Opinion: The lack of live music in 2020 will have a sizeable impact on this year’s Hottest 100

Opinion: The lack of live music in 2020 will have a sizeable impact on this year’s Hottest 100

G Flip and Tame Impala
Words by Tom Williams

Without live music to draw upon, Aussie artists promoted their hits online in 2020.

Hottest 100 countdowns usually allow fans to relive memories from gigs the previous year. Each song might invoke a different night, new friend made or unforgettable moment from the 12 months just gone.

Whether it’s a triumphant singalong, an arm-in-arm ballad, a wild crowd surf, or the stinging memory of a spilt beer, the sheer exhilaration of live music creates lasting recollections, and it’s these moments that prove indelible when we present our designated artists for the Hottest 100.

This year’s countdown will be undoubtedly different. While COVID-safe gigs and parties are now raging around the country, without live gigs for much of 2020, how did Aussie artists ensure their tracks remained memorable in a year many would rather forget? And how will this impact the results come Saturday?

No stranger to success on triple j’s biggest day, Tame Impala has a string of hits from its February album The Slow Rush in the running. ‘Lost in Yesterday’, ‘Breathe Deeper’ and ‘Is It True’ have all been met with critical acclaim and wide popularity, and because they’ve been no strangers to the top ten in the past, multiple high finishers are a definite possibility.

However, the ‘Elephant’ year of 2012 and ‘The Less I Know The Better’ year of 2015 both coincided with tours around Australia and the world. In 2020, Tame Impala was forced to postpone their international and Australian tours due to the pandemic. Instead, an NPR Tiny Desk Concert performed from home, and appearances at the ARIAs and for Like a Version ensured that Tame Impala was never far from anyone’s computer screen in lockdown.

The Slow Rush was also reimagined in an immersive hour-long experience, The Slow Rush in an Imaginary Place, where the full album was played somewhat muffled under persistent crowd noise, alluding Tame Impala were missing live music just as much as their fans.

Flume clearly missed his energetic live sets too. His three-night performance at Red Rocks in 2019 was livestreamed on Twitch in 2020, a set which featured his runner-up song in last year’s countdown, ‘Rushing Back’ ft. Vera Blue. This year, his drum and bass-infused banger ‘The Difference’ featuring Toro y Moi, is tipped to poll well, as all his tracks often do. The song featured on an Apple Airpods advert earlier in the year, but maybe those who still use cords forgot Flume in their 2020 votes.

Melbourne native G Flip gave voters plenty to remember in 2020. She released her track ‘Hyperfine’ in May and followed up with a string of online performances for MTV and Boost Mobile within a month of release. She also performed at the Red Bull Music Motel alongside Tkay Maidza and Baker Boy, later releasing follow-up singles ‘You & I’ and ‘I’D RATHER GO TO BED’. Flip’s persistence in 2020 was capped off by a collaboration for her own signature Croc shoe, but can Croc fans take ‘Hyperfine’ to number one?

Indie outfit Spacey Jane’s track ‘Booster Seat’ is a front-runner for number one, but the band had a certain advantage over many other Aussie outfits last year. ‘Booster Seat’ comes from the band’s debut album Sunlight, but rather than a tour to accompany their first album, the band celebrated with their fans via a Zoom party.

But after this brief online cameo, the band was able to tour around Western Australia throughout the back end of 2020. They managed to sneak in three tours around their home state, during a time where many Victorian fans remained in lockdown. Could these live gig memories, full of stage-dives and free of social distancing, burn so intensely that Spacey Jane make a debut atop the Hottest 100?

A dark horse for Saturday’s countdown did less promotion than many, because the internet did it for them. Mashd N Kutcher’s EDM track ‘Get on the Beers’ became a viral sensation as Victorians longed to enjoy a cold beer with their mates once again. Sampling Dan Andrews and his call to Victorians to get drinking, the track appeared on Today, The Project and, whether through widespread fandom or its undeniable meme value, peaked at number two on the iTunes Electronic charts.

To pump up the meme level, Mashd N Kutcher followed up their success with a remix, featuring a sample from Tiger King star, Carole Baskin. Memes no doubt took new meaning in 2020, as people desperately hoped to find some sort of humour during grim lockdowns and sobering isolation. Could ‘Get on the Beers’ ride the meme wave all the way to number one?

One unique element of this year’s countdown is the overarching push to support local artists. Musicians were left reeling by the pandemic and as music fans, we answered the call to support the music we loved as best we could. Australian bands and artists were brought to the fore, consistently billed for online events and consistently absorbed by music-hungry audiences. 65 Aussie acts have featured in the countdown for the past three years but the homegrown fervour of 2020 could very well knock that number out of the park.

Wherever your songs may fall on Saturday, and however you may be counting it down, there’s one thing we can all agree on: hopefully in 2021, live music is back for good.

Never miss a story. Sign up to Beat’s newsletter and you’ll be served fresh music, arts, food and culture stories three times a week.