10 surprising, bizarre and intriguing songs that have made it into the triple j Hottest 100

10 surprising, bizarre and intriguing songs that have made it into the triple j Hottest 100

Photo via Empire Podcast
Words by Alex Callan

Time to indulge in a bit of nostalgia.

Every great idea starts with a question: What if we did it this way? What if I got a tattoo? And ten years later, should I get laser tattoo removal?

In 1988 when Lawrie Zion suggested to their boss at triple j, ‘what if we polled listeners for their favourite songs?’ Something got in motion. A few decades later, we call it the triple j’s ‘Hottest 100’; a day that so many treat as a public holiday that by now there should have been a precedent set stating that it is.

On the station’s website, you can take a pretty nice stroll down memory lane of all the songs to ever make it into one of the stations countdowns. Some are gems you may have forgotten and some are just downright odd selections (I’m looking at you voters in the 2000 countdown).

Here are ten of the songs that made it into the countdown with slightly surprising or interesting circumstances.

Dennis Leary – Asshole

It seems fitting that the first song on this list is also the first song to win a Hottest 100, technically. After three years of doing ‘all time’ countdowns, 1993 saw triple j complete its first-ever listener voted ‘Hottest 100’ featuring songs from only that year. In a poll that saw Radiohead, Rage Against The Machine and the Red Hot Chili Pepper all charting high entries, it was American comedian Dennis Leary who took out the number one spot with his song, ‘Asshole’.

As the only single to his album, No Cure For Cancer; ‘Asshole’ feels like the kind of song that came at the right place, at the right time. Its tongue in cheek lyrics in which Leary satirizes both people of Asian descent and people with disabilities, as well as singing the song’s title 27 times, almost guarantees it’s a track seen as ‘unfit for radio’.

By today’s standard, it’s easy to see how a song like this may be contrived as controversial, with it undoubtedly being subjected to a cancel culture movement if it was released in 2021. But the interesting thing is; it always was. With ‘Asshole’’s release being banned from so many radio stations worldwide, and heavily censored by the ones that did program it, it only ever achieved minor success with international audiences. But for Australians, triple j had already been established as a youth-orientated station that didn’t censor the music they programmed, meaning a song as laced in profanity as ‘Asshole’ could reach second in the Aria charts and become our nation’s favourite song of 1993.

Quindon Tarver/Lee Perry- Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen) for Baz Luhrmann

‘Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen)’ is not only one of the most inspiring entries to chart in the Hottest 100, but it also has a whole lot of interesting music history attached to it. Making its way into the 1997 countdown at number 16, the track which has commonly been known as ‘The Sunscreen Song’, features an unforgettable spoken word speech addressed to the class of 1999.

Penned by Mary Schmich and published in the Chicago Tribune, ‘Advice, like youth, probably just wasted on the young’, originally found its voice as an essay addressed to the class of 1997. The speech was then recorded in its entirety (except for the year change) by Australian film director Baz Luhrmann for his album Something For Everybody. That’s right, on the side from directing Romeo and Juliett, Baz was working on a banger of an album. Featuring the voice of Australian voice actor Lee Perry and samples from Quindon Tarvers choral rendition of ‘Everybody’s Free’ (from Luhrmann’s Romeo and Juliett); the song, which was produced by Luhrmann, Josh Abrhams and Nelle Hooper became an instant classic and still stands up as one of the most interesting ‘one hit’ acts to grace the list.

Pauline Pantsdown – Backdoor Man

As if it’s an amalgamation of the two entries above, Pauline Pantsdown was the brainchild of Simon Hunt. Hunt, the child of former Chief Judge of the Supreme Court of New South Wales, David Hunt; was a popular satirist, producer and sampler known for on-stage persona Pauline Pantsdown, in which saw him dress in drag, parodying One-Nation co-founder Pauline Hanson. Spawning two hit singles and a court injunction for defamatory content, Pantsdown was immediately embraced by young Australians, scoring a number five position in 1997’s countdown.

The funky number showcased sampling at its funniest, with Hunt (who legally changed his name to Pauline Pantsdown for a point) using soundbites of Hanson’s on-air interviews and contorting words to fluently say lyrics like “I’m a backdoor man. I’m homosexual” and “I’m very proud I’m not straight.”… it really is a wonder why the very right-wing Hanson slapped it with an injunction a week after its release.

