ARIA antics have Oz music talent looking needy
Ooh er, a musician swore - hide the cutlery and your daughters.
Actually, ARIA award organisers will hope that a stray swear word from beanpole rapper 360 is the issue most likely to engender controversy from this year's ARIA Awards. Why? Because that might mean some of the more serious issues with the pleasantly dull night might be forgotten or, as ARIA likes to do, be glossed over in a welter of feelgood cliches.
You might choose to begin with how is it that a music awards night cannot consistently present music played and sung live? You know, the way it's done on stages hundreds of times every week, rather than a slight upgrade on what Countdown used to do a generation or two ago.
Rapper 360, who won the breakthrough artist award, performs at the ARIAs last night. Photo: Getty Images
Bowing to a broadcaster's qualms about maintaining sonic consistency as a priority (ironic given some of the complaints about the poorly mixed sound people got at home) seems not only odd 60 years after we began telecasting music but perverse for an industry which boasts its strength is a vibrant live scene contributing more than $1 billion to the nation's economy.
Of course that poses the question that awards programs still have a place on television. The ARIAs aren't alone of course, with the Grammys, the Emmys, the Logies and the Oscars all struggling to hold a shrinking audience these days. However, shunted to one of Nine's “off-Broadway” digital channels, where ratings aren't quite so do-or-die, and associated with a little-watched pay TV outlet, MTV, which sometimes seems as if it has more music in its name than in its programming and more reality stars than real viewers, the ARIAs aren't exactly centre stage.
Let's accept that the ARIAs as a rule don't boast household names, let alone the kind of star power which brings in the uninterested. Let's accept too that a parochial awards which pretends that the only good music being made is local would be childish. So bringing in a Taylor Swift for glamour, with her “payment” including promoting her new album with a midshow performance, makes some sense. You might even stretch that to Nicki Minaj, who is in the country performing at the moment and had the good grace not to pretend to know much about Australian music.
Russell Brand presents the ARIA for best female artist with his mother. Photo: Getty Images
However, to load on top of that the reality show favourites and these days occasional musicians, the Madden Brothers, and comedian Russell Brand and his mother, runs the real risk of making us look as if we need the approving pat on the head from our superiors to know we're doing OK. To complete the night with three actors from a New Zealand-made film with no musical connection (but a high price ad run through the broadcast) who tell us, via the autocue, that "it's been a great year for Australian music" is to let matters get well out of hand.
And this is without even mentioning the almost laughable media-related elements like a red carpet where artists and their minders didn't know who to talk to or where to go; a panicky midshow attempt to shut down tweeting about winners (a case of door, horse and bolted); and a changing embargo time. Or the fact that the lean and mean awards night this year saw long queues for small plates of finger food that left many, many hungry and grumbling guests.
It's a strange way to run the biggest night of the music industry's year. But, hey, did you hear that 360 bloke swear?