Hottest 100 of the last 20 years, day one

It’s been 20 years since the triple j Hottest 100 stopped being a poll in which you vote for your favourite songs ever and instead became a poll about voting for your favourite songs of that specific year. So triple j decided to celebrate that by having a poll where we vote for our favourite songs of the last 20 years!

This weekend’s countdown of the results will be an opportunity for that song you voted for in 2003 that only made it as high as number two to receive the vindication it so richly deserves. Or perhaps it will be another opportunity to complain about how the entire rest of Australia has terrible taste in music for an entire weekend. Here’s to 20 more years of that.

Will Jeff Buckley win like the bookies think he will? Will the list be dominated by songs from the 1990s, or by Australian bands, or sung by men, or novelty songs? Will somebody complain about a song that was technically released outside of the 20-year window making the list? How many articles about what it all really means will we be able to spin out of it? THERE ARE EXCITING TIMES AHEAD. And they begin right here.

Throughout the weekend we’ll be liveblogging the countdown here. Check back for a wrap-up every 10 songs, along with trivia about the songs as well as inevitable complaints about how OutKast were robbed and possibly even some obnoxious animated gifs that vaguely pertain to the songs as well.

100. Beastie Boys, ‘Intergalactic’

The Beastie Boys’ Grammy-winning hit came in at number 25 in the Hottest 100 of 1998. I hope that while you were listening to this song you were thinking “This is definitely not as good at The Offspring’s ‘Pretty Fly (For a White Guy)’” because that was the song that made it to number one in that year’s poll.

But the Beastie Boys will have the last laugh, having been immortalised in an episode of Futurama. Beat that, The Offspring.

99. Lana Del Rey, ‘Video Games’

Cool, an opportunity for people to get all the complaining out of their systems early on. This is an important public service triple j provide to the jaded music fans of the internet.

That’s it, get all that bitterness out of your system. Vent that spleen.

Push, push! And relax.

You’ve earned that nap.

98. Jebediah, ‘Leaving Home’

‘Leaving Home’, from Jebediah’s debut album, Slightly Odway, made it to #48 in the ARIA Singles Chart as well as number 10 in the Hottest 100 of 1997. Jebediah were unavoidable that year. But then, so were Chumbawumba. Anyone want to make a bet on whether ‘Tubthumping’ will make the list?

97. M.I.A., ‘Paper Planes’

Great song, but you should also check out the version on Marvin’s Blogspot Mixtape, in which he raps along to the gunshots. Aw, yiss.

96. The Cat Empire, ‘Hello’

Nice trolling, triple j. That ad playing Jet’s ‘Are You Gonna Go My Way?’ had me convinced that was going to be the next song, and when the naggingly cheerful horns of The Cat Empire’s hit started up I was relieved to hear them, even though I’m no fan of the song itself. If you worked anywhere that kept the radio on all day when this song came out in 2003 you probably feel my pain.

95. Ben Lee, ‘Cigarettes Will Kill You’

Another song that holds the distinction of being beaten by ‘Pretty Fly (For a White Guy)’ in 1998, ‘Cigarettes Will Kill You’ came in at number two that year. The story goes that Ben Lee wanted to write a song as catchy as The Verve’s ‘The Drugs Don’t Work’, which is why he called the song ‘Cigarettes Will Kill You’ rather than ‘I Wish Everyone Was Wrong’, which is the bit of the song everyone sings along to but can never hold the note.

94. Foster The People, ‘Pumped Up Kicks’

Here’s another debut song. We know that 30 of the songs in this countdown will be from debut albums, which will be a great way to start arguments about what counts as a debut in comment threads and on Twitter (for instance, “Didn’t Lana Del Rey release an album under her real name before that one?” You can have that one for free). ‘Pumped Up Kicks’ wasn’t just from Foster The People’s first album Torches, but was also the first single they released. Nice way to introduce yourself.

