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The best and worst of the Hottest 100

Ahead of triple j’s Australia Day countdown we look back at the best and worst moments of the Hottest 100 – from ‘Asshole’ to ‘Pretty Fly For A White Guy’.

Best Runner-Up: OutKast – ‘Hey Ya!’ (2003)

Numerologists will tell you that the best Hottest 100 runner-up was Blur’s ‘Song 2’. They’ll also claim that the best winner was Augie March’s ‘One Crowded Hour’ and you really don’t want to get them started on the significance of The Grates’ ‘19-20-20’ finishing in 10th place in 2006. But numerologists are insane and ignore the undisputed fact that OutKast’s ‘Hey Ya!’ is the greatest song to ever be relegated to second place. It’s widely believed that OutKast are refusing to release another album until this blight is rectified. As for The White Stripes’ ‘Seven Nation Army’ finishing in third place that year behind the winner – Jet’s ‘Are You Gonna Be My Girl?’ – you’ll have to ask the numerologists about that.

Worst Runner-Up: Art vs. Science – ‘Parlez Vous Francais?’ (2009)

In the bloodmatch of Art vs Science no one wins, except when it’s a countdown of the “hottest” songs of 2009. Say what you will about Mumford and Sons but at least they kept this Francophile monstrosity from actually winning the poll. As a side note we’d like to believe that the video clip features a pair of mimes as a suggestion on how to best appreciate the song: with the sound off and the band trapped in an invisible glass case.

Best Aussie Winner: ‘One Crowded Hour’/’Buy Me A Pony’ (1996)

These songs couldn’t be more different. On the one hand, you have a stinging portrayal of the music industry circa 1996 that’s over in roughly one minute, 40 seconds; on the other, you have a poetic waltz that’s probably soundtracked more weddings than ‘Theme From Titanic’ and ‘I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing’. What unites them, however, is that great triumph of the underdog (this was pre-’Black Betty’ Spiderbait, remember) – and you really can’t get much more Aussie than that. To think that two honest bands from Finley and Shepparton could take on the corporate-rock might of The Killers, Tool, Weezer and Bush with simple, direct songs that weren’t mixed by Steve Lillywhite for the national GDP of a small developing country should be a source of national pride and achievement on par with Tim Tams, the Big Pineapple and Chris Lilley.

Worst Aussie “Winner”: The Tenants – ‘You Shit Me to Tears’ (1999)

It’s too easy and too obvious to attack Angus & Julia Stone’s insipid ‘Big Jet Plane’ as the worst locally bred winter of the poll. It’s every lightly bearded, heavily dreadlocked busker’s favourite song and that’s reason enough to fight for a law banning it from public broadcast. The thought of ever having to hear it again is an evil almost too horrid to contemplate, so instead we’ll try to ignore its existence and instead nominate 1999’s third place getter The Tenants’ ‘You Shit Me to Tears’ as the worst thing to ever fly the Australian flag towards the top of the poll. It’s a half-mast song at best.

Best Novelty Song: Denis Leary – ‘Asshole’ (1993)

Long before Michael Moore was chasing Charlton Heston up driveways or Roseanne Barr was beaming “the real America” into our lounge-rooms, Denis Leary penned his own satirical ode to the American dream. While it is often cited as the first novelty song to take out the Hottest 100, ‘Asshole’ is no ‘Pretty Fly For a White Guy’. From its genius spoken word outro (“Russia, Germany, Romania – they can have all the democracy they want. They can have a democracy cakewalk right through the middle of Tiananmen Square and it won’t make a lick of difference, because we’ve got the bombs, OK?”) to the accompanying video in which Leary dons a smoking jacket while “swilling” a breast implant – this is novelty at it’s most cerebral.

