Every Hottest 100 Winner From The Last 10 Years, Ranked From Worst To Best
We're still not over 'Thrift Shop'.
For nearly three decades now, triple j’s Hottest 100 has remained the most anticipated music event on Australia’s calendar.
A look over the last 10 years of countdowns reveals just how much our collective music taste has changed. At the same time, given the fact that every Hottest 100 winner ever has been one or more white men with the exception of a very few, it’s also equally easy to see how things have unfortunately remained the same.
Now, as the decade draws to an end, and we’re edge closer to what is likely to be the first ever countdown taken out by a solo woman, we’ve decided go back through the last ten winners of triple j’s Hottest 100 in an effort to prove that, much like other elements of this country, the popular vote isn’t always right.
#10. ‘Thrift Shop’ (feat. Wanz) — Macklemore & Ryan Lewis (2012)
This song beat out Flume, Tame Impala and Frank Ocean. A song that mentions onesies, Grandma’s coat, and R. Kelly’s urine beat out ‘Holdin On’, ‘Feels Like We Go Only Backwards’ and ‘Lost’.
In fairness, ‘Thrift Shop’ was inarguably the biggest song of 2012, so the fact it landed at the top of the countdown wasn’t that much of a surprise. Crossover hits, after all, are the ones that end up at the pointy end.
Maybe it was the huge scandal of this song beating out Kendrick Lamar for Best Rap Song at the Grammys. Maybe it’s the optics of a white man coming into a historically Black-owned space and telling them not to spend any money. The song is catchy and funny, yes, but it truly hasn’t aged well and it sits atop a whole plethora of other songs that deserved the spot more.
#9. ‘Confidence’ — Ocean Alley (2018)
There isn’t anything inherently bad about ‘Confidence’. It’s easy, it’s summery, and Baden Donegal’s voice is smoother than it has any right to be. But, as the 2018 Hottest 100 came to a close, we couldn’t help but feel like we needed…more.
The song didn’t have the explosive bombast of Fisher’s ‘Losing It’, the year-defining hook of Travis Scott’s ‘SICKO MODE’, or even the all-consuming heartbreak of Billie Eilish’s ‘when the party’s over’ or Ruby Fields’ ‘Dinosaurs.’
The song is just… okay. Shit, Ocean Alley even had better songs make the same countdown, with ‘Happy Sad’ at #100 and ‘Knees’ at #10. The song is an all out festival belter, no question, but was it the best song of the year? Absolutely not.
#8. ‘Hoops’ — The Rubens (2015)
You always feel a bit of pride when an Australian artist tops the Hottest 100, especially if they were first discovered by way of triple j Unearthed.
Having said that, while The Rubens’ ‘Hoops’ is a solid track, you’d have pretty poor luck finding anyone that thinks it deserved to win over Kendrick Lamar’s seminal hit ‘King Kunta’, or the slew of singles from Tame Impala’s Currents that turned Kevin Parker into an international festival headliner.
#7. ‘Talk Is Cheap’ — Chet Faker (2014)
It’s a beautiful song, but it’s also an incredibly painful snooze fest at the same time. The fact that this song was chosen over ‘Gold’ and ‘1998’ is a travesty, and I will never let this country forget it.
#6. ‘Little Lion Man’ — Mumford & Sons (2009)
Even though the winner leaked a couple of days before the countdown aired, it doesn’t make this song any less worthy. And it was up against some stiff competition.
While Mumford & Sons may have driven off the road into yawnville in recent years, their debut single kicked off a folk rock revolution. Sure, it made the band synonymous with banjos and wildly strummed guitars — for better or for worse — but at its core, it’s a heartbreaking admission of fault.
#5. ‘Riptide’ — Vance Joy (2013)
Vance Joy’s ‘Riptide’ taking out the Hottest 100 might be the ultimate underdog story of the countdown. An Unearthed track, it was up against singles from artists like Arctic Monkeys and Daft Punk, who were coming off the back of the wildly successful records AM and Random Access Memories, respectively.
But his biggest competition was a 16-year-old girl from New Zealand who would go on to take over the world. It was a tense race to the top, with Vance Joy eventually claiming the top spot — the first ever Unearthed winner.
Looking back, there’s no question which track would go on to have the bigger influence on music — but regardless, ‘Riptide’ was charming, utterly ubiquitous, and a worthy winner.
#4. ‘Big Jet Plane’ — Angus & Julia Stone (2010)
There was no way 2010’s countdown was going to be topped by any other song.
Angus & Julia Stone’s enduring popularity in Australia has been unshakeable — 2017’s ‘Chateau’ getting #3 in that year’s countdown still confuses us — but ‘Big Jet Plane’ is the intimate duet from a band that, at their best, can conjure up magic.
That magic shot the irresistible and understated ‘Big Jet Plane’ to the top, beating out strong entries from Little Red, Boy & Bear, and Adrian Lux. In a sobering fact, Julia Stone is still the only lead woman to have topped the countdown this decade — something which, hopefully, might change next January.
#3. ‘Never Be Like You’ (feat. Kai) — Flume (2016)
2016 was a good year to be Flume. The unprecedented success his 2012 debut gave him catapulted from Sydney clubs to the world’s biggest festival stages. His second album Skin was universally acclaimed, and even gave Unearthed’s golden boy a fucking Grammy.
While he was given stiff competition from then newcomers Amy Shark and Tash Sultana for the top spot of the 2016 Hottest 100, it was always going to be Flume. Like ‘Holdin’ On’ years before, ‘Never Be Like You’ changed the way we thought about dance and pop music.
Flume’s influence on the genres is undeniable, and ‘Never Be Like You’ is one of his brightest moments.
#2. ‘HUMBLE.’ – Kendrick Lamar (2017)
The first song by a solo person of colour to win the Hottest 100. The first song to win the Hottest 100 to be won by an artist who previously was a runner up. A lot of history was made when the opening notes of ‘HUMBLE.’ rang out over the radio.
Having been unjustly shunted to #2 by ‘Hoops’ in 2015, it felt only right for Kendrick Lamar to ascend to the top with ‘HUMBLE.’, a track which showcased the best of his formidable talents. Fiery, political, complicated, it was an important moment in music that was dutifully honoured by Australian audiences.
By all standards and by all accounts, ‘HUMBLE.’ was the best song of 2017, so having any other song top this countdown would’ve been a deep injustice.
#1. ‘Somebody That I Used To Know’ (feat. Kimbra) – Gotye (2011)
‘Somebody That I Used To Know’ defined an artist and a year in a way that not many other songs have done. Delicate yet upbeat, painful yet joyful, it was the ultimate break up song — made to be screamed at your bedroom ceiling or in a festival crowd of thousands.
Going on to win three Grammys, and beating out the massive debut singles of Matt Corby and Lana Del Rey for the winning spot, ‘Somebody That I Used To Know’ has influenced triple j, Australian music, and Gotye in ways that we’re still figuring out.
Jackson Langford is a freelance music and culture writer from Newcastle. He tweets at @jacksonlangford.
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