Since its debut in 1993, the Triple J Hottest 100 has become a small national obsession: the subject of intense scrutiny, widespread coverage and constant chatter on social media.
This year’s countdown – which airs on the Australian youth broadcaster this Saturday – is no different: with a collaboration between Justin Bieber and Kid Laroi named as favorites to win, along with Olivia Rodrigo and Billie Eilish, conversations about Triple J’s mainstream pop music playlist have been reignited – as last year’s firestorm over an allegedly ageist tweet from the station still looms large in the minds of many.
If you haven’t been paying much attention in the past 12 months, or need a reminder before you log in, here’s a form guide to get you through Saturday’s countdown.
There’s a pleasant — or, depending on who you ask, infuriating — consistency in the habits of the Hot 100 Voters, despite the music that comes out every year. For example, Eilish, winner of the 2019 Hottest 100 with Bad Guy, released an album last year, so you can expect her biggest single, Happier Than Ever, to appear somewhere in the upper echelons of the countdown.
Transformative and vaguely new Like A Version covers also tend to do well – for example, DMA’s cover of Cher’s Believe (2016’s #6) and Alex Lahey’s cover of My Chemical Romance’s Welcome to the Black Parade (No. 83 in 2020) – so it won’t be a surprise if the Wiggles’ takeover of Elephant from Tame Impala makes its way up there. The 100 Warm Tunas website, which analyzes voting data from the 100 hottest social media posts, actually named the children’s group for No. 1.
And perennial 100 hottest favorites like Gang of Youths, Rüfüs Du Sol, Ball Park Music and Dope Lemon each released a swag of singles in 2021 – so keep an ear out for all of them.
The (not so) outsiders
Nearly a decade after Taylor Swift’s Shake It Off was banned from entering Countdown, it looks like Triple J’s skill set has changed — a lot. This year’s Hottest 100 is expected to feature an onslaught of Swift-level pop megastars of the genre you usually hear on commercial radio. Laroi and Bieber’s collab, Stay, is set to release the countdown, with tracks from giant Rodrigo, e-girl queen Doja Cat and Eilish not far behind. 100 Warm Tunas also includes tracks from Halsey, Peach PRC, Lil Nas X, Bruno Mars and Lizzo on its prediction list.
It’s easy to balk at this pop invasion, but you could say the countdown has always favored mainstream stars: many past winners – including Glass Animals, Eilish, Kendrick Lamar, Angus & Julia Stone, Mumford & Sons, Kings of Leon and Muse – were all already major label stars with huge international fans when they passed their respective countdowns. Despite the alternate plating, their checks were still drawn from the same well as Swift’s.
There’s a lot to be said for whether Triple J’s centrist turn is a good thing or a bad thing, but at the very least, it’s sure to be an interesting countdown. And if Laroi, a rapper from Kamilaroi, Is it that winning first place will also be a historic place: he will be the first First Nations musician to reach first place.
Lorde, who cracked the top 10 in 2013 and 2017, is unlikely to make it this year, after her long-awaited third album Solar Power arrived to an extremely lukewarm response. The 100 Hottest Clips Hilltop Hoods didn’t release anything last year, so they’ll be a noticeable absence as well – as will Flume for the same reason, after appearing in the last two consecutive top fives, he won’t be looking for the -tour hat; it didn’t drop last year either.
The absence of these heavyweights, however, means there could be room for someone who had a huge 2021 to sneak into the top 20 – like, say, Genesis Owusu or Amyl and the Sniffers, who have each released superlative records in the past 12 months.
In September of last year, Triple J’s Twitter account – which posts in a tongue-in-cheek meme – tweeted, “Does it hurt? when you got old off the youth radio station”. Backlash ensued from a number of listeners and musicians, including Ainslie Wills, who said she stopped receiving rotation on Triple J once she turned 30; music journalist and editor Poppy Reid, who pointed out that there was a larger systemic and gender issue at play; and Jack Colwell, who said the station once told him he was “too old” to be played.
While this is undeniably a bad image, it may not have been a bad move for the station: it’s no secret that, despite its national mandate to serve the 18 at 24, his audience tends to be a bit older, and there’s a chance that this slightly scorched earth post signaled a change.
Still, perhaps the winner of the countdown will be the true judge of where Triple J stands in 2022: with Laroi-stanning Gen Z, or the nostalgic millennials of Wiggles.