Keeping up with any kind of news this year can be tough. Even music news is getting stranger and harder to track. Rather than exhaust yourself trying to swallow an endless stream of push notification updates, MTV Australia have knocked up a bite-sized rundown of the most important happenings in the Aussie music biz this week – and every week – and why they matter.
The Kid LAROI, Gordi, Tame Impala lead 2020 J Award Nominations
Awards season continued this week, with the announcement of the 2020 J Awards nominations. The Kid LAROI, Gordi and Tame Impala lead the pack for triple j's Australian Album of the Year, alongside Ball Park Music, Miiesha, JK-47, Lime Cordiale, Alice Ivy, Spacey Jane and DMA's. JK-47 has also been nominated for Unearthed Artist of the Year, with Jaguar Jonze, Mia Rodriguez, Sycco and Yours Truly.
Australian Music Video of the Year, presented jointly with rage, is a hip-hop heavy category this time with Sampa The Great & Krown's "Time's Up", Tasman Keith's "Billy Bad Again", ONEFOUR's "Welcome To Prison" and Kari Faux's "Don't Call Again" – Violent Soho's "Pick It Up Again" is the lone rock act in the mix. Gordi reappears on Double J's Artist of the Year list, with Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever, Archie Roach, Washington and L-Fresh The Lion. This year also sees the return of the Done Good category – celebrating individuals and organisations that helped the industry through its hardest year in living memory. Online music festival Isol-Aid, bushfire benefit concert Fire Fight Australia, Mushroom Group/MCH for their Music from the Home Front and The Sound TV shows, Lucas Sutton of 'Help A Mate' fame, and Ziggy Ramo for his activism for First Nations people around the release of his album Black Thoughts in June.
Predictions? It's going to be a banner year for hip-hop. JK-47's debut Made For This is a strong contender for Album of the Year, with Lime Cordiale's 14 Steps to a Better You next in line. JK-47 is a near-certainty for Unearthed Artist of the Year, while Gordi's tumultuous year between working on the coronavirus frontlines and releasing an internationally recognised record Our Two Skins makes her a shoo-in for Double J Artist of Year. ONEFOUR's arresting window into the cyclical nature of penitentiary life in "Welcome To Prison" should just pip Sampa's "Time's Up" for Music Video of the Year, but it could go either way. For the Done Good awards, the likely contenders, Isol-Aid and Ziggy Ramo, straddle the year's two biggest issues: the coronavirus pandemic's shattering of the live performance industry, and continued inaction on Black Deaths in Custody.
Kylie Minogue reveals she almost recorded a song with Prince
Kylie Minogue has been on the promo trail over the last week ahead of the release of her 15th studio album Disco today, a return to the style that defined her early '00s output. Most of her press has been something of a late-career victory lap short on revelations, but she saved one particularly strong anecdote for her hour-long chat with Zane Lowe – how she nearly recorded a song with Prince in the early '90s. Kylie described meeting the music legend after a show of his at Earls Court, and coyly revealing she was working on an album. Prince put her "on the spot", asking her to collaborate, wanting to hear if she had any lyrics or ideas for the instrumental. In classic Prince fashion, he wrote an entire track – called "Baby Doll" – that he sent to Kylie on cassette via a driver. "I just like, wrote some lyrics. I didn't even write songs then. I mean, I kind of wanted to, but I didn't really, and I gave him some lyrics," she recalled.
"There was no one to share it with! There's a cassette in my hand with Prince singing, a song called 'Baby Doll', that I kind of was involved with…That was my almost [dream came true]. We didn't record it."
Kylie's overbearing label at the time, Stock, Aitken and Waterman, reportedly didn't condone Prince writing and recording the song himself, and so it never came to fruition. The pop star doesn't know where that cassette of "Baby Doll" is, but believes it will eventually come to light as part of Prince's posthumous vault releases. Noting Kylie's track record of historic collaborations – Nick Cave, Robbie Williams to name a couple – it'd be brilliant to hear her version of the track that never was someday.
Spotify's new feature to boost song's algorithmic visibility for lower royalty rate angers musicians
Streaming giant Spotify announced a new feature this week that allows artists and labels to boost the visibility of tracks of their choice in the service's algorithmic music selector if they agree to a lowered royalty payment. The move has understandably angered musicians globally, coming from a platform that already only pays a piddling rate of between $0.00331 and $0.00437 (US dollars) per stream. It is even more affronting that the streaming service would announce such a feature during a global pandemic, where recorded music is one of the only revenue streams for musicians.
Australian musicians reacted viscerally to Spotify's new feature – Sydney musician Brendan Maclean tagged Spotify support and tweeted "Can you guys help me out, it seems like you want me to die?". Montaigne sarcastically quote-tweeted a story about the change, writing "we love our business and have had a big talk about it and we've decided to destroy the potential for middle class musicians to make a career in order to make greater profits for our beloved business. you love to see it".
