There are certain aspects of Australian culture that make me stop and think, Fuck, we brought a people to the brink of extinction for this? The Melbourne Cup, Dancing with the Stars, and of course, the ARIAs—a night where the oligarchs of Australian music get together for three hours to daydream about the coke at the afterparty.
The ARIAs run perfectly parallel to the Australia's current stultification, the husks of the Howard era looming over us. We're not a people of progress.
So the ARIAs begin. I hear the rumblings of a Cat Empire riff like a funeral dirge for 2006. Where am I? Is that cameraman wearing a Kevin '07 shirt? Will they make a joke about Merlin from Big Brother taping his mouth? Where's Dicko Dickenson? Oh, there he is.
Then an ad tells me that Dee from Neighbours is coming back from the dead and boy, does that sum the entire ARIAs experience up.
The Veronicas introduce themselves as hosts and "loose cannons of the industry." This says a lot about the industry, I guess. The Veronicas are Australia's answer to the Bronte sisters—in that they make me deeply depressed and I wish they'd get tuberculosis.
I guess Australia's treatment of refugees hasn't shifted since 2004, so why should its tastes? What's Rolf Harris up to right now? Get 'im out here! Australia is being strangled by its own nostalgia. The ARIAs are our fear of change writ large.
Having Troye Sivan as a voice for the LGBTQI community is great. But part of me thinks our inability to pass gay marriage is directly linked to our ongoing fondness for Australian Idol winners from 2003.
Kyle Sandilands and Sophie Monk slide out onto stage. I live in Perth, and besides pokies, the continuing existence of these two is the most baffling thing about the Far East to me. Will he run for Prime Minister in 2024?
I keep waiting for Rove to pop out and say, What the?!
Now Dave Hughes is giving Best Live Act to the Hilltop Hoods. The Hilltop Hoods. The musical equivalent of the 3 mobile network.
We're onto some younger acts now, like Violent Soho. I don't want to make fun of the young artists. They do not deserve it. Does anyone I've written off so far? Not really. Well, maybe Kyle.
Australia has a knack for maintaining the display cases of its tyrants and the thalidomide they're preserved in. Robbie Williams is such a hit here because we are nation of robot butlers servicing the Hindenburg 2.0. We're programmed to ignore the escape hatch. We're riding this bad boy into the ground! And Robbie is a VIP passenger. They gave Best International Act to One Direction—a band that literally hasn't existed all year. Give all the trophies to Flume.
We're not here to be challenged. We're here because we had our first kiss at a blue-light disco to Kasey Chambers' "Not Pretty Enough" and we never want that moment to be over.
It speaks volumes about the ARIAs and their limited perception of Australia's incredibly diverse and exciting music scene that the most authentic and exciting moments revolve around Crowded House and John Farnham. These are legends that have somehow outrun the fickle winds of the industry.
Gareth Lidiard once said that the ARIAs were "just for wankers, snorting coke and getting drunk." I think, like a Liddiard song, it cuts deeper. The ARIAs are a dark projection of Australia's kismet—a nation terrified of its own brilliance.
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