Kylie Calls Out Australia’s Tall Poppy Syndrome

8 November 2023 | 9:56 am | Mary Varvaris

"In Australia, it’s like, ‘Oh no, you’re going to have to be dragged through the coals, and then you can sleep on a bed of nails, and then we’re going to hate your guts for it...'"

Kylie Minogue

Kylie Minogue (Source: Supplied)

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ABC Listen has posted an essential talking point from Kylie Minogue’s recent episode of The J Files: calling out Australia’s tall poppy syndrome.

In the episode, presented by Caz Tran and produced by Ellie Parnell, the Can’t Get You Out Of My Head singer said, “I mean, in America, if you say you’re going to make a million bucks, it’s like, ‘Yeah, okay, right on.’”

Pointing out the difference in mindsets in Australia, she continued, “But in Australia, it’s like, ‘Oh no, you’re going to have to be dragged through the coals, and then you can sleep on a bed of nails, and then we’re going to hate your guts for it.’ It’s really strange.”

You can listen to Minogue’s episode of The J Files here.

She has a point that numerous Australian artists have discussed in recent times. In a September interview with The Music, Holy Holy guitarist and producer Oscar Dawson questioned Australia’s cultural cringe and quest for external validation.

"I do think cultural cringe comes into this topic in a way that we don't trust ourselves, but also in the way that we're so obsessed with what the outside world thinks of us," he told The Music. "But it's bothered me for as long as I can remember. It's like we've got an inferiority complex about our own music in this country – and it ties in with tall poppy [syndrome] where we're too scared, I think, sometimes to do something interesting, brilliant, exciting, different… because we as artists or people in the public space might get cut down.

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"There's so much great stuff that happens in Australia, so much really great art, and, if you travel outside of Australia and you come back, you realise how interesting and great Australian music actually is. I worry that we sometimes dumb ourselves down a little bit to try to not stand out from the bunch.”

Meanwhile, in a June interview with Monica Strut, vocalist of Melbourne heavy band The Last Martyr, she explained to The Music that she finds creative people have been told, “Don't be too successful, or else people will think you're full of yourself.” Strut believes that mindset might come from insecurity, “Or a need for everyone to be on this working class, even playing field or something. I'm not sure of the exact science behind how Australians got to this tall poppy mindset.”

She added, “Whereas I feel like in places like America, people are always striving to be number one; they're always striving to be the best. And that doesn't mean that doesn't exist here; it's just that sometimes, we try and humble each other too much. And I think that's dangerous when fostering a creative music scene.”

In a November 2022 episode of the podcast A Journey Through Aussie Pop, Peter Andre discussed being the flavour of the month one second and cut down by tall poppy syndrome the next. “People started noticing me, and it was a very surreal thing,” he said. “Going from being picked on as a kid for being Greek – they used to call us greasy wogs back then – to then being recognised… a whole new generation of hatred started.”

Kylie Minogue debuted at #1 in Australia with her new album, Tension, in late September.

ARIA CEO Annabelle Herd commented on Minogue’s success in Australia, crowning her the “queen”:

All hail the queen. On behalf of everyone at ARIA, and as a superfan, it is my absolute pleasure to congratulate Kylie for her fourth consecutive #1 album debut. It’s a thrill to see an ARIA Hall of Fame artist continue to dominate, reinvent and represent Australian music on such a global scale. We can’t wait to celebrate her success at this year’s awards.

Tension is Minogue’s eighth #1 album in Australia, following 2000’s Light Years, 2001’s Feverin 2007, Kiss Me Once in 2014, Golden in 2018, Step Back In Time: The Definitive Collection in 2019 and Disco in 2020.

Tall poppy syndrome, it's the Aussie way 😁 We love you, Kylie. 🎧:

Posted by ABC listen on Thursday, November 2, 2023