93. Soundgarden, ‘Black Hole Sun’

One of Soundgarden’s most popular songs and yet nobody has a clue what it actually means. According to one of the fine people of “I think it’s about how disasterous too much optimism can be.” Another confidently declares “A couple of the biggest secrets of the occult are revealed in this song. No joke.” I tried to explain to someone at a party once that it’s about wishing the end of the world would hurry up and happen because you’re just so angst-ridden and alienated. (She didn’t care.)

92. Of Monsters and Men, ‘Little Talks’

Here’s a bit of a surprise. ‘Little Talks’ was number two in the latest Hottest 100, so you might have expected a song this fresh in people’s memories to do better. If you were upset by a genuine ‘90s classic like ‘Black Hole Sun’ only making it to number 93 here’s evidence that current hits aren’t necessarily guaranteed to snag the top spots, and they probably will go to a bunch of songs from the decade you lost your virginity in after all.

91. Jebediah, ‘Harpoon’

‘Harpoon came in at number seven in the Hottest 100 of 1998, so if you voted for this song that year and were annoyed that it was beaten by the disposable singalong pop of ‘Cigarettes Will Kill You’, here’s your vindication. You were right all along! Pat on the back.

90. Silverchair, ‘Straight Lines’

Another number two, and one that as Kingsmill points out famously missed out on being the number one song of 2007’s Hottest 100 by only 13 votes. (It was beaten by Muse’s ‘Knights of Cydonia’.) ‘Straight Lines’ was co-written by Julian Hamilton of The Presets and a lot of critics noted it, and the whole Young Modern album, as marking a newfound maturity in Silverchair’s songwriting. But not all of them. The album’s review at PopMatters starts out like this: “Once you reach the level of intellectual maturity where you can tell the difference between cryptic but poetic lyrics and nonsensical crap, you have outgrown Silverchair.”

89. TV On the Radio, ‘Wolf Like Me’

I’m barely capable of rational thought, let alone writing while this song is playing. Here’s what happens in my head when I hear ‘Wolf Like Me’.

88. Something For Kate, ‘Monsters’

Richard Kingsmill mentioned earlier that ‘Cigarettes Will Kill You’ and ‘Black Hole Sun’ were both written very quickly. Paul Dempsey has said that he wrote ‘Monsters’ in 20 minutes while on holiday in Thailand. Obviously the secret to a triple j hit is writing the song as quickly as possible, preferably in the 1990s. This is another number two by the way, beaten in 2001’s poll by Alex Lloyd’s ‘Amazing’.

87. The Kooks, ‘Naive’

Here’s another debut album song. ‘Naive’ was from The Kooks’ Inside In, Inside Out in 2006. It didn’t make the Hottest 100 that year, however. Will we be hearing a lot of songs in the rest of the poll that have grown in our estimations since their release?

86. The Killers, ‘When You Were Young’

85. Coolio, ‘Gangsta’s Paradise’

‘Gangsta’s Paradise’ is built on a fair bit of Stevie Wonder’s ‘Pastime Paradise’. Spend an educational three-and-a-half minutes listening to the original.

84. Kanye West, ‘Gold Digger’

If you’re thinking of making a joke about this song be aware that Max Lavergne is the only person ever to make it work.



83. Pulp, ‘Common People’

PERSONAL ANECDOTE TIME: When this song came out Tricky (who was going through a cranky phase) said that Pulp’s Jarvis Cocker shouldn’t be allowed to sing about ‘Common People’ because he wasn’t poor enough. I went through a troubled phase of not being sure about loving of Tricky’s music when he was capable of being such an incredible tool, because this song is shining and perfect. Then I learned that sometimes people who make amazing music say stupid things but it doesn’t matter and shouldn’t affect your enjoyment at all. That was an important lesson for a young music fan to learn. Thank you, Tricky.

82. Wheatus, ‘Teenage Dirtbag’

Countries where ‘Teenage Dirtbag’ was a number one hit: Australia, Austria, Belgium. Countries where ‘Teenage Dirtbag’ was not a number one hit: ALL OF THE REST OF THEM. Read into that what you will.