Spotify's glorified pay-to-play tool comes just days after The US-based Union of Musicians and Allied Workers (UMAW) launched the 'Justice at Spotify' campaign, demanding the streaming service pay artists a minimum of one cent per stream, and reform the model of payment. King Gizzard And The Lizard Wizard lead the Australian signees of their demands, co-signed by more than 10,000 musicians and industry workers at the time of writing. Add your voice and read more here.
ONEFOUR's debut EP finally has a release date
Mount Druitt drill group ONEFOUR's long-awaited debut EP, 'Against All Odds', has finally gotten a release date: November 13. Two singles have been released from the EP to date – The Kid LAROI collaboration "My City" and "Home And Away" – but a tracklist is yet to appear. In an Instagram post, they teased that a new music video would be released alongside the EP if they got 5000 comments – they have already succeeded in meeting that total.
Already credited with changing the face of Australian rap music, a longer release is a new test for ONEFOUR to broach the rest of the world. They've received multiple co-signs from A$AP Ferg – appearing on two tracks with the US rapper – but will American and UK critical outlets cotton on to their music? For that matter, outside of music media, will mainstream Australian media acknowledge the phenomenon?
Sydney venue Freda's to close after nine years
Sydney venue Freda's – the performance space of choice for smaller VIVID Festival shows – has announced it will be closing its doors on November 21. Owner David Abram cited both a downturn in business due to the COVID-19 pandemic and developers' plans to convert their Chippendale premises into a high-rise building as the cause of the shutdown. The venue had run out of its warehouse premises since 2011, with a basement extension made in 2017 giving space to fledgling artists.
"After surviving 5 years of lock outs, red tape, rising rents and an exodus of youth from the city centre, Freda's had finally been flourishing after receiving one of Sydney's first 4am licences (outside the casino) since the heady days of the Olympics. We had been looking forward to by far our most successful and stable year ever. Boy were we wrong," Abram said in a statement.
It's another loss in a year of cultural destruction, littered with venue sales and closures. In Sydney, The Newsagency and Cafe Lounge have shut down, and Carriageworks went bankrupt before being rescued by philanthropists; in Melbourne, Festival Hall has been sold to Hillsong Church, while The Gasometer Hotel, Revolver and The Spotted Mallard are up for sale and venues like The Tote and The Bendigo Hotel have made public pleas for help. The narrative of struggling venues during the pandemic has been muddied by the fact that many of the contributing factors were issues before this year – overdevelopment, noise and lockout laws and poor government support. But it's apparent the pandemic has made the fight against these threats impossible.
Aussie Album Of The Week:
Kylie Minogue - Disco
Dance music from the 1980s was pop music in 2020's biggest reference – Lady Gaga's Chromatica, Jessie Ware, Dua Lipa – in a year (mostly) without dancefloors. It's hard to sense where this trend came from, but Kylie Minogue knows better than most that its popularity is cyclical – almost all of her best work comes from whenever she returns back to the thumping beat that catapulted her into the 21st century on Light Years.
Kylie's 2020 Disco is unabashedly positive, definitely cheesy and rife with self-homage. The Australian pop star is seemingly aware of her elder stateswoman status in the genre – in the music video for single "Magic" she presides on a disco throne, as the next generation of dancers cavort in front of her, as if to boast she has nothing left to prove. The lyrics are glitter-soaked fantasy – intergalactic dance metaphors replace the personal tones of Golden where "anything could happen".
Disco is centred around the thesis that a great night out is the path to eternal love and liberation. The sensuality that Kylie normally engages with is present to a lesser degree (aside from "Miss A Thing") to make way for the starry-eyed optimism, in a year that needs it.
Aussie Track of the Week:
Joelistics - "Yokai"
Australia's answer to J Dilla, Joelistics, has returned with this haunting instrumental loop, ahead of a new audio-visual project Joelistics Presents Film School. "Yokai" – named for a supernatural Japanese monster that can foretell calamity – is a pit of dread. The volume of the wordless vocal samples gets louder, and fuzzier as the track goes on, while the stumbling drum beat repeats, constantly on the cusp of falling out of time.
Joelistics is operating here with the kind of alternative hip-hop sonics yet to reach the Australian scene – in large part because the country's mainstream rap identity is still finding popular form. It'd be wise to watch his renewed second phase, particularly with the launch of his own label Odd Head Music this month.
Aussie Music Tweet of the Week:
Montaigne reads between the lines of Spotify's new feature.
The full nominations list for the 2020 MTV EMAs has arrived - Now it's time to vote.
Awards season continues, with the 2020 MTV EMAs nominations landing this week. Up for best Aussie act is The Kid Laroi, Baker Boy, G Flip, Tones & I and Hayden James. Have your own say at mtvema.com, with votes open until November 2. The two-hour ceremony will air globally on MTV on Monday, November 9 at 7am AEDT.
Written by Josh Martin, a Melbourne-based freelance music and media writer with words in MTV Australia, NME, Junkee, Crikey, etc. Follow him on Twitter @joshuamartjourn.