The Final Countdown

The Final Countdown

The Final Countdown

Updated 23 January 2014, 13:56 AEDT

All you need to know to take out triple j’s Hottest 100, the world’s largest song competition. 

triple j’s Hottest 100 is the world’s largest international musical democracy. It’s also an Australia Day tradition. Every January 26, after hundreds of thousands of votes pour in (535,056 last year), friends get together at parties to hear a countdown of the top 100 songs released in the last twelve months.

But the countdown isn’t just an Australian affair. The Hottest 100 is broadcast live on ABC Radio Australia each year, and votes are registered from all corners of the globe. In last year’s countdown, 9,180 votes came from the United States, 432 from Thailand and 179 from India.

So is there a secret to making the perfect Hottest 100 hit? Is it in the beat, or is it all about when a song was released? We’ve taken a look back at the last twenty years of winners to see if we can spot any trends, and we present to your our not so scientific findings to see if we can calculate our way to taking out the number one spot.


1. Is there a magic song duration?
Is there a magic song duration?
Source: ABC
According to a Brazilian study, the average song length has grown from two minutes and 36 seconds in the 1950s to four minutes and 26 seconds in this decade. But how long will your fans be prepared to listen to your next big hit?

While Muse’s 2007 winning entry may have pushed the limit (clocking in at just over six minutes), averaging out all past winners suggests that people are more likely to fall in love with your tune if it hits the four minute mark.
2. Beat it. Just beat it.
Beat it. Just beat it.
Source: ABC
The average BPM (beats per minute) of all winning songs is 119.9, or in other words, the tempo of a solid groove. Sound familiar? That’s the BPM of such classics as Tom Jones’ ‘She’s a Lady’ and Crystal Waters’ ‘100% Pure Love.’ In other words, if it’s the type of song both you and your dad would dance to, it’s got a fighting chance at winning.
3. Who wore it best? And does it even matter?
Who wore it best? And does it even matter?
Source: ABC
Short answer? Of course not. But that doesn’t mean we can’t try and glean some insights into how outfits affect the outcome of the Hottest 100.

Looking at the cover art of the winners, we can see that it really doesn’t matter what you wear. Or even if your band appears on the cover at all - 12 out of the 20 winners feature no band members on the covers. Notable mention should be given, however, to the two appearances of the traditional rocker outfit, the leather jacket, and one appearance of ‘fur fox skin’, obtained for a dollar by 2012’s winner Macklemore at a thrift shop (the American word for op shop).

4. When should I release my song?
When should I release my song?
Source: ABC
The numbers speak for themselves - you’re more likely to win if your song was released in the third quarter of the year. Why? Well, we can only assume this has something to do with two factors - the ability of voters to remember your song exists and a lower likelihood that they will be sick and tired of hearing it.
5. Is it better to go it alone, or stick together?
Is it better to go it alone, or stick together?
Source: ABC
The verdict is in - it’s all about you and your bandmates. Since 1993, only three solo artists have taken out the Hottest 100 gong, dwarfed by the 15 bands that have claimed victory. Interestingly, the last two winners were collaborations - Gotye and Kimbra, and Macklemore and Ryan Lewis. So it looks like if you really want to win, you might have to share the glory.
6. Let’s talk about sex, baby.
Let’s talk about sex, baby.
Source: ABC
There’s a clear trend when it comes to the gender stakes. 16 top tunes out of 20 are by male artists or bands, with only four entries from mixed gender groups. No female soloists have taken out the competition, although that could all be about to change this year thanks to Kiwi teen sensation Lorde.

7. Should I rock, or should I roll?
Should I rock, or should I roll?
Source: ABC
Indie rock, alternative rock, straight rock…when it comes to the Hottest 100, it’s all about rock and roll. Only one hip-hop song has ever taken the title, and that was just last year! But that doesn’t mean you should throw away your turntables and pick up the guitar. Dennis Leary took home top prize in 1993 with a (musical) comedy album!
8. What was the name of that song again?
What was the name of that song again?
Source: ABC
The average length of a winning song title is 14 characters, but really, it’s anyone’s game. Some winners have had as many as 28, and some have had as few as six! None fortunately have had the length of Christine Lavin’s title. The main point is, try to keep it under 140 characters. After all, it’s gotta be tweetable, right?
9. Country of origin

Every year votes come in from around the world for the Hottest 100 countdown

Being a competition run by an Australian-based radio station, it’s no surprise that half of the Hottest 100 winners have come from down under, followed by five entries from the United States, three from England and one each from Scotland and Ireland.

But the day isn’t just about who’s also about spending the day with your friends as the countdown progresses from 100 to 1. And while Australia hosts the lion’s share of Hottest 100 parties, gatherings can be found right across the globe in 77 countries, from Hong Kong to Honduras, and India to Iceland.

RankingCountryParties Registered
3United States67
4United Kingdom48
6New Zealand16
7France, Indonesia, Mexico9
8Peru, Sweden8
9Germany, Netherlands, Singapore7
10Argentina, Vietnam6
Registered Hottest 100 parties around the world for the 2012 countdown
10. And finally, the most important measure: can you dance to it?
And finally, the most important measure: can you dance to it?
Source: ABC
When it comes down to it, any good song is only as good as its ability to get people dancing up a storm, whatever their signature move may be. And when we apply our highly subjective criteria to the last 20 Hottest 100 winners, we can see the field is pretty evenly split: slow jams do just as well as high-BPM heart starters.

It’s just a pity that the Harlem Shake wasn’t in the running….

You can listen to triple j’s Hottest 100 broadcast on Sunday January 26th from 12pm AEDT on Radio Australia, or online here.

Please note that the ABC does not endorse or in any way control any advertising and sponsorship that may appear in the video embeds above.