Tonight was the night. The first time I watched an award show from beginning through to the very end. The Australian Record Industry Association Music Awards have been around for a mere thirty years but in that short time they have become a prestigous accolade, even if the ceremony itself has had its ups and downs. Tonight, Aussie acts like Flume, Troye Sivan and Sia took out the top spots, so without further ado, I give you my take on the performances, the wins and losses, and the controversies surrounding the ARIAs.
The night started with a bang as Jimmy Barnes and Jessica Mauboy sung Good Times. Although it didn’t sound like they really figured out who was singing when, they were such a good fit and so talented they didn’t need to as they played off each other so well. The next performance was a Flume mix of Say It featuring Tove Lo and Never Be Like You featuring Kai. Although you could definitely here Tove Lo and Kai’s nerves the songs are so great in nature that you can’t really ruin them with less than perfect vocals. The Veronicas and Voilent Soho were the next acts to perform, with the former nailing the vocals and the later killing it with their hairography.
By this time in the ceremony, one thing became very clear: there were nowhere near enough people in the standing audience! Most of the acts that performed were either dance acts or rock acts and a tiny pocket of the crowd standing up is not enough energy! It was like watching a school assembly, with less than a quarter of the audience cheering on the school band and everyone else falling asleep waiting for the pain to end. Either change the stage arrangement so that you can have a proper mosh pit or find a bigger venue.
Other performances included Illy and Vera Blue with Papercuts; a medley of Crowded House songs to honour their Hall of Fame induction; Troye Sivan with Youth; and the legendary Johnny Farnham singing the iconic unofficial Aussie anthem You’re the Voice. Although these performances were all amazing and well polished (except for Farnsies hand-eye coordination), what was the most impressive thing about the night was the way artists spoke out about causes that were close to their hearts. In one of the packages for Album of the Year, Troye Sivan discussed his triology of music videos and how he used this medium to tell the harrowing but true story of LGBT+ suicide. The way he talked of this while looking straight down the barrel of the camera was spine-tingling. In one of his acceptance speeches, Flume called out the Australian government’s lock-out laws which see club-goers restricted in their choice of venues and alcohol after a certain time of night. He brought up a completely valid point that this practice was hurting young artists and DJs by limiting the time they are able to perform for audiences and also where they perform.
Hilltop Hoods, one of Australia’s most successful hip hop groups talked of their mission with charity group Canteen to get young kids with cancer to live shows and festivals. A truly noble and life-changing campaign. Triple J’s Matt and Alex took sly digs at the ARIAs for only including white musicians in their Breakthrough Artist award, which for the duo is the second time that they’ve spoken out about diversity while presenting an award at the event. Sia, who was not present at the ceremony asked a representative of a Marriage Equality foundation to accept the award for her. Subsequently, the audience gave both Sia and the representative a standing ovation. Finally, the presenters of the Best Male Artist took the opportunity to speak out about the importance of respecting native cultures and their beliefs.
Of course, there were also some strange and truly Aussie happenings at the ARIAs. Firstly, Roy and HG managed to relate music to golf like only true comedians could do. Robbie Williams, the cheeky bugger that he is, stuck his bum out to the tiny little mosh pit crowd to grab (although this was only aired for about a second on television). When accepting her ARIA for Breakthrough Artist, Montaigne went on a strange tangent about bottoms and poop, which was saved by a humourous quip about her failure to read the script she prepared. I was pleased to see that Violent Soho are the most Aussie blokes to have ever lived. After their performance they went and had a beer because they thought they were finished for the night, and subsequently almost missed accepting their second ARIA. They did manage to run on stage before the show moved on, beers in hand. However, the highlight of the night was Flight of the Conchords duo presenting Crowded House with their Hall of Fame ARIA. As they pointed out, the band was partly from New Zealand and had a ‘written note’ from the NZ PM detailing how opposed he was to Australia claiming full ownership of the legendary band.
All in all, I found the whole experience to be a little awkward. The performances were amazing but some of the presenters either didn’t know what they were doing or were just plain uncomfortable to watch. The Veronicas, the hosts of the inaugural event, started off a little rocky but relaxed into a rhythm as the night went on. I think what the night really needed was more of a crowd and for the damn cheering to continue until the winner was at the podium about to begin their thankyous, not when they were greeting the presenters. Although it does warm my heart that the Wiggles won their twelfth ARIA, I’ll only watch the awards show again if the guys from Flight of the Conchords host.
If you’re interested, here’s the list of songs, albums and people that won tonight:
Best Pop Release: Never Be Like You Flume (featuring Kai)
Best Music Video: Youth Troye Sivan
Best Adult Contemporary Album: Civil Dusk Bernard Fanning
Best Dance Release: Skin Flume
Best Rock Album: Waco Violent Soho
Best Live Act: Hilltop Hoods
Best Urban Album: Seven Mirrors Drapht
Best Indie Release: Skin Flume
Best Adult Alternative Album: Eternal Return Sarah Blasko
Best Country Album: Silos Sara Storer
Best Hard Rock/Heavy Metal Album: Noonagon Infinity King Gizzard & The Lizzard Wizard
Best Blues & Roots Album: Red Dirt Red Heart Russell Morris
Best Classical Album: Live with MSO Flight Facilities
Best Jazz Album: Provenence Vince Jones and Paul Grabowsky
Best World Music Album: Sierra Kilo Alpha Melbourne Ska Orchestra
Best Comedy Release: This Sporting Life Roy and HG
Best Original Sountrack/Cast/Show Album: Live at the Sydney Opera House Josh Pyke and the SSO
Best Children’s Album Album: Wiggle Town! Wiggles
Best International Artist: One Direction
Producer of the Year: Harley Streten (Flume Skin)
Engineer of the Year: Eric J Dubowsky and Harley Streten (Flume Skin)
Best Cover Art: Jonathan Zawada (Flume Skin)
Apple Music Song of the Year: Youth Troye Sivan
Breakthrough Artist: Montaigne
Best Group: Violent Soho
ARIA Hall of Fame: Crowded House
Best Female Artist: Sia
Best Male Arist: Flume
Album of the Year: Skin Flume