How many ARIA winners are on your playlist rn?

Today the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) will recognise its “best of the best” of 2019 in a ceremony held at the Star Event Centre in Sydney. The host, Guy Sebastian, along numerous other celebrity presenters and performers, will undoubtedly deliver an entertaining music spectacle. For the first time in the awards’ 33-year long history the ceremony will be live-streamed on Facebook to Aussie music fans overseas. Compared to 21 awards in 1987, nowadays artists compete in 26 categories. Amongst them are Best International Act, Best Comedy Release or Best Cover Art. Some of the titles awarded in the past, like the Highest Selling Single, have now been retired. Throughout the years there have been unexpected winners, funny presenters and unforgettable performances. I’m sure this year will be no different.


Looking at the 2019 nominees and past winning acts, I’m wondering which ones actually make it to playlists overseas. And which ones don’t but definitely should.



Let’s travel back to the 80s. John Farnham‘s You’re The Voice is a fixed item on any Australian classics compilation. No wonder – the artist took 6 ARIAs home in 1987, including the Highest Selling Single. That same year Crowded House‘s Don’t Dream It’s Over received the Best Video award. Rings a bell, right? And that’s just a start.

The rest of the 80s and beginning of the 90s were mostly about splitting the trophies amongst very few bands and solo artists. For instance, in 1988 Midnight Oil‘s Beds Are Burning became the Song of the Year. A year later Kylie Minogue‘s I Should Be So Lucky achieved the Highest Selling Single status and INXS took the Best Video trophy for Never Tear Us Apart. I’m guessing you’ve heard those tunes before.

THE ’90S

Mid-90s things started to change slightly. In 1995 Silverchair entered the stage, taking the Highest Selling Single award for Tomorrow. The Nick Cave – Kylie duo in Where The Wild Roses Grow was the Best Pop Release in 1996. Savage Garden cleaned up in 1997 thanks to their hit single Truly Madly Deeply. Natalie Imbruglia shook things up in 1998 with Torn. You might even know the 2000 Highest Selling Single – Madison Avenue‘s Don’t Call Me Baby.


The new millennium saw awards for many of the already mentioned names that had, by then, become internationally recognised acts. Keith Urban‘s reign in the country domain is worth mentioning here as well. Oh, and remember Sweet About Me? It was the Highest Selling Album in 2008 and Gabriella Cilmi was awarded Breakthrough and Best Female Artist for it. In 2009 AC/DC received 2 awards for their album, “Black Ice”, and Empire of the Sun knocked out most of the competition with We Are The People and the corresponding album. SIA and Angus & Julia Stone closed the decade with Best Pop and Alternative Releases respectively. I bet all those names made it to your playlist, too, even if you didn’t know they all belong to the Australian music scene.


The present decade was kicked off by Gotye and Somebody That I Used to Know that received a few important awards both in 2011 and 2012. Electronic, dance and pop music dominated in the following years with Tame Impala, Flume and PNAU releasing popular songs and albums. I’m guessing you heard Feels Like We Only Go Backwards, Never Be Like You or Chameleon on the radio more than once. Iggy Azalea defended the hip hop scene as the 2014 Breakthrough Artist, mostly thanks to her hit single Fancy (feat. Charli XCX). In 2015 Vance Joy and Courtney Barnett were recognised for their releases. Tash Sultana‘s “Flow State” was 2018’s Best Blues And Roots Album. And last year 5 Seconds of Summer charmed the industry as the Best Live Act with Youngblood.

Am I missing anyone?


Now, let’s talk about Australian artists – sometimes multi-ARIA winners in different years – that you, most likely, have no knowledge of at all. This time I’ll go through them based on their genre.


Electronic music in all shapes and flavours is currently booming in Australia. And the ARIAs clearly show its consistent rise to fame. Already in 2001 The Avalanches were named Breakthrough Act for their single Frontier Psychiatrist. M-Phazes, a Gold Coast producer behind international singles like Demi Lovato’s Sober, Xzibit’s Stand Tall or Eminem’s Bad Guy, is also an ARIA winner. In 2010 he was recognised for “Good Gracious” as Best Urban Album. My faves Peking Duk scored Best Dance Release for High (feat. Nicole Millar) in 2014. My other faves, RÜFÜS DU SOL took the award in the same category in 2015.

But I’d like to especially introduce you to Flight Facilities – a Sydney electronic duo that received an unusual ARIA award in 2016 – Best Classical Album. Their release “Live With The Melbourne Symphony Orchestra” was chosen as Best Classical Album that year. And for a good reason. Their music includes heaps of interesting sounds and instruments, so pairing it up with classical setting was a genius idea.


