"I feel like I'm floating outside of my body."
Taking place at the Melbourne Town Hall, the 2019 APRA Music Awards certainly did highlight and celebrate "the cream of this year’s [songwriting] crop" as APRA AMCOS Chair Of The Board Jenny Morris dubbed this year's nominees.
The evening's proceedings were kicked off by The Rubens and Sarah Aarons with a performance of their track Never Ever. It was a more than appropriate start to the night, which was very much dominated by Aarons, who would pick up a whopping four awards throughout.
Hosted by Brian Nankervis, the first award of the night went to Dean Lewis for the prestigious Breakthrough Songwriter Of The Year award.
"It's incredible to win this," Lewis told The Music after accepting the award. "I said on stage that my friend Sarah won this last. We used to be on phone calls two years ago, talking about our dreams and she wanted to go to America and I wanted to be an artist and have success and it's so cool to win it a year after her." Lewis would later close out the night with a performance of Stay Awake.
In addition to acknowledging domestic success, this year saw two Outstanding International Achievement awards handed out; the first going to Lewis and his Be Alright co-writer Jon Hume and the second to 5 Seconds Of Summer. Sia scored Most Played Australian Work Overseas for her track Cheap Thrills (co-written with Greg Kurtsin), while Lindsay Rimes picked up the 2019 Overseas Recognition Award for his work with artists like Kylie Minogue, Kane Brown and more, saying that "it's a privilege to write songs" when accepting the award.
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Each year, the APRA Awards engage a renowned Australian artist to curate the award's musical performances and Kate Miller-Heidke's stint as musical director did not disappoint. The first of a few standing ovations of the night went to Electric Fields for their incredible performance of Amy Shark's I Said Hi, the track that would later be awarded as the Peer-Voted APRA Song Of The Year. Shark herself would even do a shout-out to the group during her acceptance speech.
"Electric Fields, what you did before had me crying" said Shark to huge cheers from the crowd. "Thank you so much for doing such a beautiful version of my song."
This was just one of five Heidke curated performances for the evening, which saw each of the Song Of The Year nominated tracks honoured, including Middle Kids and JP Shilo performing Paul Kelly's With The One I Love, Fanny Lumsden and Henry Wagons' performing Angie McMahon's Slow Mover, Max Sharam performing Ainslie Wills' Society, and Radical Son and Samuel Pankhurst's outstanding version of Mojo Juju's Native Tongue, which scored them a standing ovation.
The award would ultimately go to Shark, making her first time winning the category after three nominations. The weight of winning was not lost on the visibly moved Shark.
"I've never been a part of a big team, or a sporting group, or anything like that," she said after being handed the award from Tina Arena. "I've kind of been a lone ranger and I feel like in the lead up to this, it's like I finally have my group, I finally have my people and they're here in this room with me... I finally feel like I'm a part of something special, so thank you so much APRA. This is incredible."
Along with Shark's three awards, it was definitely 24-year-old Sarah Aarons' night, seeing her pick up Most Played Australian Work and Dance Work Of The Year for the Grammy-nominated track The Middle (her collab with Zedd, Maren Morris & Grey), in addition to scoring Rock Work of the Year with The Rubens for Never Ever.
Just 12 months on from winning the Breakthrough Songwriter Of The Year award, Aarons was recognised as the 2019 APRA Songwriter Of The Year, which saw her honoured by mentor M-Phazes and friend G Flip and given a standing ovation when walking to the stage.
When collecting the award for Most Played Australian Work earlier in the night, Aarons - who was joined by her whole family on-stage - gave an insight into what it's taken for her to get to this point.
"I shouldn't be here. If you really put all the maths together of the person I was in high school and how average I was as a human, like not special at all, and how many weird things I've gone through and so many reasons why I shouldn't be here, I feel like I'm floating outside of my body."