Review: Shoulda Been Higher: A Celebration of 30 Years of Triple J’s Hottest 100 by Tom W Clarke

It is the book that has taken Australia by storm, with the author frequently popping up on national television and radio to be quizzed about his new release and a topic we all love – the Hottest 100. 

 If the media buzz doesn’t convince you, the book’s cover almost certainly will. Pull quotes by none-other-than Paul Dempsey (Something for Kate), Odette, Alex Dyson and Tyler Jenke speak to “a visual and hilarious detailing of Australian music history”. It is agreed that “Clarke’s knowledge, humour, and passion for the poll is the tribute Aussie music needs.” 

Having now read the book myself, I can tell you outright: the hype is entirely justified. 

‘Shoulda Been Higher’ is nostalgic, nerdy and deeply funny. It is somehow both chock-a-block with stats and completely fascinating – not a combination I have witnessed previously, of that you can be sure. Tom W Clarke approaches the Hottest 100 with the studiousness of an academic, the joy of a comedian and the anecdotes and diehard opinions of a true Hottest 100 obsessive. 

Each chapter in the book is dedicated to its own theme. How has Australia’s music taste evolved over the last 30 years? What is the perfect recipe for a winning cover song? What’s the deal with all the novelty songs? And of course, what is the greatest Hottest 100 of all time? The songs, the artists, the debates, and the controversies – it’s all here. 

Clarke pours us a beer and leads us ambling down musical memory lane. We remember songs that we completely forgot existed and laugh at the wonderful weirdness that is the greatest musical democracy in the world. And, if you really want to embrace the experience, follow along with the ‘Shoulda Been Higher’ playlists on Clarke’s Spotify profile ‘Tom W Clarke’. It’s a real treat. 

Finally! We have a worthy tribute to everything the Hottest 100 has come to represent. It’s so much more than music, as Clarke says. It’s beaches, barbeques, and bonfires. It’s joy and despair, drama and debate, friendship and community. And, incredibly, ‘Shoulda Been Higher’ captures all of it. 

- Louis Dodgson

For those of you who want to get your hands on the book for Christmas CLICK HERE. Cut off for Christmas orders is 10am on Monday,18th December. Author Tom W Clarke has graciously provided a promo code for all Geek of Oz followers. Use promo code GEEK10 for 10% off. 

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  1. Off topic, the sinner files is low-key the best podcast ever created.


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