How predictable is the Hottest 100 this year?

After an unprecedented year will triple j’s annual poll give us some much-needed confidence?

There are certain simmering debates which inevitably flare back into life at this time of year. The contentious nature of Invasion Day is one. And triple j’s annual Hottest 100 countdown – which, until 2017, used to be tethered to Invasion Day – is another.

And yes, before we start: you’re absolutely right. The Hottest 100 – like most of the J’s playlists – used to be so much better and is now unlistenable. And it’s definitely not just you getting old and ageing out of popular music, which is made by and for young people, no no no no no no! Your taste is flawless and you should definitely throw a big social media tantrum about it. Everyone will think you’re so cool.

Anyway, by this stage, there tends to be a consensus around who is going to win, to the point where people question the point of voting. And what a blow to democracy this is, coming so swiftly on the heels of the US election. Does no one trust the machinations of our voting systems anymore?

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This is reflected in gambling sites, to which I shall not link because they’re a cancer on society. And there are those who will tell you that betting odds are the best indication of the eventual result, as with the last Australian election, and I will tell you that those people are wrong (as with the last Australian election).

Tones And I
Tones And I. Credit: Press

‘Dance Monkey’ was the clear bookies’ favourite last year, and yet Tones And I failed to take the top spot thanks to Billie Eilish and ‘Bad Guy’. It wasn’t even especially close: ‘Dance Monkey’ came fourth.

Then again, betting sites did correctly settle on Kendrick Lamar’s ‘Humble’ in 2017, while the market predictions for 2018 were split between Childish Gambino’s ‘This Is America’ (which came fourth) and Ocean Alley’s winning ‘Confidence’.

So with that caveat in mind, the lousiest odds are currently on Glass Animals and ‘Heat Waves’ being the hottest of 2020. And going on recent form, that means it’s either going to come first or fourth.

That said, there are two strong Australian contenders who could edge out the favourite: Spacey Jane, with their inescapable ‘Booster Seat’, and Ball Park Music’s lilting ‘Cherub’.

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(Just parenthetically, all the most likely contenders are pretty downbeat, mid-paced songs – almost as though the year had been low on big banging celebrations filled with explosions of exultant joy. Can’t imagine why that might be.)

Spacey Jane
Spacey Jane. Credit: Press

Naturally, the Australian acts were busily rallying their supporters to slide them in under the wire while Glass Animals were doing the same but also seemed to have an automatic retweet on any posted Js vote. That’s significant because the site 100 Warm Tunas scrapes the socials where people post their votes to make predictions about the Hottest 100. So if you trust Instagram showoffs, Glass Animals have it in the bag.

This system isn’t infallible, though. 100warmtunas called Denzel Curry’s Like A Version of ‘Bulls On Parade’ to win last year, for example, and Amy Shark to win in 2016 instead of actual victor Flume – although it definitely gets the results in the (ahem) ballpark.

Want more variables? The accepted wisdom is that you’ve got better odds of winning if your single was released in the second half of the previous year, purely because it’s a bit more present in people’s minds. So if you want to factor that into your consideration, note that Spacey Jane’s album was out in June, Glass Animals released ‘Dreamland’ in July, and Ball Park Music’s self-titled record appeared in October.

There’s another twist to consider before making your hard guess for the Number One, which is that Eilish’s victory for 2019 makes it statistically unlikely for Glass Animals to win in 2020. Over the last decade-plus, Australian artists have taken out around two-thirds of the number-one spots. And you have to go all the way back to 2008-09 to find two consecutive wins by non-Australian artists: specifically, Kings Of Leon’s Sex On Fire’ (2008) and Mumford & Sons’ ‘Little Lion Man’ (2009). It was a hell of a time. Ask your uncle.

And finally, this year you also have to factor in questions like “which songs remind people of extended, soul-crushing lockdowns and are the last thing anyone would want to celebrate?” and “what was the soundtrack to muted Zoom meetings with a bottle of red positioned just out of camera frame?” …Or maybe that was just me.

So what’s the result going to be? We’ll find out shortly. And, really, betting on songs seems like a good way to add stress and likely financial ruin to an otherwise perfectly nice Saturday afternoon. Can’t they all be winners?

To be honest, after the last 12 months, I struggle to believe that a perfectly decent song could possibly be the winner. Until that final song is played I won’t be able to shake the fear that the winner is Gal Gadot’s awful all-celeb version of ‘Imagine’ – that would at least sum up a year most of us would very much like to forget.

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