The 2021 ARIA Awards were unlike any other. It was a chance to recognize excellence and resilience after another difficult year for musicians in the music industry.

It was also different because it marked the first occasion that gender-based awards were abolished in.

The Kid LAROI won the award for Best Artist. His catalogue has attracted more than 3 billion worldwide streams.

He defeated Tones, Keith Urban, Vance Joy and Kylie Minogue, as well Amy Shark, who was nominated but left empty-handed.

The Kid LAROI, his name being a nod towards his Kamilaroi heritage is also the winner of Best Pop Release for Stay, which he performed during the awards. Stay, featuring Justin Bieber has gone triple platinum.

He said, “A big shout out to, again,” to everyone who has supported this song, and made it into what it is.

Genesis Owusu was the star of the show, an independent artist who performed a medley from his acclaimed album Smiling With No Teeth.

He won Album of the Year and Best Hip Hop Release.

Kofi Annah and Bailey Howard won the Best Cover Art Award for Smiling With No Teeth.

Genesis Owusu, who accepted the award on behalf of his crew, said that they had been friends since high school.

He said, “You guys don’t know how excited I am to share this award with my friend… Bailey Howard”, and told Howard to remove his mask.

“I have been friends with Bailey, and all these goons,… since high school. They’ve just been rocking with and performing with me even when I didn’t have the money.”

He paid tribute to the music which made him who he is when he returned to the podium.

After receiving his fourth award, Genesis Owusu gained support via social media. He said that he used to get side-eyed when younger because of the clothes and things he wore.

He added, “But all the people that I loved and respected always stood strong, immovable and unshakeable because we knew the power of who we were, and what we created.”

“Black people know that it’s not our job to make people happy, but it is up to them to see the opportunities they have been missing.”

Budjerah received the Michael Gudinski Breakthrough artist award, and there was a tribute video.

As Ed Sheeran, a pop star of Bundjalung descent, presented his award to him via videolink, the singer-songwriter from Bundjalung descent was in tears.

Tkay Maidza, singer-songwriter and rapper won the Best Soul/R&B Release for her album Last Year was Weird Vol. 3.

She said, “It felt like an exciting journey of rediscovery,” as she accepted her first ARIA.

Until 2004, there was no ARIAs category that recognized R’n’B and Hip Hop artists. Both were included under Best Urban Release.

The award was discontinued in 2018, with 2019 introducing the categories of Best Hip Hop Release, Best Soul/R&B Record and Best Hip Hop Album.

It wouldn’t be too far from the truth to call 2021 the Hip Hop or R’n’B ARIAs. The genres are clear favourites even in non-genre-specific categories.

Archie Roach’s The Songs of Charcoal Lane won Best Blues & Roots Album. Troy Cassar Daley was awarded Best Country Album for The World Today.

Others winners include:

  • RUFUS DU SOL – Best Dance Release and Best Group
  • Middle Kids won Best Rock Album
  • Tropical F**K storm won the best Hard Rock/Heavy Metal album
  • Crowded House was named Best Adult Contemporary Album
  • Bluey was awarded Best Children’s Album.

A slew of awards were also handed out, and voted upon by the public. Taylor Swift was voted Most Popular International Artist ahead of Kanye West or Olivia Rodrigo.

Swift said to the crowd, “This is the greatest thing.”

“The fact that it was voted for by fans means the world to us.”

Brooke Boney, the host, asked the audience to spare a second for Jake Gyllenhaal. Fans believe that Swift’s song All Too Well is about their brief-lived relationship of a decade ago.

Lime Cordiale was awarded Best Australian Live Act in a year when live performance was restricted.

Spacey Jane won Song of the Year for Booster Seat; Zoe Barry, Sacred Heart School of Melbourne, was awarded Best Music Teacher.

The ARIAs took place at Sydney’s Taronga Zoo, and were broadcast live on YouTube.