81. Angus & Julia Stone, ‘Big Jet Plane’

Here’s the first entry that was a number one in the Hottest 100 of the year it was released. I’m glad that, of all the number ones we’re going to see in the rest of the list, this is the one the most voters have thought twice about in the years since then. I feel vindicated.

80. Rage Against the Machine, ‘Bulls On Parade’

All across Australia right now, 30-year-olds are discovering they still know every word to ‘Bulls On Parade’. (Yeah, I do too.)

79. Arctic Monkeys, ‘I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor’

Oh yeah. Of course we do.

78. Silverchair, ‘Freak’

‘Freak’ has the most 1990s distinction a song could have, in that it was once played over the closing credits of an episode of Daria. If somebody could put together a playlist of songs from the Daria credits, I would have a difficult time listening to anything else.

77. The Presets, ‘My People’

How many of the people shouting along to this song at music festivals realised it was about boat people being locked away in detention centres? Voted in at number 18 in the Hottest 100 of 2007, it’s now climbed above two of the songs that beat it that year – M.I.A.’s ‘Paper Planes’ and Silverchair’s ‘Straight Lines’.

76. MGMT, ‘Electric Feel’

Hey look, a song from a debut album. Oracular Spectacular was from MGMT’s 2007 debut. If you don’t have an opinion about that album you can borrow this slightly shopworn one that everybody had: “All the songs on it from their EP are better than the new ones.”

75. The Killers, ‘Somebody Told Me’

74. The Wombats, ‘Let’s Dance To Joy Division’

Another song from 2007, this was number 12 in that year’s Hottest 100. If you think The Wombats sound slightly indebted to The Beatles that’s because they met at the the school founded by Paul McCartney, the Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts – or “the Liverpool Institute of Performing Tarts” as Wikipedia puts it. We’ll fix that when we get home.

73. Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, ‘Home’

Even if you don’t like this song you are whistling to it right now.

72. Wolfmother, ‘Joker and the Thief’

71. Gorillaz, ‘Clint Eastwood’

You’re probably pretty familiar with Damon Albarn’s back catalogue, but what about Gorillaz co-creator Jamie Hewlett? As well as designing this cartoon band he’s the guy who drew the original Tank Girl series as well as a bunch of other comics. His TV show, Phoo Action, never made it past the pilot episode for some reason. Which is a baffling decision, since it looked like this.


70. Regurgitator, ’! (The Song Formerly Known As)’

Another song from 1998’s Hottest 100, and an excellent one, too. But what’s next? That was also the year that brought us a Hottest 100 full of songs from South Park, Korn, Barenaked Ladies, The Mighty Mighty Bosstones and Adam Sandler.

69. Eminem, ‘Lose Yourself’

If the rapper people who don’t like hip-hop like only made it to number 69, are we going to hear much more of the genre in the rest of the list? I’m worried about whether the Hilltop Hoods can make it, guys.

68. Jet, ‘Are You Gonna Be My Girl?’

You ever have that thing where you hear the start of this song and the part of your brain that’s forgotten what radio station you’re listening to thinks it’s actually ‘Lust For Life’ for a second? But then reality kicks in?

67. Alt-J, ‘Breezeblocks’

Those lyrics about holding her down with breezeblocks and “please don’t go/I’ll eat you whole/I love you so” are a well-observed summary of the slightly ugly, possessive side of love that isn’t easy to sum up in a catchy pop song. Unless you are Alt-J, I guess.

66. You Am I, ‘Berlin Chair’

This song is the reason Silverchair are called Silverchair. Well, a third of the reason. The other thirds are ‘Sliver’ by Nirvana and the fact that “Sliverchair” would be a rubbish band name.

65. Daft Punk, ‘Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger’

64. MGMT, ‘Kids’

This weekend ABC Classic FM have been doing their own countdown of the best 100 movie scores. I mention that because if Kids, the 1995 Harmony Korine movie, had been in that list at number 64 it would have been an amazing coincidence but actually it was John Barry’s score from ‘Born Free’ so forget I mentioned it.

