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Every One of triple j’s Hottest 100 Winners, Ranked

triple j’s Hottest 100 has been going for a few decades now, but how do the winning tracks stack up against each other?

Image of Hottest 100 winners Kendrick Lamar, Powderfinger, and Billie Eilish

Kendrick Lamar, Powderfinger, and Billie Eilish are just three of the winners in the Hottest 100's three decade history.

Aftermath/Interscope Records; Ian Jennings*; Supplied

Ever since triple j’s Hottest 100 kicked off back in 1989 as a yearly poll to find the public’s most beloved song, it’s pretty much been an institution in the world of Aussie music.

From humble beginnings which attracted a few thousand votes, it’s since grown into what the station calls thee world’s largest music poll, with recent years attracting more than three million votes.

But while divisive opinions reign in regards to whether the countdown has lost the same sort of spark it had in its early years, it still forges ahead, with each January seeing 100 new songs welcomed into the hallowed halls of Aussie music history.

Of course, every countdown needs to have a top spot, and over the years, the winning songs in the Hottest 100 have ranged from deadset classics to questionable entries that attract more scorn than praise. As such, we figured it was about time to go back over the yearly countdowns and rate each song in terms of how it’s held up over the years.

It’s worth noting that this list only collects songs from the yearly Hottest 100 countdowns, that is, from 1993 onwards. It doesn’t feature the winners of the All Time polls, though Joy Division’s “Love Will Tear Us Apart’ (winner in 1989 and 1990), Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” (winner in 1991, 1998, and 2009), or Tame Impala’s “The Less I Know the Better” (winner of the Hottest 100 of The Decade poll in 2020) aren’t without their respective charms.

Be sure to also check out our live updates for the 2021 countdown to see who will be added to this list shortly!

Image of The Rubens

James Simpson*

27

“Hoops” – The Rubens (2015)

When The Rubens beat out the likes of Kendrick Lamar to hit #1 with “Hoops” in 2015, the backlash was immediate and widespread. “Such a boring choice,” wrote on Reddit user. “It’s so mundane,” wrote another. In fact, the track has since been considered as one of the worst songs to top the poll in the countdown’s history. Even The Rubens hit back at the controversy after the Sydney Morning Herald labelled it “unsurprising and unsafe”. “Unsurprising — that’s an interesting way to describe something voted by people, I guess,” they said.

Is the song that bad? Well, while being shortest #1 in a decade isn’t reason enough to deride it, the fact that it might not have been as cutting-edge as Kendrick Lamar’s “King Kunta”, or the two Tame Impala songs that rounded out the top five, it was certainly a little unadventurous in comparison. That said, it managed to stick around in the hearts and minds of voters, hitting #46 when triple j ran their Hottest 100 of The Decade poll in early 2020.

Image of Macklemore

YouTube

26

“Thrift Shop (feat. Wanz)” – Macklemore & Ryan Lewis (2012)

The phrase ‘novelty song’ gets thrown around quite a lot, and while Macklemore’s breakthrough hit did indeed feature the sort of intriguing lyricism, jovial delivery, and exuberant peppiness usually associated with that sort of track, it remains debatable as to whether “Thrift Shop” should fall into that category.

Though it does induce a little bit of cringe when revisited against some of the more ‘respectable’ number one songs, “Thrift Shop” does hold the distinction of being the first hip-hop song to top the poll. Should Macklemore’s decidedly more resonant “Same Love” have replaced it? Maybe, but “Thrift Shop’s” gold medal is undoubtedly a product of its time.

Image of Ocean Alley

The Sauce*

25

“Confidence” – Ocean Alley (2018)

2018 always seemed like it was going to be Ocean Alley’s year. Kicking off the countdown with “Happy Sad”, kicking off the top ten with “Knees”, and topping the poll with “Confidence”, they became the first act to bookend a yearly countdown in almost two decades. Needless to say, it was a pretty massive undertaking. However, criticism did come thick and fast for the track, with some naysayers claiming it was a little bit too laid-back and ‘safe’ for a number one.