I’ve mentioned numerous times that Aboriginal music forms a big part of the Australian heritage. I have also previously introduced you to a few important artists as enumerated by rapper Briggs (read the full interview here). Indigenous music used to have its own ARIA category but many different genres were thrown into the same sack. So it was discontinued in 1998.

Within this broad music spectrum you should definitely get to know a group called Yothu Yindi. Their song, Treaty, that narrates the need for lawful regulation of Indigenous rights on their own land, received The Song Of The Year award (amongst others) in 1992. And its message is still relevant today.


Jazz might not be an easy music to listen to but Australia has produced talented artists in this genre, nevertheless.

Katie Noonan, a multi-ARIA winner, is one of them. Apart from jazz, she also incorporates opera and other related genres in her craft.


There are amazing singers in Australia I find totally underestimated in the world. ARIA Best Female Artist from 1995, Tina Arena, who also received Best Pop Release award for her single Chains, is one of them. Missy Higgins, ARIA winner in 2004, 2005, 2007 and 2012, is another. This year’s host, Guy Sebastian, is an ARIA award winner as well. Do you know Kygo’s single Firestone? That vocal is by Conrad Sewell, ARIA 2015 Song Of The Year winner for Start Again. Matt Corby who won in 2012, 2013 and also this year for production of Rainbow Valley, falls into this category as well.

So does Dan Sultan. The latter one is a true powerhouse with turbulent life history but amazing song writing talent. No wonder he received both Best Male Artist and Blues And Roots Album for his “Get Out While You Can” release in 2010, Best Rock Album for “BlackBird” in 2014 and was nominated for various awards for the “Killer” EP.


Everybody’s talking about John Butler Trio but it’s All Our Exes Live in Texas who won Best Blues And Roots Album in 2017 for “When We Fall”. And I’m also mentioning them because there are not too many women in this business in the world. And girls need to stick together…


There are just too many interesting rock acts in Australia from my perspective to mention here. But I’ll try. Grinspoon won Best Rock Album in 2005. Regurgitator, awarded in 1996 and 1998, deserve a mention just because of their name. Same for Killing Heidi – the Breakthrough Act in 2010. JET were big winners in 2004. I might have written about Paul Kelly previously but he definitely deserves to be mentioned again for his single How To Make Gravy (Best Male Artist Award in 1997). Eskimo Joe were Best Group in 2005 and 2006. Boy & Bear in 2011.

Amongst the Australian rock legends is also Cold Chisel. Funnily enough, they were inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame in 1993 but never received any awards as a group. But its members did. Guitarist and occasional singer Ian Moss received 5 awards in 1990. Vocalist Jimmy Barnes has won 6 times already and his current EP “My Criminal Record” is competing in the Best Rock Album category this year.


There are more country artists in Australia than just Keith Urban. Like Kasey Chambers. With 14 ARIA Awards, she was inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame in 2018. What else is there to say…


Rap and hip hop are very prolific music scenes in Australia, too. So be ready for heaps of names to follow.

Hilltop Hoods have won numerous times and are nominated this year again. Koolism are one of the predecessors of the genre from Canberra who were awarded Best Urban Album in 2004. Perth representative, Drapht, scored the same award in 2011 for The Life of Riley. A year later rapper 360 won Breakthrough Artist. Illy‘s “Bring It Back” won Best Urban Album in 2013. Last but not least, Seth Sentry – the 2015 winner in the same category – is also worth mentioning for the song Hell Boy.


I talked about Parkway Drive in one of the previous posts.

But when you can, check out also my newest discovery Violent Soho who were the Best Group in 2016 and have recently released new music as well. And definitely turn down the volume when you listen to the 2015 Best Heavy Metal Album winners, Northlane.


In the pop section two acts should definitely be highlighted.

Montaigne, the Breakthrough Artist from 2016, is also my new discovery – I can’t simply get enough of her The Dying Song from the new album. And The Veronicas, Best Video award winners from 2015, are a duo from Brisbane, formed by twin sisters, which – in my humble view – only adds to their originality.


Last but not least, ARIA has been awarding the title of Best Children’s Album since 1988. This is not a joke.

And there is a professional kids’ music groups, called The Wiggles that has received this recognition 13 (!!!) times. I reckon this is quite a niche category and there probably isn’t much competition but it is an impressive achievement that many musicians are definitely jealous of. I don’t expect you to add it to your adult playlist but it’s totally worth considering if you have kids.

If you’re keen on discovering more Aussie artists, follow me on Spotify and check out my playlist suggestions here.

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