There’s really only one view to have with awards for artists and the arts: They’re all totally shit. Until you win one. Or in this case, until the team you’re backing wins one.
I haven’t cared about the NZ Music Awards for a lot longer than I ever cared about them – and though not by plan, I was easily as far as you could be from the awards last night (attending a concert by tribute act, The Bootleg Beatles).
But I came home to read the news and I thought: Finally.
Not just because I loved the album – but here we are seeing our culture being reflected. This decision seemed to put the “NZ” that’s been missing back into the framework.
Perhaps we could call it the “Lorde Era” but basically we’ve seen the artist Lorde (I wish I knew her real name?) and Aldous Harding receive the top prizes after they’ve been given awards – and been generally talked up – internationally. This makes us look like we are dishing out Fairplay-styled awards; backing up the international trophies. We’re like a pack of little Sally Fields going, “you like us? You actually like us?!” And offering our petty awards after Grammys and such have already told – and sold – that story. So it cheapens the NZ music award/s actually.
Now, I realise that writing about Aldous Harding is something I am not really allowed to do. I disqualified myself with this “review”.
And so I’ve stepped back, pretty much. I don’t want it to seem disingenuous when I say that her new album is not only pretty good, but better (in my opinion, dur) than the one that launched her to the world stage. To even throw anything more than “pretty good” in the direction of Aldous now would be like me deciding I liked something by Robbie Williams. Believe me, I’ve tried. And by that I don’t mean I’ve tried to find something good by Robbie Williams. I am referring to the time when I wrote a positive review of a Fat Freddy’s Drop album and the internet made it disappear quicker than Jeffrey Epstein (that’s right! My FFD review killed itself…)
What I am trying to say here is that by rushing to jump on bandwagons – as we’ve done with Lorde and Aldous – we give them no breathing room. Our media now reports on Lorde’s dog dying (real name: Old Yelich).
But Avantdale Bowling Club won the old-fashioned way, ultimately. By being fucking good. By being a proud, bold artistic statement.
There was some hype – sure. But it couldn’t have cut-through in the mainstream. The music is not that sort of music. This was a case of something brilliant being deemed brilliant – and not because a venue sold out in record time.
I also liked seeing BENEE win. And I say that having no real interest or investment in her music (though I enjoyed the set I saw at Laneway earlier this year, easily one of the highlights of a lackluster bill I recognize it’s not really for me). It’s nice to know she’s being given a chance. Giving Aldous the win over her would just needlessly crush a spirit. It’s not like the award would push Aldous on further.
But it just feels good to read names like The Beths, BENEE and Avantdale at the top of categories. Not because I hate Aldous. I just hated an album by her that lots of others liked. And I don’t believe the sincerity of her performances at all. Nor do I enjoy the oddly performative aspect of her mugging and folking so hard. I do think her record from this year is possibly very good. But who cares what I think now. Or ever.
This is the other problem with arts awards. Not only are they all shit unless you (or your team) wins. But start talking about them and it looks like you’re pitting people against one another in a competition. And that’s a separate conversation and either shouldn’t be the point – or is totally the point (suck it up artists, you lost, someone better won, be better next year!)
But it felt hopeful to hear of Avantdale’s win this year. It felt right. I felt proud. And that hasn’t happened in an age.
Well done Tom Scott. So very well earned.
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