Given that many sources tipped Childish Gambino to go gold with “This Is America”, Ocean Alley did provide a bit of an upset. In hindsight though, nothing really says summer like going back to a track like “Confidence”, and isn’t that what the Hottest 100 is all about? (Well, apart from the music.)

Image of Alex Lloyd

Supplied

24

“Amazing” – Alex Lloyd (2001)

At the time of its release, Alex Lloyd’s “Amazing” more than lived up to its name. A young Aussie songwriter had managed to achieve massive chart success after a few years of growing his humble profile and took out the poll with one of the catchiest and most memorable pop-rock songs of the year.

These days though, the song’s memory is likely somewhat soured by its years of appearing on car commercials, making the track less of a groundbreaking one and more representative of some commercial consumerism. That said, Lloyd likely found himself living pretty well off of royalties, so who really came out on top?

Regardless, “Amazing” does remain a blissfully nostalgic song to reflect upon, though it does feel a little odd when compared to some of the tracks it beat out to achieve the top spot.

Nick Fancher*

23

“Knights Of Cydonia” – Muse (2007)

First of all, it’s worth pointing out that Muse’s “Knights Of Cydonia” is in no way a bad song (in fact, none of these songs are ‘bad’), but it’s received a low ranking in this list for the avoidable upset that it caused back in 2007. Infamously, this is the song that pipped Silverchair at the post, meaning that their smash single “Straight Lines” was relegated to #2, and giving what would be the band’s final appearance in a Hottest 100 the silver medal treatment.

Normally this would be all well and good, save for the fact that it topped the 2007 countdown despite having been released in 2006.

Of course, we could talk about how just because a song is released in one year doesn’t mean its success is limited to that year’s countdown (the fact that numerous songs have charted in two consecutive countdowns speaks to that fact), but these days, the rules dictate that a song must be released between a certain timeframe to be eligible for placement. Had the 2007 poll run by these rules, we likely would’ve seen Silverchair receiving a well-deserved top spot. Instead, we’ve got an infamous incident in which the success of two great songs are marred by a bit of controversy.

Image of Glass Animals

Supplied

22

“Heat Waves” – Glass Animals (2020)

Given its status as the most recent song to top the Hottest 100, it’s likely a little too early to tell whether or not “Heat Waves” deserves to be considered a classic winner. At the time of its win though, there were indeed a lot of critics who labelled it one of the most forgettable number ones in recent memory, with many claiming that Spacey Jane’s “Booster Seat” would have been a more appropriate track to top the poll.

Given the year that it arrived in though, it feels as though it was a rather refreshing tune to help represent a year of difficulty and brutality. What would really have represented such a year was Mashd N Kutcher’s remix of “Get on The Beers”, but beggars can’t be choosers.

Image of Chet Faker

Nick Murphy*

21

“Talk Is Cheap” – Chet Faker (2014)

Chet Faker was truly a force to be reckoned with back in 2014. After all, you don’t top the charts, win the J Award for Australian Album of the Year, nab five ARIA Awards, and appear on Ellen if you haven’t got the talent to back it up. As it turned out, Faker stormed the poll, too, become the first act since Powderfinger in 2003 to have three songs in the top ten.

Hitting #1 with “Talk is Cheap”, it felt like a natural progression after his massive year, and saw him become the first artist to win the Hottest 100, annual triple j Album Poll, the J Award for Best Album, and to also achieve the most tracks in a countdown in a single year. Needless to say, it remains a bit of a watershed moment for the Melbourne export, who would switch to his birth name of Nick Murphy soon after, though he’s since switched back to his previous moniker.

Image of Vance Joy

Justin Bettman*

20

“Riptide” – Vance Joy (2013)

It goes without saying that it was going to be a tight race in the 2013 countdown. After all, with the likes of Lorde’s “Royals” and Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” in contention, it was going to need a massive hit to top those two. Ultimately, they reached the #2 and #3 spots, respectively, but the #1 spot was in fact a massive milestone, with Vance Joy’s “Riptide” becoming the first-ever Unearthed song to reach the top spot.

Having launched in 1995, a few acts had hit #2 before – including Grinspoon, Killing Heidi, and Missy Higgins – but none had taken out the gold medal. As it turned out, Joy’s ukulele-featuring viral smash would open the floodgates, with only one Aussie in the following years not considering themselves to be Unearthed alumni.

