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Obviously I'm Going to Rant About the ARIA Awards

Tahlia Palmer: Steady Eye

Obviously I'm Going to Rant About the ARIA Awards

Andrew Ryan

This week, I’ll be dotting in things to listen to as you read, please listen, it’s fun setting an atmosphere.

• On Sunday night, my friend Tim and I roasted a chicken, bought a bottle of wine and a six pack of beer, and settled on his couch for a big night of yelling at the ARIA awards.

• We had some friends who were nominated. It was cute to see them in the audience and on stage.

• My friend Ben told me he was listening to triple J in his borrowed car the next day. He didn’t know the ARIAs were on, until it was mentioned on the radio. This is worth bringing up here because of the nature of the announcement. They apparently proclaimed: “TWELVE AUSTRALIAN ARTISTS WON AWARDS AT LAST NIGHT’S ARIAS”… which strikes me as a little odd, given that ARIA is nationally-self-descriptive acronym…

• I am writing this from Ben’s house, after hanging out with his housemate who plays in a black metal band who just did a tour through Japan or something. We’re swapping tune-plays through the lounge room speakers; he’s wearing a Burzum t-shirt, I have two Burzum albums so I guess you could say we have common ground…

…and given that I have decided to write about the ARIAs today after watching them the other night, and I’m sitting with a dude who couldn’t be any further removed from the ARIA shit, I have decided that instead of fleshing out these previous dot points with my vague, drunken recollections and next-day weird regrets about how much I jumped on Tim’s couch and yelled and stamped my feet heaps of times, I’ll just leave the dot points as is, and do mostly un-edited stream of consciousness writing. Here goes.

So that guy who was given that big long-term music industry ARIA award, the guy from mushroom records, I saw a little interview with him on some fucking industry publicity company’s website, and he was talking about how he’s pleased to see Australia “come together” in music, because shows like Australian Idol etc do the industry the great service of getting teenagers and middle aged housewives in to music stores again, buying music.

They’re buying it, sure, but they’re not giving a real shit about it. They’re watching the flashy television shows with the celebrities they recognise from other commercially run media things and they’re buying in to half-assed pretend-care. They’re told to like this vocal style or that choreography, so they do. Unthinking beyond the moment when they’re in their car and that song comes on that they remember some of the words to because it sticks in their heads and it reminds them of something else, because every flashy pop song references chord structures from other previously successful pop songs from however ever many decades or months ago…

And that is why the ARIAs made me yell at the television. Or, rather, why the television made me yell at the ARIAs. Or, even, why I was pissed off and directed it at the televised awards ceremony. Because these awards are not actually applauding what it means to be a good musician, because it’s music industry (also, red wine).

“United by music”; that’s what the ARIA awards toted so loudly in the lead up to this year’s awards; their marketing catch cry. But that’s not what they’re united by. No. They are united by- specifically- the money made from music. The guys in charge (yep, all dudes on the board of directors (boring)) are all intimately involved in the business side of music in Australia, through a few different avenues, including past relationships with politics. Industry, business, etc. No big revelations there. But it’s not very nice. From a creative viewpoint, all of this freaks me out.

So little air time is given to the higher arts awards, the ones which the public should be encouraged to care about; show them William fucking Barton doing a live performance instead of idiot “DJ’s” jumping around miming to a dance hit,
get him and Jessica Mauboy on stage together again and show the television watching Australian public PROUD INDIGENOUS PERFORMERS DOING ORIGINAL, BEAUTIFUL WORK TOGETHER instead of getting Ms. Mauboy to dance around to Euro-style-pop-trash and telling the pale skin teenagers that this is the height of Aboriginal success in this fucked up country.

Did you see Guy Sebastian’s smug fucking face? DID YOU? Thanks for that, Hillsong. For people who don’t receive critical acclaim for their tunes, it’s a big old rub of the dick/clit to receive one of these awards. Critical acclaim is often different to sales, and often where it counts. For anyone who has critical acclaim, these commercially based accolades appear to be a weird “ohhhh ummm, ok” time. Note Tame Impala’s reactions. But you know, some people are born for the award narcissism thing, others are not. Some “journalists” are born/trained to talk to pop stars about their clothing choices, others are not. Each to their own etc. But, uh… right now, I don’t feel great about the standard of music appreciation these awards are generally encouraging.

It would seem I’m not the only one to be vocally pissed off about this shit. This black metal buddy of mine, Martin, put me on to Frenzal Rhomb’s twitter account, where they live tweeted the whole ceremony, ripping in to everything. Frenzal Rhomb has a history of berating Australian pop music bullshitters about how little they give a shit about what it really means to be
an original artist in this country, and rightly so. Worthy things to bring up.

I was given a bit of flack last week for being harsh about music. “Entitled”, even. Fuck that noise. I’ll say whatever the fuck I think is worth saying. The role of the critic is to critique, which thus elevates the standard of whatever it is they’re critiquing. What is it about Australian culture that discourages this?

You can argue as much as you want about Darwinian theories in terms of popular culture, but if you’re ignoring the pervasive (and perverted) role of marketing in all of this, you’re being an asshole. A total asshole. Fuck you ARIAs. Fuck you and all of your coke shovelling stupidness. But good on you for giving Tame Impala the respect they deserve. Kind of. And it’s weird, because the awards are not about talent, or creativity, or originality, they’re about business dudes sucking each others’ fingers and toes and ear lobes, a self perpetuating marketing cycle that seems to be a total joke in the minds of any musician/music lover with integrity.