In 2003, one in four Aussie households owned Innocent Eyes. Delta Goodrem deserves a place in our music history

In 2003, one in four Aussie households owned Innocent Eyes. Delta Goodrem deserves a place in our music history

I remember when my family bought Innocent Eyes, at a JB Hi-Fi off the Nepean Highway. I was 12 and had just started high school. It was the first time I really understood the power of music; I felt like Delta was imparting words of wisdom through this time of transition. I played that original copy so much it started skipping and I had to buy a replacement.

Delta’s music has continued to define my life. It was the catalyst for lifelong friendships. The music bonded us, but our relationships transformed into something greater. We’ve worked together, travelled the world, and stood by one another on wedding days.

My story is one of many significantly shaped by this record. Innocent Eyes is the second highest selling Australian album in Australia of all time, only behind John Farnham’s Whispering Jack. It sold 4.5 million copies worldwide, including 1.2 million in Australia. To put that into context: one in every four Australian households owned a copy.

So why is Delta Goodrem overlooked in Australian music history?

A run-away success

Released 20 years ago, Innocent Eyes achieved unprecedented success, staying at number one for a record-breaking 29 weeks (that’s seven-and-a-half months). She became the first artist to have five number one singles on the Australian charts from a debut album.

At the 2003 ARIA awards, the 18-year-old had a record ten nominations, taking home every award she was nominated for, with the exception of album of the year (she twice lost to herself, for a total of seven wins). As Powderfinger accepted for Vulture Street, they joked “Can I see that envelope please? This is truly, completely unexpected”.

In the weeks leading up to the ARIAs, it was unclear whether Delta would attend: her diagnosis with Hodgkin’s lymphoma was front page news. The awards were Delta’s first public appearance in months; the night became an unofficial celebration of her return.

Delta recently went through her archives from this time as part of a sold-out 20th anniversary tour, a celebration of an album that captured the hearts and attention of the Australian public in a way that hasn’t been replicated.

This was not a comeback tour. Delta has remained an integral part of the Australian music scene. She’s one of our country’s standout performers, taking to the stage at AFL Grand Finals, Sydney Mardi Gras and the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony (twice).

She has released duets with Tony Bennett and Olivia Newton-John, written songs for Celine Dion, and filled in for Adele with less than an hour to rehearse.

Delta has mentored artists on The Voice; performed as Grizabella in Cats; her latest film, Love Is In The Air, has been streamed 12 million times; and she’s achieved five number one albums.

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But no hall of fame?

It was recently announced Jet would be inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame. Their debut album, Get Born, was also released in 2003, featuring the smash hit Are You Gonna Be My Girl?.

Jet are an incredible Australian rock success story, with 6.5 million records sold worldwide.

But their impact and legacy doesn’t match Delta’s 9 million records sold. Get Born was certified nine-times platinum; Innocent Eyes is 23 times platinum.

In the decade to 2010, she sold more albums in Australia than any other artist – local or international.

Since the hall of fame began in 1988, 80 bands and artists have been celebrated. Only 11 have been women. The musical legacy of women is not recognised in the same ways as their male counterparts.

Many “best of” music lists are dominated by male artists. Rolling Stone’s Greatest Australian Albums of All Time only features two females in the top 20 (Kylie and The Go-Betweens). Characteristics of “good” music and artistic integrity often hold masculine connotations. This impacts which artists achieve consecrated status.

Innocent Eyes defined a generation of Australians, many who were teenage girls. Popular music and culture with predominantly female audiences is often dismissed. Rock is seen as “authentic” and masterful; pop is not worthy of such acclaim. While “poptimism” helped legitimise the genre, there’s still work to be done to shift these perceptions.

The elevation of Jet but not Delta to the ARIA hall of fame is evidence of how Delta’s talents as a songwriter and musician are underrated. She commands the piano, and has written almost every song she’s released. When speaking with people about why I’ve been a fan for so long, I always explain you have to see her live: Delta’s vocals are phenomenal, she truly connects.

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This album means everything

I’ve been speaking with Delta fans as part of my PhD research on music fandoms. One fan described the album as “going home to my parent’s place […] no matter what is happening in the world, that album is a safe place.”

For many fans, this album means everything. These songs were the soundtrack to our adolescence, and have continued to wrap themselves around us.

“It is truly one of the greatest honours of my life to have written an album that might have meant something to you, or been a part of your life,” Delta said on stage last month.

At the peak of Innocent Eyes’ success, weeks before her cancer diagnosis, 8,000 fans descended on Highpoint Shopping Centre. She stayed signing CDs for 14 hours.

Music has a unique ability to document time and construct identity. There is a sense of nostalgia for the time we first heard these songs, and reflections of what they mean to us now.

“Iconic” Australian music often reinforces the pub rock canon, overlooking the significant impact of other songs and artists.

Innocent Eyes – and Delta Goodrem – deserve a place in the cultural memory and legacy of Australian music.

The post “In 2003, one in four Aussie households owned Innocent Eyes. Delta Goodrem deserves a place in our music history” by Kate Pattison, PhD Candidate, RMIT University was published on 10/18/2023 by