Image of Flume

Matsu*

19

“Never Be Like You (feat. Kai)” – Flume (2016)

When Flume arrived in the top five back in 2012, it was clear that he was a breath of fresh air. By 2020, he had become the first artist to chart in every one of the top five positions over the years, but in 2016, he added a #1 to his resumé thanks to “Never Be Like You”.

The first electronic song to top the poll, it was also the fourth Aussie song in a row to hit #1, and was another example of local Unearthed talent arriving atop the countdown. Though not Flume’s most beloved track, it was undoubtedly a well-deserved piece of recognition for his tireless efforts in helping put local music on the map.

Image of Mumford & Sons

Alistair Taylor-Young*

18

“Little Lion Man” – Mumford & Sons (2009)

The first time a decidedly folk-rock number made the top of the poll, “Little Lion Man” remains somewhat controversial due to the events that surrounded its win. Announcing its JMag magazine in the week leading up to the countdown, a blurb accidentally let slip that Mumford & Sons had topped the poll. Instantly, word spread and the 2009 countdown seemed to have been ruined before it began.

Though triple j never officially addressed the leak, when it came time to play the top song on the day, Mumford & Sons were in the studio, and offered up a live rendition to cap off the countdown. Thus, it also cemented us with the ongoing tradition of playing the winning song twice upon its announcement. Is it a #1 that still holds up? Well, it depends on who you ask, but you can’t overlook quite how intense the popularity of this song was when it first arrived. In hindsight, its #1 position should’ve been anticipated – with or without the leak.

Image of Kings Of Leon

Supplied

17

“Sex On Fire” – Kings Of Leon (2008)

When Kings of Leon released Only by The Night in 2008, they were already Hottest 100 alumni, having charted first in 2004, and later hitting #3 in 2007 with “On Call”. But their fourth album packed a true punch, boasting eight singles and the sort of commercial appeal musicians would dream of.

As it turned out, ubiquitous lead single “Sex on Fire” was enough to top the poll, eventually reigning victorious as part of the least-diverse top five to date. With only three artists in the top five (including Empire of The Sun, two tracks from MGMT, and Kings of Leon also at #3 with “Use Somebody”), it was clear that the top artists were relatively certain, but the specific song was up for debate.

Image of Jet

Supplied

16

“Are You Gonna Be My Girl?” – Jet (2003)

Throughout 2003, it was almost entirely impossible to escape the impact of Melbourne’s Jet and their debut album, Get Born. Topping the local charts and making a notable impact overseas, it was easy to see why Jet were so popular given their appearance in the midst of the garage rock revival. However, it was lead single “Are You Gonna Be My Girl?” that captured the attention of the masses.

Even winning the Best Rock Video at the MTV Video Music Awards, the track was a smash success, and resonated with Hottest 100 listeners enough to nab the elusive #1 spot. To this day it still remains a classic of the Aussie rock genre, and remains the last time a local bunch of long-haired garage-rockers took the spot. Will it happen again? Only time will tell.

The Wiggles performing for Like a Version

triple j/ABC

15

“Elephant” – The Wiggles (2021)

Thanks to the bias of recency, it’s hard to currently say whether or not The Wiggles will go down in history as one of the greatest or one of the most contentious Hottest 100 winners in history. On one hand, we’ve got a track that has broken more records than an earthquake in JB Hi-Fi. Not only did The Wiggles make their debut appearance atop the poll (the first time since Denis Leary in 1993), but they managed to do so with the first-ever winning cover. Meanwhile, founding member Jeff Fatt’s appearance makes him the oldest artist to ever appear atop the countdown.

But on the other hand, it’s a historic win, but is it any good? Sure, there’s the fact that if it topped the countdown, the general consensus is that it is indeed the Hottest song of the year, but it’s not one without controversy. In fact, countless fans so far have criticised the childishness of the track, while others have complained a cover song has no right to top the poll. Ultimately though, it comes down to one simple factor: is it a good song? The answer is undoubtedly yes, but will we still revere it when it comes to the 50th anniversary of the countdown? Only time will tell, but in the meantime, let’s just enjoy a bit of levity atop the poll for a change.

