If you’re a fan of easy listening, pop-rock classics and iconic ballads, Smooth FM have the ultimate cure for self-isolation, lockdown and quarantine boredom. The radio station is staging its annual fan-voted Smooth FM Top 500 Songs of All Time Countdown over the Easter long weekend, kicking off at 9am Thursday, 9 April.
And in what will be music to the ears of punters lamenting the absence of the traditional buffet of Easter sport amid the coronavirus pandemic, Sportsbet is offering one of the most fascinating novelty markets of 2020 courtesy of Smooth FM Top 500 betting.
The Triple J Hottest 100 this ain’t – but putting personal tastes and music snobbery aside, which guilty pleasure, earworm or anthem will take out the coveted number one spot this year?
Daryl to ride ‘The Horses’ back to top spot?
Accompanied by a corny seaside video that’s so 1991 it hurts, former Sherbert lead man Daryl Braithwaite’s ‘The Horses’ has attained Australian adult contemporary immortality. A cover of a Ricki Lee Jones song, ‘The Horses’ has become Braithwaite’s biggest hit and ensured his album The Rise sold more 300,000 copies in Australia.
The fluffy singalong favourite has enjoyed an inexplicable resurgence in recent years. A modest 44th in Smooth FM’s Top 500 countdown in 2017, ‘The Horses’ galloped home to take first spot the following year. Braithwaite’s banger slipped to third in 2019, but at the time of writing, he is the red-hot $1.80 favourite to reclaim top billing.
Good, old-fashioned Aussie bias has undoubtedly been crucial to ‘The Horses’ success – and several of Braithwaite’s compatriots loom large in Smooth FM Top 500 tips.
The incomparable John Farnham – currently way down on the 17th line of betting at $16 – has been a steady countdown climber with ‘You’re the Voice’. A bafflingly low 115th in 2017, ‘You’re the Voice’ cracked the top 20 in 2018 and ‘Oh whoa, oh whoa, oh whoa oh oh-ed’ it’s way up to sixth last year. Whispering Jack is outstanding value.
Meanwhile, crooner John Paul Young ($8.00) has been a top-15 finisher in each of the past three Smooth FM countdowns with ‘Love is in the Air’. Olivia Newton-John is cautiously priced at $11, despite a best effort of just 35th with ‘Xanadu’ last year. (‘Hopelessly Devoted to You’ surged to 11th in 2017).
While not technically an Australian band, one-time Redcliffe residents the Bee Gees are fourth favourites at $6.00 to take out the 2020 Smooth FM Top 500 countdown. The syrupy ‘How Deep is Your Love’ won the 2017 countdown and came third the following year, but bizarrely faded to 94th in 2019 (‘Stayin’ Alive’ landed 48th).
Tina Arena ($24), Crowded House ($41) and Savage Garden ($101) are considered the next-best Australian hopes.
A COVID-19 parody version of ‘The Horses’ that went viral last week may help put Dazza over the top, however.
— Nadine Morton (@nadine_morton) April 3, 2020
Take a chance on ABBA
ABBA’s enduring 1976 smash ‘Dancing Queen’ is a Smooth FM Top 500 juggernaut. Second in 2017 and fourth in 2018, the Grammy Hall of Fame song finished in the number one slot last year.
The Swedish supergroup are a generous $5.00 third favourite to go back-to-back.
Like Patrick Dangerfield competing with Geelong teammates Joel Selwood and Gary Ablett Jr for Brownlow Medal votes, ‘Dancing Queen’s’ biggest handicap is ABBA’s stacked back catalogue. ‘Mamma Mia’, ‘The Winner Takes It All’, ‘Waterloo’ and ‘Take a Chance on Me’ have polled strongly in recent Smooth FM countdowns.
But the coronavirus scenario may give ‘Dancing Queen’ a subconscious boost, with one Twitter follower tweeting: “You are the dancing queen, young and sweet, stuck in quarantine. Or whatever Abba said.”