Worst Novelty Song: The Offspring – ‘Pretty Fly For A White Guy’ (1998)

Every couple of years the hosts of triple j “punk” listeners by playing a fake number one before cutting in and spinning the song we all knew would win. In 1998 when the shrill cries of “Give it to me baby. Uh-huh. Uh-huh” rang out on the airwaves, we all waited patiently for Gazzo and Razer to cut in, all guffaws and high fives. But it wasn’t a joke: It was the year that the Hottest 100 came close to jumping the shark with The Offspring. Luckily, Powderfinger’s ‘These Days’ restored the list to its former glory by taking out the #1 spot in 1999.

Worst Year: 2009

Did you have a big hit in 2004? 2009 was your year to release an average song and bath in Hottest 100 glory. While there are quite a few years that stand out for their questionable number ones (yes, we’re talking about you 1998 – ‘Pretty Fly (for a White Guy)’, and you 2007 – ‘Night’s Of Cydonia’), no Hottest 100 was as wholly unspectacular as ‘09. Top and tailed by an emo-hoedown (Mumford and Sons – ‘Little Lion Man’) and a soft-rock ballad (Foo Fighter’s -’Wheels’), it’s memorable for being so utterly forgettable. There was Bloc Party’s ‘One More Chance’, Kasabian’s ‘Fire’, Wolfmother’s ‘New Moon Rising’, Gossip’s ‘Heavy Cross’, Muse’s ‘Undisclosed Desires,’ Weezer’s ’(If You’re Wondering If I Want You To) I Want You To’, Julian Casablancas’ ‘11th Dimension’ and Jet’s ‘She’s a Genius’. Rest In Peace 2009. Rest. In. Peace.

Best Year: 1995

1995 may be the year best remembered for featuring three Alanis Morissette tracks despite the singer never having received any airplay on the Js, but it’s also the year that TISM had three songs in the 100 – including the back-to-back placing of ‘He’ll Never Be An (Old Man River)’and ‘Greg! The Stop Sign!’ at nine and 10, respectively. Amid all this irony, there was also a strong contingent of legends: Bjork, Neil Young, Portishead, The Cure, Nick Cave and Sonic Youth; and a few cool coincidences: Tripping Daisy’s ‘I Got A Girl’ and Jill Sobule’s ‘I Kissed A Girl’ coming in at #18 and #19, and Buffalo Tom’s ‘Summer’ and Def FX’s ‘Psychoactive Summer’ taking out #50 and #51. It’s also the year the Australian public gave The Vaughan’s ‘Who Farted’ the recognition it truly deserved.

Best Winner: Queens of the Stone Age – ‘No One Knows’ (2002)

2002’s Hottest 100 list isn’t a pretty sight; there are two ( two! ) Machine Gun Fellatio songs in the top 10. However, at the pinnacle of the countdown there’s a hairy beast of a track that makes everything right with the world: Queens of the Stone Age’s ‘No One Knows’. The song was the 10th song featuring Dave Grohl on the countdown that year – five with Queens of the Stone Age, four with the Foo Fighters, and one with Nirvana. Grohl still holds the record for “Most Hottest 100 Appearances in a Single Year” and unless Bernard Fanning reunites Powderfinger, releases a solo album and provides guest vocals on a Presets track in the same year it’s a record that’s never likely to be broken.

Worst Winner: Macklemore & Ryan Lewis – ‘Thrift Shop’ (2013)

When the history books are written they’ll report that the first hip-hop song to win the Hottest 100 wasn’t a searing attack from Public Enemy, a baroque masterpiece of braggadocio from Jay-Z or Kanye, or even a “back from the dead” collaboration between the reanimated corpses of Tupac, Biggie and ODB. It won’t even be something from our own booming local hip-hop scene. It’ll be a novelty song performed by a white rapper about how hilarious it is to buy clothes from op-shops. Well done Hottest 100 voters, did the eternal shame of ‘Pretty Fly (for a White Guy)’ winning the 1998 poll teach you nothing?

FL will be live-blogging the Hottest 100 countdown from midday tomorrow.