Image of Bernard Fanning

Cybele Malinowski*

14

“Wish You Well” – Bernard Fanning (2005)

When Powderfinger frontman Bernard Fanning stepped out and went solo with his album Tea & Sympathy in 2005, it was clear that there was going to be quite a bit of support from triple j listeners when it came to the countdown. Though lead single “Wish You Well” never quite made it to the ARIA charts, it appeared to have gone well enough with Aussie music fans, going so far as to beat eternal rival Ben Lee and his fittingly-titled “Catch My Disease”.

But while there was some division in regards to whether the song deserved the top spot, it did manage to achieve a milestone that has never again been repeated. While Powderfinger had topped the countdown twice previously, this made Bernard Fanning the first artist to top the countdown three times. Considering no other artist has even made it to the top twice, it’s fair to say that this might be a record that will stand for quite some time still.

Image of Augie March

Supplied

13

“One Crowded Hour” – Augie March (2006)

It’s hard to find someone who doesn’t have a memory of Augie March and the majesty of “One Crowded Hour”. It’s a gorgeously affecting song, and one of the iconic outfit’s most powerful moments. But for some Hottest 100 listeners, it felt like a bit of a dark horse when it topped the poll. For one thing, it didn’t have the same hard-rocking sound that had previously dominated the top spots, and was arguably the most sombre track to win since Powderfinger’s “These Days” back in 1999.

In 2012, a study was even conducted to investigate whether an unintentional bias served in the song’s favour, and whether the fact that Augie March appeared in the voting list ahead of silver medal winners Eskimo Joe had helped them grab the top spot. Lovers of music will likely just agree it’s an example of a great band making a gorgeous song, which remains a rare time that the top spot was the artist’s only placing for that year.

Image of Oasis

Stefan De Batselier*

12

“Wonderwall” – Oasis (1995)

If you weren’t around to witness the Battle of Britpop back in the mid-’90s, then it’s hard to remember just how big Oasis were at the time of the 1995 countdown. Though Blur’s “Country House” ‘officially’ won the battle (and charted at #53 in the Hottest 100 of 1995), it was the Manchester group that would ultimately come out on top, truly taking on the world with the release of (What’s the Story) Morning Glory?.

Amazingly, it was the record’s fourth single that caught fire, with “Wonderwall” somehow going on to become one of the decade’s – and the genre’s – most iconic songs. It topped charts around the world, it became a (poorly-executed) karaoke favourite, and it remains on lists of the greatest songs of all-time. But does it still hold up today? Despite having received a second life as a musical punchline of sorts, 2013 saw triple j hold their ’20 Years of the Hottest 100′ countdown, with “Wonderwall” receiving its second #1 placing. It’s hard to say if it would again top the poll if it were held today, but the chances are good.

Image of Powderfinger

Ian Jennings*

11

“These Days” – Powderfinger (1999)

It feels a little odd to look back at Powderfinger’s early days in the Hottest 100, given their status as giants of the countdown now. Following a top ten spot in their debut year of 1996, things just kept going for the group, receiving another top ten in 1998 with “The Day You Come”. However, that was far from their peak, with the group opening the 1999 poll with “Passenger” – the same year its B-side, “These Days”, was used in the soundtrack to Gregor Jordan’s Two Hands, and also topped the countdown.

The response was immense, though the band seemed surprised by its success, with frontman Bernard Fanning explaining that it resonated with fans due to the relatability of the song outside of the context of the film. Even now, it brings a tear to the eye of many Aussie music fans, with Powderfinger closing out their final concert in 2010 with an emotional rendition of the track. But back in 1999, this was just the start of many countdown-related milestones for the group, who had no idea what the future held for them.

Image of Franz Ferdinand

Supplied

10

“Take Me Out” – Franz Ferdinand (2004)

While the 2004 Hottest 100 countdown is remembered for a number of reasons, including a (successful, yet rigged) campaign to get presenter Chris Taylor to do a nude run around the Sydney Big Day Out should the Media Watch theme poll, and later, another (this time, unsuccessful) campaign for Missy Higgins to do the same should “Scar” reach #1, it’s the top song that managed to make some history at the time.

