Hello music sport fans. Wednesday night’s ARIA Awards is the night of nights after the day of days full of the hour of hours. Or something like that. Some of us just think of them as a chance to put on a clean pair of pants and iron some socks. But for others this could be the night that changes their lives, or at least their mantlepiece decorations and toilet roll holders.
Who’s going to win? What do I know? Do I look like Denis Handlin? But as a civic duty I’ll take a stab at some of them, a dirty dozen categories coming with spurious backgrounding, fearless/feckless predictions and hope.
As a bonus, this year the picks and moans comes with a guide to the best food or drink accompaniment for each award. Because you’re worth it.
Please tip your waiter on the way out, and remember, no one here gets out alive. Unless they’re signed to Ralph Carr.
SONG OF THE YEAR
If you are looking at this category and you are older than 23, what the hell are you doing? Seriously, it will end up with you whining about how you don’t know any of these artists, can’t understand any of the songs, isn’t Missy Higgins in here somewhere?, and wasn’t it better when Run To Paradise was all over the radio.
You know, like yesterday when the plumber was playing Triple M at maximum volume and you couldn’t help but sing along with the golden days of schlock rock.
There are ten nominations. Really, ten. No, it’s not a torture test. And no, I won’t list them all here. ARIA have generously allowed four women in (three as members of a group/duo; one solo) along with 15 men (I know, it must have been hard to find them) and the winners are voted on by the public via Apple.
Antony Green would tell you that Sheppard (Coming Home) might once have ridden home on the happy clapper/early to bed vote but that’s probably split with Vance Joy (Lay It On Me); Amy Shark (I Said Hi) probably has the strongest fan base; 5 Seconds Of Summer (Youngblood) probably has the biggest; Dean (Be Alright) Lewis’s the shaggiest; and Conrad (Healing Hands) Sewell’s the prettiest.
SHOULD WIN/WILL WIN: It should go to Troye (My My My) Sivan or 5SoS. So, yeah, it will probably go to Peking Duk,(Fire/Reprisal) and the world which has already endured two months of Scott Morrison will figure that’s just about par for this awful year.
YOUR WAITER RECOMMENDS: Crushed up No-Doz and a Coke Sugar Free
Rufus Du Sol; Pnau; Peking Duk; DMA’s; 5 Seconds Of Summer.
Women don’t do groups apparently so for all you unreconstructed boys reading this, relax, no need to worry your pretty little heads about stupid political correctness. Phew! I know, right, how awks would that have been? You may now adjust your crotch with impunity.
SHOULD WIN/WILL WIN: 5SoS have done well internationally with a sound that is part boy band, part boy’s band and don’t get enough respect for that. But despite their offensive apostrophe use, DMA’s might just pull this off and have you thinking it’s 1995 and Oasis are the coolest band in the world.
YOUR WAITER RECOMMENDS: A Champagne (supernova) and a line of blow.
BEST POP RELEASE
Amy Shark – Love Monster; 5 Seconds Of Summer – Youngblood; Dean Lewis – Be Alright; Jack River – Sugar Mountain; Troye Sivan – Bloom.
Middle-aged heartburn category #2. As well as being the moment in the night when a polite Kiwi might mutter under her breath about blatant copying, this is the award that’s meant to be the songs radio plays but the cool kids at triple j won’t. In other words, the ones which won’t earn you cachet but will earn you cashy money if your marketing & promo people are on the case. The label MDs talk the talk with a good on-trend act but they really walk the walk with an on-market one.
SHOULD WIN/WILL WIN: Jack River are the token indie act to make ARIA feel good, Dean Lewis is a dark horse if the earnest balladeer vote rises again, but Troye Sivan had the best pure pop moment in this set. So, naturally it will be fight between 5SoS and the likely winner, Lorde … sorry, I mean Amy Shark.