George Michael has been backed into $3.50 to top the countdown, with ‘Careless Whisper’ landing fourth in 2017 and second in 2018. But the melancholy 1984 hit with the unmistakable saxophone riff tumbled to 21st in 2019, rendering Michael questionable value this time around.
‘Careless Whisper’ triumphed in UK station Smooth Radio’s Top 500 countdowns in 2017 and 2019.
Cyndi Lauper’s Smooth FM Top 500 odds are far more enticing at $10. The new wave queen was in the countdown’s upper reaches with ‘Time After Time’ in 2017 (35th) and ’18’ (16th), before storming to number two with ‘Girls Just Want to Have Fun’ – which came in at 327th only two years earlier – in 2019.
Whitney Houston ($10), who had ‘I Will Always Love You’ in the top 10 in 2017–18 and ‘I Want To Dance With Somebody’ at eighth in 2019, is the only female performer inside the first 10 lines of betting.
Although not COVID-19-related, country legend Kenny Rogers’s 20 March death at the age of 82 added another layer of poignancy to the unprecedented global crisis.
Rogers’s delightful 1983 duet with Dolly Parton, ‘Islands in the Stream’, came fifth in 2017 and 2018 before easing out to 16th last year. Curiously, signature song ‘The Gambler’ has not featured in recent Smooth FM Top 500 countdowns. But sentiment could carry Rogers into top spot at a juicy $7.00.
Kenny Rogers is No. 1 on Billboard’s Top Country Albums chart for the first time since 1986, as The Best of Kenny Rogers: Through the Years debuts atop the list. pic.twitter.com/VtRETaGOKe
— Eric Alper 🎧 (@ThatEricAlper) March 31, 2020
The same principle could see the late Bill Withers ($101) rocket into contention. Withers – whose rich catalogue includes early-1970s soul standards ‘Ain’t No Sunshine’ and ‘Lean on Me’ – passed away on 30 March, aged 81.
Don’t go breaking Elton’s heart
With a massive Australian tour still fresh in voters’ minds, could Elton John be the top-value bolter in the frame at $91?
The issue could be the Rocket Man simply has too many brilliant tunes to choose from, ultimately stymieing him in the Smooth FM countdown stakes. Elton had 13 songs in 2017’s Top 500, polling highest with ‘Don’t Go Breaking My Heart’ at 27th. The duet with Kiki Dee climbed to 25th in 2018 and 16th last year.
Other iconic outsiders to consider include Madonna (28th last year with ‘Like a Prayer) and Neil Diamond (ninth, 12th and 26th in the past three years with ‘Sweet Caroline’) – both at $21 – and $12 chance Lionel Richie, who had ‘All Night Long’ at 10th in 2018 and ‘Dancing on the Ceiling’ at fourth in 2019.
The ‘new’ breed
If last year’s countdown taught us anything, it’s that Smooth FM listeners love sweatin’ to the oldies. Shania Twain’s honky-tonk bastion of female empowerment, ‘Man I Feel Like a Woman’ (1999), was the only song inside last year’s top 25 released after ‘The Horses’.
A Star is Born soundtrack megahit ‘Shallow’, by Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper, came in at number 29.
So are any contemporary artists a chance of taking the Smooth FM Top 500 honours in 2020?
Jason Mraz ($12), Adele ($14), Michael Bublé ($16), Bruno Mars ($21), Sam Smith ($21) and Ed Sheeran ($41) can’t be discounted completely. Bublé had two songs in the top 10 in 2017. But the countdown has trended away from more current performers in the past two years and it would seemingly take a major boilover for someone under 50 years of age to clinch the number one spot.
Running the ruler over the results of recent years reveals that it’s tough to stay atop the popularity charts. The 2020 Smooth FM Top 500 countdown is wide open – and there’s plenty of value on offer for punters this Easter.