Franz Ferdinand’s “Take Me Out” was already a monster song upon its release in January of 2004, but almost a full year later, its popularity was still so strong that it beat out Higgins’ “Scar” by more than twice the amount of votes. In fact, its win seemed so assured that promos even ran alongside the countdown in which presenters pretended to throw out votes for other artists.

Interestingly though, “Take Me Out” never got higher than #25 on the national charts, meaning that its success in the Hottest 100 was almost wholly due to its airplay on the station. To this day, it still remains an immense success story for the Scottish outfit that cite Australia as a springboard for their rise to fame.

Image of Gotye and Kimbra

YouTube

9

“Somebody That I Used To Know (feat. Kimbra)” – Gotye (2011)

In 2011, the Hottest 100 winner was such a certainty that it became less a case of “who will take #1?”, and soon became a question of who would in fact take out the silver medal spot. With such a massive hit to their name, Gotye and Kimbra (the first time a featured artist, or a New Zealand artist, had appeared on top) had already taken on the world, so it made sense that their success would translate to local shores. As it turned out, the race to #2 was the far more interesting takeaway, with The Black Keys ultimately triumphing over Matt Corby’s “Brother” to achieve the second-placing with “Lonely Boy”.

Ironically, despite his number one spot, Gotye has yet to appear in a countdown since (though he has been working on a new album), while The Black Keys and Matt Corby have both appeared in subsequent years. So who’s the real winner here? It still seems to resonate today, too, with the track reaching #2 when triple j ran their Hottest 100 of The Decade poll in early 2020.

Image of Angus & Julia Stone

Daniel Mayne*

8

“Big Jet Plane” – Angus & Julia Stone (2010)

In 2009, triple j’s Hottest 100 of All Time infamously included no female artists, save for a few featured (yet uncredited) female voices. As time went on, inclusivity was definitely greater, though the top of the charts remained rather dominated by male-identifying artists. In fact, after The Cranberries topped the poll in 1994, no female-fronted acts would hit #1 until 2010.

That change came by way of Angus & Julia Stone who unveiled their track “Big Jet Plane” to great acclaim. In theory, it could be considered the first cover to top the poll, considering that Angus had penned it and performed it as Lady of The Sunshine in 2009. Either way though, while some fans consider the track to be somewhat lacking in the danger and cutting edge prowess that the Hottest 100 was once known for, it’s impossible to ignore the song that at long last made some small steps to righting some wrongs.

Image of Queens of The Stone Age

Ross Halfin*

7

“No One Knows” – Queens Of The Stone Age (2002)

As the 2002 poll counted down, it became abundantly clear that if it wasn’t Queens of The Stone Age that would top the poll, the number one song would definitely feature Dave Grohl. Ultimately featuring on ten tracks (including four with the Foo Fighters, one with Nirvana, and five as the drummer for QOTSA), the grunge icon left his mark on every part of the poll.

Sitting behind the kit for the Californian stoner-rock group’s Songs for The Deaf album, it was lead single “No One Knows” that came out on top. The first track to hit #1 without ever having charted as a single, it was a huge moment for fans of rock, riffs, and raw power, and still stands tall as one of the hardest songs to ever grab a gold medal.

Image of Tim Freedman, frontman of The Whitlams

Scott Gelston*

6

“No Aphrodisiac” – The Whitlams (1997)

After Spiderbait proved that Aussies indeed had the power to top the Hottest 100 after the success of “Buy Me A Pony” in 1996, some fans likely wondered just when we might see that feat repeated. As it turned out, you didn’t have long to wait, with The Whitlams’ breakthrough single “No Aphrodisiac” capturing the hearts and minds of listeners in 1997.

For The Whitlams, it was a bit of vindication, with much of its accompanying Eternal Nightcap album written in the wake of the passing of Stevie Plunder (who passed away exactly two years before the band topped the poll), and in a period of solemnity for the group. Famously, the winning track was also announced by a former Prime Minister, with Gough Whitlam on hand to announce that the group, his “eponyms”, had taken out the top spot.

