Beloved children’s band The Wiggles took the top spot in Triple J’s Hottest 100 of 2021, with their psychedelic cover of Tame Impala’s song Elephant.
The funky cover captured hearts and tickled the nostalgia cogs of listeners who had grown up with The Wiggles by their side.
The win may have been a surprise for many, but The Wiggles are far from the first (or last) unexpected name to poll high in the countdown.
The elephant in the room
Last March, The Wiggles smashed through a cover of Tame Impala’s 2012 song Elephant, mashed with their own Fruit Salad.
The band performed the cover as part of Triple J’s Like A Version series, in which artists perform one of their songs and a song they love by someone else.
Newer Wiggles Emma Watkins, Lachy Gillespie and Simon Pryce joined original Wiggles Anthony Field, Jeff Fatt and Murray Cook on the track.
The win was even sweeter for Field and Fatt, who never saw Hottest 100 glory when they were in their 1980s rock band The Cockroaches.
Appearing on ABC’s News Breakfast on Monday, Gillespie explained it took the group a week of rehearsals to nail the song.
“It’s [Elephant] really complex and it took about a week to get in sync with each other, but it was such a great exercise,” he said.
“We had never rehearsed for a song more in our lives,” Field added.
Their first attempt at covering the song was fine, but Gillespie thought they sounded more like a cover band than artists putting their own spin on a song.
Gillespie said it needed something “wiggly”.
“The first thing that comes to mind when you think of Wiggles is Fruit Salad or Hot Potato, so we put Fruit Salad in there and it kind of worked. It was just a happy accident,” Field explained.
That happy accident went gangbusters online, immediately making it a (dark horse) contender for the Hottest 100.
You can never rule out the power of nostalgia.
Although it’s traditionally geared towards alternative music, the Hottest 100 isn’t immune to ubiquitous hits, meme culture or novelty No.1s.
Who can forget when comedian Denis Leary took home the top honours in 1993 with his foul-mouthed tune A**hole?
It surpassed the timeless Creep by Radiohead (#2) and Linger by The Cranberries (#3).
Four years later, a certain Pauline Pantsdown satire slipped in at No.5.
The song played on Triple J for about a week before Pauline Hanson sued the ABC.
Macklemore and Ryan Lewis were the deeply divisive winners of 2012 with their viral hip-hop song Thrift Shop. People are still scratching their heads over that one …
But over time, novelty songs all but disappeared from the top spots in the countdown.
In Triple J’s Hottest 100 of 2020, Mashd N Kutcher’s Get On The Beers featuring Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews came close at No.12, but it stood out like a sore thumb surrounded by local chart-toppers Lime Cordiale and Mallrat.
Triple J’s Hottest 100 of 2021, however, was very different.
Tom Cardy, who fronts Triple J’s Song Sequels segment, has perfected his brand of TikTok comedy.
He has one million followers on the platform and almost 15 million likes across his videos.
In his bio, Cardy encouraged his followers to vote for him in the Hottest 100. And that they did.
Cardy cracked the countdown with two songs after people voted Mixed Messages in at No.17 and H.Y.C.Y.BH at No.11.
That’s short for Have You Checked Your Butthole, by the way.
His songs are as catchy as they are extremely silly.
A reflection of the times
Looking at the top songs, virality is a common theme. These are songs that disrupted the discourse and took our minds off COVID-19.
Disney star turned pop sensation Olivia Rodrigo took us back to high school to relive heartbreak and teenage angst, while others simply made us feel good in the doom and gloom (Kiss Me More by Doja Cat featuring SZA).
Musicians like Cardy made us laugh.
When you think about it, it’s unsurprising that The Wiggles ultimately came up on top of a countdown voted on by the listeners of a youth broadcaster.
Their mere appearance on Like A Version brought back a rush of childhood memories – to simpler times long before a virus stopped the world.