YOUR WAITER RECOMMENDS: Lemon & Paeroa Soda and a packet of Griffin’s Krispies
BEST DANCE RELEASE
Alison Wonderland – Awake; Fisher – Losing It; Peking Duk – Fire; Pnau – Go Bang; Rufus Du Sol – No Place.
In a category that doesn’t really make sense except if you’re a pop/rock centred music industry body, (it’s an electronic award really, unless the ARIA board does interpretive dance to Alison Wonderland’s Awake) presumably The Presets released their album too late for this year’s awards.
SHOULD WIN/WILL WIN: Rufus Du Sol have the best groove/mood combination but Pnau have the blissbombs. And that filmclip, the one which reminded a quarter of the judges of those trippy pills at the 2004 ARIAs. Apparently.
YOUR WAITER RECOMMENDS: A Red Bull. And then another one.
BEST BLUES AND ROOTS ALBUM
Angus & Julia Stone – Snow; Emily Wurramara – Milyakburra; Mama Kin Spender – Golden Magnetic; Ruby Boots – Don’t Talk About It; Tash Sultana – Flow State.
In this somewhat off-Broadway category, the boys in power figure it’s safe to let the girls in for a ramble. Which is nice of them. Angus Stone presumably is so laidback and accommodating he was allowed to stay while he slept off that last round of munchies.
SHOULD WIN/WILL WIN: Ruby Boots, who has gone up a gear in the roots/Americana area with her American-made album, and Emily Wurramara, developing a strong combination of indigenous and contemporary sounds, have the pick of the records, but Tash Sultana has the momentum, the backing and the MOR chops.
YOUR WAITER RECOMMENDS: Kombucha. Whatever that is.
BEST INDEPENDENT RELEASE
Angus & Julia Stone – Snow; Courtney Barnett - Tell Me How You Really Feel; DMA’s - For Now; Gurrumul – Djarimirri; Pnau – Go Bang.
An interesting question of nomenclature here given the major label backing for several of these artists, but given ARIA (which is, after all, run by and for the big companies) made a point of pushing back against small-time operators this year by insisting on a minimum chart position before you could be considered, who is still around to argue?
SHOULD WIN/WILL WIN: Courtney Barnett made an excellent album but the sadly no longer with us Gurrumul made a great one, which has already won the world music release award (but really should have been nominated for, and won, the best classical prize). That might for once be enough to get Gurrumul – who as a sign of respect to his Northern Australian culture will be referred to on the night as Dr G - the prize.
YOUR WAITER RECOMMENDS: A tall glass of water, filled with ice, and two mangoes.
BEST ROCK ALBUM
Camp Cope – How To Socialise & Make Friends; Courtney Barnett – Tell Me How You Really Feel; DMA’s – For Now; Luca Brasi – Stay; Middle Kids – Lost Friends.
In a (welcome) quirk, while no groups with women in them were nominated for best group, three of the five acts here are female/female fronted. It’s no pandering to say they’re also the best.
SHOULD WIN/WILL WIN: As good as their album is, what are the chances the people certain heavyweights in the industry see as “troublemakers”, like, um, Camp Cope, will win? Slim. That album title was probably seen as a pisstake at best, a provocation more like it. Middle Kids are probably a bit early doors, career-wise, for this, so it really should be Courtney Barnett, who went deeper and rockier on album number two. But never bet against testicles in an ARIA vote. Put some money on DMA’s to complete a double.
YOUR WAITER RECOMMENDS: Some durries and a Kit Kat.
BEST FEMALE ARTIST
Alison Wonderland; Amy Shark; Courtney Barnett; Sia; Tash Sultana.
It has been a pretty good, though not quite a stellar year, quality-wise but one of the best signs of a better ARIAs is the variety offered now in this category which long remained the domain of pop. What will matter more in the competition: pop v rock v electronica v pop/rock? Or big money v bigger money v little money v indie cred?
SHOULD WIN/WILL WIN: Let’s cut to the chase: if Amy Shark doesn’t win there’ll be a slow storm building up over East Sydney and likely to explode at the next ARIA board meeting. Hmm, who can they exclude next year?
