The Last Spot In The Hottest 100 Is Home To Some Of History's Most Forgettable Tunes

25 January 2016 | 4:28 pm | Staff Writer

Making it the Hottest 50 would save us all a bunch of time, you know

Tomorrow, Australians around the country and the world will gather near their analog or digital radio to engage in an annual ritual of getting shitfaced by the pool while eagerly listening into triple j's Hottest 100, tense with drunken curiosity over which song will claim this year's coveted #1 placing.

While there's no discounting the very real honour of nabbing that top spot — the competition's winners routinely go on to capitalise on that achievement for years after the fact — or even clearing the top 10, 20 or even 40 entries on the countdown, every year it's hammered home just a little bit harder that landing deep into the back half of the Hottest 100 is less an actual achievement than it is a "thanks anyway" participation award, a swish little green ribbon to take home especially for all the effort you put into just showing up.

This is not meant to dismiss the sweat and tears of the songwriters who've attained such low-level glory in the past — it's not like we've written any successful hit songs, after all, so we certainly can't claim to be any better at the craft — but it's still hard to hear the phrase "two-time Hottest 100 last-place-getters The Cat Empire" and not just feel a little bit bad for everyone involved, especially when you realise that the songs they earned that "accolade" for weren't overly memorable to begin with. It's not even that they're necessarily bad songs; it's just that they mightn't really be anything to write home about, if we're honest with ourselves.

Seriously, just look at some of the songs to have barely scraped over the line to make it onto the Hottest 100 countdown in the past and ask yourself — really ask yourself — whether "triple j's Hottest 50" wouldn't just be a much more efficient, far more listenable means to the exact same end.

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1994: lisa loeb & nine stories — stay (i missed you)

We get it, man; 1994 was a different time. The internet was yet to hit the mainstream, Green Day was just about to release Dookie, and children were still resilient enough to handle a healthy dose of tragedy in their Disney movies without their parents writing to film studios about it. It was magical.

Right, '90s kids? (Pic: YouTube)

That all goes a little way towards explaining how Lisa Loeb & Nine Stories' middling angst-pop anthem was deemed interesting enough to warrant its (#100) spot on triple j's second current-format countdown, but it doesn't really do much to make us understand the kind of thought process that then translates into giving that achievement any real meaning. Compared with some of its contemporaries, this song had some measure of staying power, but history will tell you it's looked at as little more than a joke in 2016, if anybody even remembers it at all.

1995: todd snider - talkin' seattle grunge rock blues

Todd Snider is a prolific, veteran American troubadour with more than 15 full-length albums to his name (including compilations), but there is no way you knew that. Sure, his breakthrough single Talkin' Seattle Grunge Rock Blues was a #100-earning placer in the 1995 Hottest 100 countdown, but there is no way you knew that, either.

If you did know all of that about Todd Snider - including the fact that he is a person - then more power to you but, for the rest of us, this song may as well not exist. Maybe it was something special 21 years ago, but, in a post-Mumford world, this isn't anything to write home about, much less start a prestigious competition with.

1997: effigy - i give in

If there's one song to have made the #100 spot worthwhile, it's probably Perth synth-rockers Effigy, who - if not for their track I Give In making the grade back in 1997 - would otherwise have slipped into total obscurity, only ever being mentioned on esoteric blogs about how awesome Perth's indie-rock scene used to be in the '90s (newsflash: basically all Australian indie-rock scenes were awesome in the '90s).

It's not even that bad a tune; it's just painfully indicative of the fleeting nature of the entry end of the countdown, because fucked if we've heard anyone calling for Effigy to embark on a "20th Anniversary Of Being Named #100 On The Hottest 100" tour in the near future.

1999: powderfinger - passenger

Queensland legends Powderfinger hold the dubious distinction of both winning and losing the Hottest 100 in the same year. While These Days was beating out the likes of Killing Heidi's Weir and The Tenants' You Shit Me To Tears to claim the top spot, Bernard Fanning & Friends were also languishing right at the bottom, with Passenger bringing up the rear at #100.

To be totally fair, Powderfinger actually made four appearances on '99's ladder - they also took out #25 with Already Gone and #68 with Good-Day Ray, which itself reinforces the notion that acknowledging any song after about #50 or so is really just being polite for the sake of it.

2000: green day - Warning

Remember when Green Day followed up their wildly successful 1997 album Nimrod with the incredibly tepid Warning, and then we all collectively decided to pretend to like it because, hey, it's Green Day, and Dookie was still a recent-ish memory, plus Nimrod and Insomniac were pretty decent, and we couldn't even conceive that the band would eventually be responsible for something like American Idiot?

Yeah, well, this is where pity gets you. A courtesy acknowledgment. Below Who The Hell Are You by Madison goddamn Avenue.

2002: coldplay - a rush of blood to the head

As much as people like to pretend these days like they have always been too cool for Coldplay, there is no escaping the fact that triple j fans used to love them some Chris Martin & Co, starting with Yellow in 2000, when it beat The Avalanches' Frontier Psychiatrist to top-five glory. Even Shiver did all right for itself, falling shy of the halfway mark at #63, while Royksopp's remix of Clocks in 2003 would see them once again attain the #5 spot.

So we're not entirely sure what happened in 2002, when A Rush Of Blood To The Head was congratulated for existing with its #100 ranking in that year's countdown, especially since they broke the top 50 with In My Place (the original version of Clocks only hit #69 the same year).

2003 & 2005: the cat empire - the chariot & party started

The Cat Empire nearly matched Powderfinger's top-and-bottom effort back in '03, when Hello, aka the only Cat Empire song 90% of us can name, cracked the top 10 (it landed at #6) at the same time The Chariot was chilling at #100, waiting for someone to notice it.

By 2005, they were no longer a top-10 prospect (their highest entry was #25, for The Car Song) and Party Started was 48 places behind the utterly ridiculous America, Fuck Yeah! from Team America: World Police. You couldn't make this shit up.


2009: foo fighters - wheels

Nothing good can come from a song recorded specifically for a greatest-hits release. It's frankly a miracle anybody thought this song was worthwhile enough to get a run on radio in the first place, much less be ranked as one of the year's 100 best. Although, to be fair, this was also the year that we decided Mumford & Sons had written the best song out of everyone, so we clearly weren't in the best space in 2009 to begin with.

If you wanted to pinpoint the moment that Foo Fighters went from being carefree ruffians with fun video clips starring Tenacious D and too much cocaine to that dad band who wrote the screech-rock nightmare that is The Best Of You, this is probably a good place to start.

2011: mr little jeans - the suburbs

Fine, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and all that, but a healthy amount of scepticism should be reserved for people who break through with covers of other people's music.

Sure, sometimes it pays off, as when Owl Eyes managed to beat Foster The People with their own song by placing four rungs higher than the US outfit themselves with a cover of their popular cut Pumped Up Kicks, but Arcade Fire's original version of The Suburbs wasn't exactly crying out for an assist from a reimagining. After all, it almost made the top half of 2010's countdown, settling for #58. It didn't need Mr Little Jeans to come along with a boring electronic remake to earn our respect and, clearly, neither did we.