The Kid Laroi, Genesis Owusu and the Wiggles dominate Australian music awards

Kamilaroi rapper won Apra song of the year for Stay and was ‘stoked’ to be on his way home for a national tour in May and June

The Kid Laroi was the big winner at the Australian Performing Rights Association (Apras) awards on Tuesday night, taking home three awards – including the top gong in the song of the year category for his collaboration with Justin Bieber, Stay.

The track, a lovelorn plea to a partner that was described by the New York Times as a “hyper-slick new wave/pop-punk hybridisation”, beat others by Amyl and the Sniffers, Hiatus Kaiyote, Genesis Owusu, and 2021 winners Midnight Oil.

It became a mega-hit when it was released last July, spending 14 consecutive weeks atop the Aria charts and reaching number one on the Billboard Hot 100.

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It has been a meteoric year for the Kamilaroi rapper, whose real name is Charlton Howard. Raised in Sydney’s Waterloo and now based in Los Angeles, the 18-year-old was nominated for best new artist at the Grammys and VMAs, performed on Saturday Night Live with Miley Cyrus, and signed – then split – with Bieber and Ariana Grande’s music manager Scooter Braun. He’s now managed overseas by Adam Leber, who also has Lil Nas X and Labrinth in his roster.

At home in Australia, he was named artist of the year at the National Indigenous Music awards in November. That same month, he won two Arias for best artist and best pop release.

“I’m stoked to be on my way back,” said The Kid Laroi, who is performing at Tasmanian arts festival Dark Mofo in June, amid a national tour. “I miss you all and I’ll see you soon.”

Song of the year is the only peer-voted category at the Apras in a field which is otherwise mostly determined by airplay and royalty earnings.

At the awards, which were held at Melbourne town hall, The Kid Laroi also won most performed hip-hop/rap work for Without You, as well as songwriter for the year – a prize given out at the discretion of the Apra board. He is the second Indigenous Australian artist – and second hip-hop act – to scoop the songwriting prize, after AB Original in 2018.

Breakthrough songwriter of the year, which The Kid Laroi won in 2021, went to Genesis Owusu, whose euphoric blend of hip-hop, funk and soul has proved a winning formula in the industry. The Ghanaian-Australian musician (real name Kofi Owusu-Ansah) won last year’s lucrative Vanda & Young global songwriting competition – also run by Apra – as well as four awards at the Arias, including album of the year for his independent release, Smiling With No Teeth.

The Ted Albert award for outstanding services to Australian music went to The Wiggles, for whom the past year has been particularly – and perhaps unexpectedly – fruitful. In January, they topped Triple J’s Hottest 100 with a cover of Tame Impala’s 2012 track Elephant, which included a mashup with their own chorus from Fruit Salad.

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They followed the victory with ReWiggled in March, an album where Australian bands – among them The Chats, Spacey Jane, and Polish Club – perform covers from The Wiggles’ discography. Currently in the midst of an 18+ Australian tour featuring their original quartet, they have courted recent attention from hitmakers like Lil Nas X, who joked about headlining with the children’s group.

Tones and I won two awards for the second year running: Fly Away was most performed pop work, and her ubiquitous earworm Dance Monkey was most performed Australian work overseas.

John Courtidis received two awards for the dance track Head & Heart, which he co-wrote alongside English artists Joel Corry and MNEK; Budjerah, who was named breakthrough artist at the Arias, won in the most performed R&B / soul category for his track Higher, with Matt Corby; Ziggy Alberts won in blues and roots for Letting Go; Amy Shark won in country for Love Songs Ain’t For Us; and Angus Young won in rock for Shot in the Dark, with his late brother, Malcolm Young.