Aria awards 2020: Billie Eilish, Sia and Sam Smith gear up for Australian music's biggest night

A star-studded lineup will perform – via pre-records – in a broadcast set to celebrate Lime Cordiale, Sampa The Great and Archie Roach

This far into the global pandemic we’re pretty used to televised award ceremonies looking a little different.

But for the Australian music industry’s biggest night, this evening’s Aria awards, there’s one silver lining: the ceremony has attracted perhaps its biggest lineup ever, with superstars Billie Eilish, Sia and Sam Smith all performing – pre-recorded – from across closed borders around the world.

Broadcast from 7.30pm on Nine on Wednesday, there will be no industry cocktail event or red carpet welcome with screaming fans jostling for signatures. The ceremony will still take place at the Arias’ regular venue, Sydney’s Star Casino, but the awards will be presented to an empty room, with most artists accepting their trophies via Zoom.

Only technical crew, a small contingent of performers and host Delta Goodrem will be at The Star.

Lime Cordiale leads nominations

It will be a strange experience for Lime Cordiale, the Sydney pop-rock duo who are gearing up for their first Arias. The band, made up of brothers Oli and Louis Leimbach, picked up eight nominations this year, the most of any act. The nominations cap off a hugely successful year for the pair, whose second album, 14 Steps To A Better You, hit #1 on the Aria album charts, and saw them play 27 Covidsafe sit-down concerts around the country.

The record competes with The Glow by DMAs, Hilda by Jessica Mauboy, The Return by Sampa The Great, and The Slow Rush by Tame Impala for the night’s biggest award, album of the year.

Other artists leading the tally of nominations include Tame Impala (seven for new album The Slow Rush) and Sampa The Great, who was nominated for six.

It’s the second year the Botswana-raised, Melbourne-based rapper has had a big presence at the Arias: last year Sampa became the first woman of colour to win in the hip hop category with her track Final Form. “It’s really bittersweet,” she said in her acceptance speech, which didn’t make it to air. “I really hope I’m not the last … I hope the Australian music industry starts to reflect what our community looks like.”

Anangu/Torres Strait Islander woman Miiesha has five nominations for her debut album, Nyaaringu. She competes with Amy Shark, Sampa The Great, Sia and Tones and I for best female artist.

Sydney rock group DMA’s also picked up five nominations, while Queensland group Violent Soho and pop act Ruel collected four each. Ruel competes with Archie Roach, Guy Sebastian, The Kid Laroi and Troye Sivan for best male artist.

Sampa Tembo, known professionally as Sampa The Great, is a Zambian-born Australian singer-songwriter, and rapper.
Sampa Tembo, known professionally as Sampa The Great, is a Zambian-born Australian singer-songwriter, and rapper. Photograph: Jessica Hromas/The Guardian

A star-studded broadcast

The ARIA awards usually host performances from one or two international acts, but are restricted to the artists who can make it to – or are already touring – Australia. This year, with geography no issue, we have ourselves a show.

Billie Eilish performs on Sunday 22 November at the American Music awards.
Billie Eilish performs on Sunday 22 November at the American Music awards. Photograph: ABC/Getty Images

Along with headline performances from Sia, Eilish and Smith, an ensemble of 27 Australian musicians will perform I Am Woman in a tribute to Helen Reddy who died earlier this year. Ten of the performers – including Christine Anu, Tones And I, Jessica Mauboy and Kate Ceberano – will be on stage at The Star; 17 others will join a chorus via Zoom.

Amy Shark and Lime Cordiale will also perform at The Star; Tame Impala, aka multi-instrumentalist Kevin Parker, will share a pre-recorded performance shot from his home in Perth. Sampa The Great’s set was filmed in Botswana, where she’s living.

Kylie Minogue, Robbie Williams and Mick Fleetwood of Fleetwood Mac will present awards via live stream.

Archie Roach inducted into the Hall of Fame

Tomorrow night will also see Indigenous Australian musician Archie Roach finally inducted into the Aria Hall of Fame. 2020 marks the 30th anniversary of his album Charcoal Lane, which included the song Took the Children Away, written about his experience of being forcibly removed from his family and which introduced mainstream Australia to the plight of the stolen generations.

Roach is a five-time Aria winner, and was the first songwriter to take home a Human Rights achievement award. In 2015 he was made a Member of the Order of Australia.

In a statement distributed by the Arias, Roach said making music, and touring it “has helped me to heal and connect to audiences around the country. To be inducted into the Aria Hall of Fame is validation that no matter where you have come from and the struggles that you had to overcome through the years, that you can achieve great things if you set your mind and heart to it.”

The 2020 Aria awards will be broadcast live on Nine and 9Now from 7.30pm on Wednesday 25 November


Katie Cunningham

The GuardianTramp

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