, Breakfast team Robbie [Buck], Marieke [Hardy], and The Doctor [Lindsay McDougall] were on hand for the later portion, while special guests such as Ross Noble made it a star-studded affair.
According to bookmakers, favourable odds had been placed upon Silverchair’s “Straight Lines” scoring the top spot, given the band’s successful year which saw final album Young Modern become their fifth consecutive number one on the ARIA chart, and also win six ARIA Awards, including Best Album, and Best Single for “Straight Lines”.
With frontman Daniel Johns touring the country with the Big Day Out at the time, it seemed fitting to bring the iconic musician out on stage at The Domain for what would ostensibly be a little bit of history. After all, Silverchair had previously reached #5 with “Tomorrow” back in 1994, and despite charting five times in the 2002 countdown, their highest was only #10. It felt like it was time for the group to change everything.
Ultimately, Johns was brought out following “Straight Lines” being broadcast at number two. Dressed in a green blazer, with bleached blonde hair, sunglasses, and a lollipop in his mouth, he seemed unfazed by the silver medal.
“I just want to tell you that this has been not only the biggest Hottest 100 ever in terms of voting, but this has been the tightest competition for number one in the history of the Hottest 100,” Buck told Johns, who seemed to be realising how close his band had come to the top spot.
“Do you want to know how many votes separated you and number one, Daniel?” asked Hardy, before the rocker laughed and offered a simple, “Not really”.
Soon, it was revealed that the margin between the top two songs was a mere 13 votes – the tightest in Hottest 100 history to date, and a feat not seen since.
“Do you have 13 friends that you know didn’t vote this year?”, asked The Doctor, before Johns noted he “probably [has] more than that”, and promised he was just content with reaching the number two position.
As sad as this moment felt for supporters of Aussie music, it soon felt like salt had been rubbed into the wound when it was revealed that the winning song was in fact Muse’s “Knights of Cydonia”. A hugely popular track which become even more so thanks to its inclusion on the Guitar Hero soundtrack, the song in question had in fact been released on July 3rd, 2006 – nearly 19 months before the countdown took place.
Though not related to the events of the 2007 countdown, triple j are these days a little more stringent with their inclusion guidelines, with eligible songs needing to be released between before December of the previous calendar year, and after December of the year prior.
Though the top end countdown has never been quite as close since (though Queens of The Stone Age’s “No One Knows” and The Beatles’ “Hey Jude” were separated by a solitary vote in the 2009 All Time countdown), it remains to be seen just how tight the race to the top will be for the 2021 countdown. Whatever the case, voters will have to listen on Saturday, January 22nd to find out what happened.
Meanwhile, fans of triple j’s Hottest 100 can also take part in the new Hottest 100 Fantasy from don’t bore us, giving music-lovers a chance to win $1,000 if they can predict which songs will rank in this year’s countdown.
All entrants have to do is select up to ten songs and take a guess where they think the songs will place in this year’s countdown. If they get them correct, they’re be in the running to win $1,000. Second and third price will also take home cash prizes, with $300 and $100 up for grabs respectively.
Key Hottest 100 Dates
10am local time, Friday, January 21st
Hottest 200 countdown on triple j
12pm AEDT, Saturday, January 22nd
Hottest 100 countdown on triple j
10am local time, Sunday, January 23rd
Hottest 100 of 2001 on Double J
Editor’s note: This story was originally published in January 2021.