From indie rock to R&B and dance: The shifting sounds of the Hottest 100

Twenty years ago, Queens of the Stone Age won Triple J’s Hottest 100 countdown with certified rock anthem No One Knows. It was one of 17 rock tracks that made the top 20 that year. But fast-forward to last Saturday and voters only included seven rock hits in the top 20 songs of Australia’s annual music countdown, cementing a shift in the popularity of different genres.

Indie rock is still the cornerstone of Triple J’s playlists and what listeners vote for. Fremantle band Spacey Jane outperformed already sky-high expectations to nab three of the top six songs, while Sydney’s Gang of Youths and Brisbane’s Ball Park Music also scraped into the best 10 tracks.

But the biggest winners this year were electronic artists.

Steve Lacy, Flume, Eliza Rose and Spacey Jane all made the top 10 of Triple J’s Hottest 100 of 2022.

Sydney superstar Flume scored his second Hottest 100 victory courtesy of Say Nothing featuring MAY-A, while Eliza Rose and Interplanetary Criminal nabbed the runner-up spot with viral dance hit B.O.T.A. (Baddest of Them All). Rose, a UK-based DJ and vocalist, would’ve created some history if she had knocked Flume off the top – only one female solo artist has finished No.1 since the current Hottest 100 format was established in 1993. House hitmaker Fred Again had four club tracks in the 100 – demonstrating the club genre’s mainstream comeback.

B.O.T.A.’s rise to second spot was in-line with bookmaker expectations, but the creator of Warm Tunas, a Hottest 100 prediction website, had suggested the TikTok hit would finish around seventh.

Warm Tunas collects votes shared on social media to estimate the top 100 songs before the poll. This year, creator Nick Whyte said he was pleased to correctly predict Flume’s victory after applying a new model to account for those who aren’t inclined to share their votes on social media. The website’s raw vote count had initially found the strongest support was for Gang of Youths.

“I think there’s definitely a high inclination for people who listen to Australian rock … to share their votes with my website and online on socials. Whereas I guess for others, like Flume, maybe there’s slightly less inclination,” Whyte said.

Other songs to overachieve based on Whyte’s predictor included US R&B star Steve Lacy’s Bad Habit (finished fourth, predicted to be 10th) and fellow US singer Lizzo’s About Damn Time (finished seventh, predicted to be 21st). Japanese-born Joji also finished 10th and US rapper Jack Harlow rocketed into the top 20 with worldwide hit First Class (Warm Tunas predicted it to finish 53rd).

But despite the rise of non-rock artists of colour such as Lizzo and Lacy, this year’s countdown also meant still only one non-white musician had won the Hottest 100 since its creation.

“There’s definitely more pop hits coming in higher up in the charts,” Whyte said. “I think there’s definitely more crossover between what Triple J are playing these days and what commercial radio are playing.”

While international artists overperformed, some local rockers didn’t quite achieve the heights they might have been hoping for. Both bookmakers and Whyte’s predictor – which has now picked all but one Hottest 100 winner since 2017 – had considered Gang of Youths’ In the Wake of Your Leave a top-five track, but it came in ninth.

“There was some pretty crazy outliers this year, actually,” Whyte said. “Next year I’m really thinking about trying to find better ways to improve the virality of the collection.”

Still, Whyte’s home-grown passion project managed to predict 78 per cent of the songs in the top 50 (albeit not in their exact order).

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s typically hyper-local votes for artists such as King Stingray and Ball Park Music weren’t enough to return an Australian rock monopoly to the Hottest 100, with nine of this year’s top 20 being based overseas.

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