Like a Version

Posted on January 23, 2017 by Ross

Like a Versions occupy a weird spot in the Hottest 100, because they are essentially music that is produced and promoted by Triple J itself, but are generally not available elsewhere. Over the last five years, there have been a couple of entries per year, normally with a middling rank (except 2013 when there were none).

So how good is this performance? There are just 49 Like a Versions per year out of about 2000 eligible songs. A random song makes the cut at a rate of ~100/2000 = 5%. If a Like a Version song performed the same as a normal song, we would expect to see 5% of the 49 songs make the cut. That’s 2.45 songs. The true average is just 1.6 Like a Versions per year. Hence they are relative underperformers.

Like a Version is over ten years old. Looking back further in Hottest 100 however, there are almost no entries. The first and only Like a Version to place prior to 2011 was Regina Spector singing Real Love by the Beatles in 2007. So why the sudden change from none to a fairly consistent showing? One explanation is that Triple J started putting the Like a Versions on YouTube in late 2011. Prior to this, the main source would have been the compilation CD. If the explanation is true, then we may expect that if they expand the accessibility of the songs again, such as by releasing the Like a Versions on Spotify, then there may be another step up in the level of Like a Versions making the list.

So is there any pattern to which Like a Versions do well? Right of the top of the list there is a hypothesis looking at us in the face. Big Jet Plane was the winner in 2010. We might therefore guess that doing a song that has ranked high previously is an easy way to get an entry in the Hottest 100. Indeed, going down that list the ranks of the originals are 1, 48, NP, 4, NP, 3, 2, 32 and NP, where NP means never placed. The answer in one respect is then yes, half the songs to make it were covering already popular songs.

But what about the reverse direction: How many covers of a previously ranked song made the Hottest 100? In 2015, there were five Like a Versions of songs that had the previous Hottest 100:

Of these, one made the cut. That’s a success rate of 20%. Not too shabby, given the tough competition. Interestingly, there were covers of “Lean On”, “Less I Know The Better”, “Can’t Feel My Face” and “Hotline Bling”, which would make the list in their own right that year (all in the top 15 too). So it doesn’t seem to be as successful to play the song du jour.

Based on this, which Like a Versions have a chance this year? This analysis argues against Broods with “One Dance” or Drapht “Frankie Sinatra”, and in favour of The Rubens “King Kunta/Hello” or Robbie Miller “Say My Name”. But my sentimental pick, against the maths, would be Sarah Blasko’s tribute to Bowie, “Life On Mars”.