Once again, West Australia has been ignored by the ARIAs
Despite a breakthrough year for some the state’s best, only three - Tame Impala, Troye Sivan and Grace Barbe - leave with nominations.
In many ways, the last twelve months have been a victory lap for West Australian music. It’s been a transformative year for West Australia’s music and cultural outputs, whether it be on the large scale with the some of the state’s heaviest hitters releasing new records, right through to the smaller, break-through artists that have just started teetering on the edge of domination, pushed there by debut records that really feel like their moment.
Just off the top of our heads, there are multiple acts whose past year has been worth celebrating - a past twelve months for these artists that have been celebrated, both critically and commercially:
Kevin Parker continued to peak with Tame Impala’s latest effort The Slow Rush, a record that grappled with his long-standing connection to synthesiser and pop songwriting on a more visible level than any of his past releases.
Psychedelic Porn Crumpets have further blossomed, especially internationally where they play sold-out headline shows and festivals long-beyond their Australian home.
Troye Sivan - if you still count the largely US-based, now Melbourne-residing musician as a Perth musician - dove into experimentalism with his In A Dream EP.
Spacey Jane have been Spacey Jane, coming close to a #1 ARIA debut on their first ever album, and constantly going from strength to strength to be one of 2020’s break-out success stories.
Shockone has killed it in dimensions long-beyond just an album release, including launching his own record label and a genre-first live show.
San Cisco put out a brilliant, mature new album with a year-long lead-up full of some of their best work to date.
Sly Withers put out a debut EP that placed them amongst the future of Australian punk, as well as on a national tour with Amy Shark.
SLUMBERJACK have also continued their international breakthrough, with several EPs and further singles throughout the last 18 months or so.
Carla Geneve released a brilliant debut EP, while the road to her debut album has come with critical acclaim from both Australia and internationally.
Arno Faraji, Shadow, Hoodzy and others have become the new frontier of Australia’s hip-hop space.
Make Them Suffer put out an explosive new album, continuing their streak of heavy excellence.
We’ll stop there to prevent this list from going for years, but we feel like the point is clear - West Australia’s music space has had an absolute time, and people have caught on.
One group of people that have seemingly not caught on, however, is the ARIA voting board. Today, the official 2020 ARIA Nominations were announced, and there’s a lot of praise to be sung. It’s easily the most forward-thinking and diverse collection of artists the ARIAs have nominated to-date, with some of the country’s most deserving - and long-ignored, by institutions such as ARIA - names finally getting their time in the spotlight: Sampa The Great and Miiesha two brilliant examples of that.
However, one area in which there doesn’t seem to be too much diversity is when it comes down to location. This year, the discrepancy between Sydney, Melbourne and the rest of the country feels particularly evident. A substantial number of nominees come from Sydney and Melbourne this year, and while that’s always seemed true, there’s a lot of acts from elsewhere that have released career-defining work that’s been left largely unnoticed - Tkay Maidza from Adelaide (who only has one nomination), and Mallrat and Cub Sport from Brisbane (the former has two nominations, the latter none) being ones that immediately come to mind.
When it comes to West Australia, we’re often left ignored, with the typical exceptions of Tame Impala and more recently, Troye Sivan (who are both nominated this year). In 2020 it’s the same, and while we’ve typically just rolled our eyes and moved on in the past, it feels like a kind-of robbery knowing the excellence that has come from West Australia across the last twelve months.
This year, only three West Australian artists have been nominated in the major categories. Tame Impala / Kevin Parker have been nominated for seven - the second-highest, behind Lime Cordiale - in what’s an incredibly deserved nod; Troye Sivan is nominated for three, while Grace Barbe - who is absolutely incredible - walks away with an unexpected ‘World Music’ nomination (still though, we’re asking what the hell world music even is). That’s it.
There are a few glaring omissions that likely come down to specific rulings or what-not (to be considered, the ARIAs have a strict set of qualifiers that are notoriously vague and difficult to find by the public), the biggest of which being Spacey Jane, who despite just missing out on ARIA #1 debut for their first-ever album, couldn’t even nab a nomination in the rock categories, beat out by Cold Chisel, DMA’s, Ocean Alley, Tame Impala and Violent Soho. There’s also the Best Independent Release Award they’d be perfect for (but they were beaten out by Archie Roach, DMA’s, Lime Cordiale, Nick Cave and Sampa The Great), and the Breakthrough Artist Award - one that feels perfect for Spacey Jane after their explosive rise, but alas, only Alex The Astronaut, Lime Cordiale, Mallrat, Miiesha and The Kid Laroi got recognised.
It feels like a huge oversight to not even get one nomination in there, but honestly, could we expect anything else? Same goes to Shockone, whose live show broke boundaries with the dance community but didn’t get a throw-in for the live show category (let alone any of the dance categories for his Dark Machine record), and Psychadelic Porn Crumpets, who easily could’ve been a throw-in for the rock categories too.
I guess all we can do is keep pushing, keep thriving, keep celebrating our wins and don’t let things like this get to us, but when a company with the name Australian in their title misses three-quarters of the country, it feels a bit disheartening - even not as a musician.
You can find the full list of ARIA Nominations for 2020 here.