BEST MALE ARTIST
Dan Sultan; Dean Lewis; Gurrumul; Troye Sivan; Vance Joy.
Mama, just killed a man, put a gun against his head, played him Vance Joy now he’s dead.
SHOULD WIN/WILL WIN: Without a doubt the Gurrumul album is one of the great Australian records of this century, so … forget about it. Also without a doubt even Dean Lewis, a damp sponge to the forehead of troubled times isn’t quite as limp as Vance Joy. Still, unless the impressive Troye Sivan taps into a hitherto unseen well of ARIA love for openly gay, openly sexual pop singers, this is Vance Joy’s to lose.
YOUR WAITER RECOMMENDS: A Milo and a Tim Tam
BEST URBAN RELEASE
360 – Vintage Modern; Esoterik – My Astral Plane; Hilltop Hoods – Clark Griswold; Kerser – Engraved In The Game; Mojo Juju – Native Tongue.
One of the categories most affected by the new policy of a top 40 cut-off for candidates (bastard act by the big boys or practical recognition by pragmatists?) means a leaning towards the commercial end of local hip hop. While hip hop is still a bit of a second cousin for the ARIAs – though rather than the redhead cousin, it’s more your white cuz among the mixed-colours wider family #ariasowhite - at least they’re allowed to move from the kids’ table now I guess.
SHOULD WIN/WILL WIN: Mojo Juju’s musical melange and frank evaluation of a life experience that puts the multi into multicultural is a standout, but 360’s newfound maturity – yep, you read that right, maturity – and experimentation, should see him beat back the wave that always accompanies Hilltop Hoods, even when they’re just rolling with a single.
YOUR WAITER RECOMMENDS: ‘erb.
BEST COUNTRY ALBUM
Adam Eckersley & Brooke McClymont – Adam & Brooke; Fanny Lumsden – Real Class Act; Kasey Chambers & The Fireside Disciples - Campfire; The Wolfe Brothers – Country Heart; Travis Collins – Brave & The Broken
A category which you may well assume has a minimum Adam quota and requires facial hair on at least 33 per cent of band members. But hey, there’s no Lee Kernaghan singing patriotic bollocks, so that’s something.
SHOULD WIN/WILL WIN: You’d want to give it to Eckersley and McClymont for the brainstorming which would have gone into the album title, wouldn’t you? (Imagine the discarded ones piling up: Brooke & Adam; Adam with Brooke; Eck & Mac; Me & Him; Us.) And Fanny Lumsden has a quality record which would challenge in any other year, with the likelihood that she’ll win this sooner or later. However, this year’s inductee into the Hall Of Fame, Kasey Chambers, has a back to the roots/back to the ashes album which is outstanding.
YOUR WAITER RECOMMENDS: A strong billy tea, with a splash of rum, and pound cake.
ALBUM OF THE YEAR
Amy Shark – Love Monster; Courtney Barnett – Tell Me How You Really Feel; Gurrumul – Djarimirri; Pnau – Changa; Troye Sivan – Bloom.
It may seem quaint, to the older set, and odd, to the younger set, that the peak award at the ARIAs remains the album of the year. But then that still makes more sense than the fact people think Kyle Sandilands is human.
SHOULD WIN/WILL WIN: The money is behind Amy Shark, the indie scene is behind Courtney Barnett, the St George rugby league fans of old are behind Pnau (wait for it … wait for it), and social media is behind Troye Sivan. So who, beside me, is behind Gurrumul? History baby, history. Yes, it’s actually a contemporary classical album, not a pop, rock, roots, urban, dance or country one, but trust me it’s going to be seen for decades to come as something important and something great.
Failing that, give it Vance bloody Joy, by this time of the night, what do I care?
YOUR WAITER RECOMMENDS: A dirty gin martini. With three olives. Make it two martinis, and hurry, before another Richard Wilkins voiceover.