63. Grinspoon, ‘Chemical Heart’

62. Spiderbait, ‘Buy Me a Pony’

Here’s a song that topped the poll in its day, making it to number one in 1996’s Hottest 100. Regurgitator’s ‘I Sucked a Lot of Cock to Get Where I Am’ was number 23 that year; 1996 was a good time to be writing caustic rock songs about selling out.

61. The Black Keys, ‘Lonely Boy’

The video for this single was originally a big-budget thing with a narrative and a cast of 40, but the band hated it. They sent it back to be re-edited repeatedly, eventually saying, “We like that one dancing guy. Can we have more of that?” The dancing janitor was an extra whose moves were unscripted. He just started dancing on set and the director liked them so much he asked the guy to repeat them on camera. There’s a lesson in that somewhere.

60. Bush, ‘Glycerine’

I like that there was a second of silence before they broadcast this song, just to give it the build-up it deserved.

59. Daft Punk, ‘Around the World’

This song was only one place higher in the Hottest 100 of All Time poll triple j ran in 2009, coming in at number 58. Number 57 was ‘Forty Six & 2’ by Tool, so we should expect to hear that next unless something almost as good has been released then, which it hasn’t, right?

58. The Whitlams, ‘No Aphrodisiac’

This was the number one in 1997’s Hottest 100 but didn’t make the Hottest 100 of All Time at all. I don’t understand you, triple j voters. So inconsistent. Anyway, this song was co-written by members of Machine Gun Fellatio, who also used the “40, shaved, sexy, wants to do it all day” bit in their song ‘Horny Blonde 40’. Trivia!

57. Bloc Party, ‘Banquet’

56. Underworld, ‘Born Slippy’

Confused by that mention of comedian Bill Bailey being the inspiration for the “lager, lager, lager” bit of ‘Born Slippy’? Here’s Karl Hyde of Underworld, from an interview by the BBC earlier this year: ”’Born Slippy’ started in the Ship on Wardour Street. Years later, as my brain cleared, I realised I was with Bill Bailey […] he was a mate of a mate and I just remember handing him a fiver and saying, ‘Go on, get a round in mate.’ And off I went into the night and wrote some lyrics.”

55. Fatboy Slim, ‘Praise You’

Linda Marigliano says we should think of the (hilarious) video while we listen to this song. Music writer Simon Reynolds would disagree. He blames the video for ‘Praise You’ for the stalling of 1990s dance music’s invasion of America: “I would single out Spike Jonz and his fucking terrible video for “Praise You” as the turning point. (Get Joy [Press] on this subject and you will hear a rant, she loves that song, and Jonz just made a joke out of what could have been a glorious redemptive anthem, a ‘Bittersweet Symphony’ or ‘Beautiful Day’ if done right). Oh Fatboy did alright what with the songs in movies and on TV commercials, but in the deepest and realest sense he lost: he never became a household name or star, not even on the Moby level.”

54. Kings of Leon, ‘Sex On Fire’

Originally it was called ‘Set Us On Fire’. Some people would like to.

53. Placebo, ‘Every You Every Me’

A bunch of people who make jokes about how they should get an emo lawn so that it cuts itself are realising they still know every word to this song.

52. Gorillaz, ‘Feel Good Inc.’

Whenever someone tiresome points out that those Gorillaz holograms (or the Tupac one) aren’t actually holograms but an old theatre illusion called Pepper’s Ghost, drop this knowledge on them. John Henry Pepper, who invented that illusion, moved to Australia later in his career and had a short stint as a travelling scientific marvel, which came to an end after a disastrous attempt to make it rain in Brisbane. Using landmines attached to parachutes and several cannon, he tried to explode clouds but thanks to the cannon exploding (local children put extra gunpowder in it) he almost killed several members of the crowd who’d shown up to watch. Now that’s trivia.

51. The Dandy Warhols, ‘Bohemian Like You’

That’s it for numbers 100-51, but come back again tomorrow and we’ll do the whole thing again.