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Jebediah – Harpoon

Jebediah has made it into the ‘Hottest 100’ 15 times. Their singer’s Kevin Mitchell’s made it in twice in his own right under the pseudonym Bob Evans. So they are definitely not a surprising inclusion to any Triple J countdown.

However, the Perth group did make history when their single ‘Harpoon’ became the first song to be included twice in the same year by different bands. Whilst the Perth group came in at number 7 on the 1998 countdown for their original version of the song, their friends in Something For Kate also made it in at number 85 for their cover of the song.

Although this may be more common now with the prevalence of triple j’s Like A Version program, in 1998 history was made by two Australian rock acts, making it one of the most interesting songs in the countdowns history.

Peter Helliar – Bevan The Musical

Peter Helliar is known for a lot of things, charting in the Hottest 100 is certainly not one of them. Commonly known for his appearances on Rove: Live, The Project and as beloved fictional Collingwood Magpie, Strauchanie, but before all that, Helliar scored a number 35 entry in 1999 for his collaboration with Tripod, ‘Bevan: The Musical”.

Performed on Triple and J’s ‘Merrick and Rosso’, the comedic number sees Helliar hilariously deliver a biographical version of the life of Young Talent Time’s Bevan Addinsall.


Powderfinger may well be the most voted band in Hottest 100 history. Originally I was going to mention the fact that the 2000 countdown saw the rock act take out the number one spot for ‘My Happiness’ and the 100th spot for ‘Passenger’. But then I actually looked a bit deeper and that fact just didn’t seem to cut it anymore.

Powderfinger has had 30 songs make different ‘Hottest 100’ lists. 13 of those songs have made it into ‘Top Tens’ of their countdowns, three have won. Another two songs (including 2005’s number one song) made it off Bernard Fanning’s solo album, Tea & Sympathy.


Alien Ant Farm – Smooth Criminal

There is actually nothing surprising about Alien Antfarm’s cover of Smooth Criminal earning number 6 in 2001. It went absolutely gangbusters in 2001, as anything that found itself on the American Pie soundtracks so commonly did. It also paved the way for a string of compilation albums like ‘Punk Goes Pop’ that found a big fanbase in the early 2000’s.

I just thought you may have forgotten about it and that it may spark a memory of a version of yourself that you thought no longer existed.

Grohl takes a 9 per cent share of 2002

I don’t actually know this, but I think it is fair to say that in 2001/2002 Dave Grohl was a pretty busy guy. After he’d finished his recording cycle with the Foo Fighters for their fourth album, One By One, he ended up back in the studio with Queens of the Stoneage as the group’s fill-in drummer for their third album, Songs For The Dead.

Unsurprisingly, both albums were immediate successes and upon voting time, they both earned a tonne of votes. Meaning by the end of the list, Grohl had featured in nine different entries including the coveted number one spot with QOTSA’s ‘No One Knows.’

2005, Entry 52

Whoever voted for this, fuck yeah.

Kendrick Lamar- Swimming Pools

Considering Kendrick has gone one to win number two in the ‘Hottest 100’ for ‘King Kunta’ and number one for ‘Humble’, it seems odd that the same year Macklemore was awarded the top spot for ‘Thrift Shop’, Kendrick’s now career-defining debut album ‘Good Kid: maad city’ only earnt an entry at 71 for ‘Swimming Pools (Drank)’.

Although it wasn’t until Eminem’s 2014 ‘Rapture’ tour that Lamar’s popularity rose within Australia. Appearing as the tour’s main support, he shared the stage alongside J. Cole, Jacob Lindsay and Action Bronson, all artists whose recognition within Australian rap fans skyrocketed post their support slots. It’s interesting to consider the impact Good Kid: maad city may have made on the countdown if it had happened 18 months earlier.

The Amity Affliction- Too Legit To Quit (Born To Die)

So this one I remember being slightly confused by at the time, but I was also a massive Amity fanboy that allowed my excitement for the metal groups first ever entry to the Hottest 100 outweigh my confusion.

Charting for the first time in 2013 for their cover of Lana Del Ray’s ‘Born To Die’, The Amity Affliction have since gone on to become listener favourites and a common addition to the user voted list. However, ‘Too Legit To Quit’ came out in 2012 on the Itunes Deluxe Edition of the group’s third album, Chasing Ghosts. Its eligibility never really made sense considering the countdown was only including songs from 2013. But, you know what? It happened. It’s a damn sweet cover as well (even with the heavy autotune).