Only one bout of listening remains in this exercise, and that’s to listen to any 2009 releases by Oz artists who are considered amongst our best writers. Ah, but who would they be? Here are APRA’s winners thus far:
Powderfinger, Alex Lloyd, Kasey Chambers, The John Butler Trio, Missy Higgins, Ben Lee, Glenn Richards (Augie March), Daniel Johns, Chris Cheney (The Living End).
Throw in the winners of APRA’s Songwriter of the Year and you can add Savage Garden, Killing Heidi, Wolfmother and The Presets.
And it would be foolish to leave out such luminaries as Paul Kelly, Don Walker, Troy Cassar-Daley, Sarah Blasko, Archie Roach, Nick Cave, Colin Hay and anyone else you, the reader, might be kind enough to remind me about.
Of this lot, the ones who released albums in 2009 are:
Powderfinger – Golden Rule
Ben Lee – The Rebirth of Venus
Darren Hayes (ex-Savage Garden) – We Are Smug (collaboration with Robert Conley)
Wolfmother – Cosmic Egg
Sarah Blasko – As Day Follows Night
Troy Cassar-Daley – I Love This Place
Colin Hay – American Sunshine
And because I liked The Middle East and Washington, I’ll listen to The Recordings of the Middle East and How To Tame Lions.
I have until March 15, and that’s made me realise – not for the first time – that we’re going about this the wrong way. I shouldn’t be seeking out great songwriting; it should be finding me. That’s how great songs work: they come out, they make their way in the world, they falter, they triumph, and they find you, or they don’t. The system is not a meritocracy, and bands like INXS are wildly overrated, but time allows great songs the space they need to provoke an emotional response. I truly didn’t appreciate Cattle and Cane the first time I heard it. I thought it was dull. I was wrong.
So I propose that these awards be given out, if at all, twenty years after the release of a song. Thus, we should decide this year on the best Australian song released in 1989. Wouldn’t that be more fun? More sensible? And easier? And the folkies and twangers might get a look-in! Imagine: comparing the relative merits of Johnny Diesel’s Cry In Shame and 1927’s Compulsory Hero. Or The Black Sorrows’s Chained To The Wheel.
We could also do the right thing by Jason Donovan, and pretend that his singing career never, ever happened.