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Image: Tina Tiller
Image: Tina Tiller

Pop CultureMay 30, 2024

Ten memorable moments from the Aotearoa Music Awards

Image: Tina Tiller
Image: Tina Tiller

Ahead of the 2024 awards ceremony, we look back on some of the most memorable moments in the event’s long and sometimes weird history. 

Tonight, New Zealand’s biggest and brightest music talents will gather in Auckland’s Viaduct Events Centre for the Aotearoa Music Awards. After a 17-month hiatus, the awards return to celebrate and showcase music and artists from all around New Zealand, with 2024 finalists including Home Brew, Marlon Williams, Aaradhna, Stan Walker, The Beths, Avantdale Bowling Club, Jordyn with a Y and Kaylee Bell. 

While the awards may have had a variety of names over the past five decades (including The Vodafone New Zealand Music Awards, the Coca Cola New Zealand Music Awards, the Record Awards and the Loxene Golden Discs), the star-packed ceremony has always delivered a variety of unexpected and memorable moments. Ahead of tonight’s celebrations, let’s look back on some of the best.  

Home Brew brings a goat to the red carpet (2012)

Home Brew and the goat from Boy at the 2012 Vodafone New Zealand Music Awards (Photo: Phil Walter/Getty Images)

Six60 and Kimbra may have scooped all the awards in 2012, but this year is best remembered for New Zealand hip hop group Home Brew bringing a real live goat to the ceremony. “We borrowed the goat from the movie Boy,” producer Haz Beats explained to The Spinoff in 2021, “and we put him in the limo and took him to the awards on the red carpet.” Home Brew won the Best Urban/Hip Hop Album that night and Haz Beats wore a crown and a Langham Hotel dressing gown. Any further questions? Didn’t think so. 

Aaradhna declines the Best Urban/Hip Hop Album award (2016)

Aaradhna at the NZVMAs in 2016

R&B singer Aaradhna stopped the NZVMAs in its tracks when she declined the Best Urban/Hip Hop Album wawrd in 2016: “I’m grateful to be given an award – I’m always grateful – but it’s unfair to be put against a genre that’s got nothing to do with your genre. I’m not angry, I just feel like it’s unfair to be in a category that’s not related to what I do,” Aaradhna told The Spinoff shortly after the ceremony. “To me, it just seems like it’s the brown people category, or the coloured people or whatever. That’s the category for the ‘urban folks’. But, to me, I feel like that’s for hip hop.” The following year, a number of changes were made to the award categories, including splitting the Best Urban/Hip-Hop Album prize into two separate categories.

Colin Mathura Jeffree wears a meat dress (2011)

Colin Mathura-Jeffree in a meat dress at the 2011 Vodafone Music Awards (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

In 2010, Lady Gaga wore a dress made of raw meat to the MTV Video Music Awards. One year later, TV presenter Colin Mathura Jeffree whipped up his own flesh frock and debuted it at the Vodafone Music Awards. Sadly, there is no record of a) what it was like to wear a meat dress for several hours and b) what it smelled like by the end of the night, so the slippery reality can only be left to our imagination. In related news, the Naked and Famous won seven awards that night, and the meat was reportedly organic. 

Che Fu receives his award at the airport (1999)

This delicious snippet from the feelers-dominated 1999 Coca-Cola NZ Music Awards showcases the eclectic array of our music talent at the turn of the century, with shout-outs to both Sir John Rowles and Head Like a Hole. Espresso Guitar was up for album of the year, there appeared to only be two nominees for male vocalist of the year (Neil Finn and Dave Dobbyn) and when Che Fu won single of the year for his song ‘Scene III’, Jon Bridges surprised him with the trophy outside an Auckland International Airport gift shop. Simpler times. 

The mannequin challenge (2016)

Wrap me up in a meat dress, tie me to a celebrity goat and take me back to 2016, when we had the time and energy to stand around like a bunch of weird statues. The mannequin challenge was part of the 2016 ceremony (which saw Broods scoop up several awards), as hosts Jono and Ben led the charge to break the mannequin challenge world record. Tragically, this important moment in history was ruined by a mysterious gentleman who pulled the naughty finger on camera, and didn’t even bother to keep his finger still once he pulled it.

The entire 1978 Record Awards (1978)

Long before Vector Arena was filled with human statues, the NZ Music Awards were televised as a Ready to Roll music special filmed at Avalon Studios. In 1978, only two categories were televised: single of the year (won by Golden Harvest’s ‘I Need Your Love’), and record of the year (Hello Sailor for their debut album Hello Sailor). Stu Dennison presented the awards in a fetching pair of overalls, John Rowles was supposed to perform but missed his plane, and weirdly, there were no goats or meat dresses in sight. 

Jacinda Ardern, Lorde and Paula Bennett* have a fangirl moment (2017)

“Let’s do it together, Cindy,” Paula Bennett (*aka comedian Tom Sainsbury) told Jacinda Ardern, as they announced Lorde the winner of the People’s Choice Award. In what feels like a very 2017 moment of pure Jacindamania, Lorde was more focused on celebrating the new prime minister than her six wins that night. “We need to give another round of applause to Jacinda Ardern,” Lorde told the crowd, adding “I am so happy to have such an articulate, exciting, young, beautiful leader in our country.” As the crowd cheered and Paula/Tom stood by awkwardly, Lorde dragged Ardern over to the podium for a “mutual fangirl” moment. 

Taika Waititi leaves viewers unamused (2015)

The 50th New Zealand Music Awards saw Broods and Marlon Williams crowned the big winners on the night, but it was presenter Taika Waititi who made the biggest impression – and not in a good way. Despite telling TV Guide prior to the event that “he was there to ensure everyone has fun,” viewers were left unimpressed with an “abundance of penis jokes” and “belligerent attitude” from Waititi. Where the heck was the mannequin challenge when we needed it?

Chris Isaak performs at LynnMall Shopping Centre (1997)

In the late 1990s, the music awards went global by inviting big international acts to attend, including Melissa Etheridge in 1996 and Chris Isaak the following year. Not only did the American singer perform to the crowds at the awards ceremony, but he also played to the lunchtime crowds at the LynnMall Shopping Centre in Auckland. “After ‘Somebody’s Crying’, guitarist Hershel Yatovitz starts picking the unmistakable opening riff to ‘Wicked Game’ and a collective sigh runs through the crowd,” this review of the surreal 45 minute performance explains. “A diminutive older woman pushes her way to the front of the crowd to get a better shot at a photo and babies have been hoisted on their parents’ shoulders for a clear view. This is not exactly what you have in mind for a happenin’ rock ‘n’ roll environment, but hey, it works.”

Paul Ego falls off the stage (2014)

Quick exits are appreciated at award ceremonies, but comedian Paul Ego took it a step too far in 2014 when he accidentally toppled off the stage. It was a shocking turn of events, particularly given the only remaining footage of the moment appears to be this GIF. I’ve watched it so many times I’ve started hearing the first few bars of ‘My Heart Will Go On’ from 1999 album of the year nominee ‘Espresso Guitar’ each time Ego makes his sudden descent.

The 2024 Aotearoa Music Awards will livestream at rnz.co.nz and also on the RNZ YouTube and Facebook channels. The awards are available to stream on TVNZ+ from Friday May 31. 

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