Image of Billie Eilish

Supplied

5

“bad guy” – Billie Eilish (2019)

While pop music has never been too far from the ears of Hottest 100 voters (despite what the diehards will claim), there have only been a few times that a ubiquitous pop hit has managed to poll at the pointy end of the countdown.

In 2019, the massive success of Billie Eilish proved irresistible for Hottest 100 listeners who voted her inescapable “bad guy” to the top spot. Not only did Eilish become the first female (in a non-feature artist role) to top the poll in almost a decade, but she was also the first solo female artist to ever do so. Plus, at only 18 at the time, she was also the youngest artist to ever grab #1. Not bad, eh?

Image of The Cranberries

BMG

4

“Zombie” – The Cranberries (1994)

The first chart-topping single to hit #1 in the Hottest 100, it’s a little hard in hindsight to remember just how big The Cranberries’ “Zombie” was upon its release. Arriving just 18 months after the release of their debut album, Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can’t We? (which also featured “Linger”, the #3 ranked song in the 1993 countdown), the Irish outfit were thrust into sudden and widespread celebrity when “Zombie” invaded charts around the world.

A resonant track written in response to IRA bombings as part of the Troubles, “Zombie” paired social commentary with blistering alternative rock and a highly-memorable vocal. Sadly, vocalist Dolores O’Riordan would pass away in 2018, making her the only vocalist to top the yearly countdown to have since passed on. Thankfully though, we have a truly stunning legacy to remember her by, with “Zombie” a true classic of the ’90s alt-rock era.

Image of Spiderbait

Ian Laidlaw*

3

“Buy Me A Pony” – Spiderbait (1996)

When the Hottest 100 began in 1989, it was dominated for two years by Joy Division and their enduring “Love Will Tear Us Apart”. When Nirvana turned the tables in 1991 with “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, it felt like a revolution. Fast forward to 1996, and the now-yearly Hottest 100 had seen three winning tracks, but none from Australia.

Enter Spiderbait. Releasing the industry-critical “Buy Me A Pony”, the track was a sensation with alt-rock lovers, ultimately giving Spiderbait their first Hottest 100 #1, and allowing Australia to reign supreme for the first time. Incidentally, “Buy Me A Pony” also remains the shortest song to ever top the countdown, and is one of the few times that the #1 song was the artist’s only entry in that year’s Hottest 100.

Image of Kendrick Lamar

Aftermath/Interscope Records

2

“HUMBLE.” – Kendrick Lamar (2017)

While the 2010s witnessed the stratospheric rise of hip-hop icon Kendrick Lamar, it was 2015 that fans saw as his peak. Releasing To Pimp a Butterfly in March, the record was viewed as Kendrick’s career peak, with a Grammy win for Best Rap Album to its name, and later being dubbed the 19th greatest album of all time by Rolling Stone.

As such, many thought that the blistering “King Kunta” would top the poll that year, only for it to be dethroned by The Rubens and their single “Hoops”. Not content to let that record be his legacy, Kendrick kept on releasing work, with DAMN. arriving in 2017. Lead single “HUMBLE.” dominated the airwaves, and ultimately, it was voted in at #1, making Kendrick the first person of colour to top the poll, and serving him with a well-deserved top spot.

Image of Powderfinger

Ian Jennings*

1

“My Happiness” – Powderfinger (2000)

By the end of the century, Powderfinger had already established themselves as veterans of the scene, with three albums to their name, and a #1 spot for 1998’s Internationalist proving that they were on the cusp of big things. 1999 had previously seen them top the Hottest 100 thanks to “These Days” from the Two Hands soundtrack, and with a new album on the way, the world was their oyster. As it turned out, this oyster came loaded with one hell of a pearl.

Releasing album Odyssey Number Five in September of 2000, it came packed with singles like “My Kind of Scene” (which hit #3 in the Hottest 100 of 2000) and “Like a Dog”. However, it was the ode to a long distance relationship, “My Happiness”, that peaked atop the poll, giving the group their second #1. To date, Powderfinger are the only artist to top the poll twice, and the only artist to do it consecutively. Also, with Odyssey Number Five also containing a version of “These Days”, it’s the only album to feature two Hottest 100 #1s on its tracklist.