Contemporary troubadours Marlon Williams and Delaney Davidson delve deep into the sounds of traditional country music. After co-writing ‘Bloodletter’, from their debut album Sad but True: Volume 1, they won the NZ Music Award for Country Song of the Year. The gothic tale of tragedy and misery is visualised by director Tim McIness via a Once Upon a Time in The South horseback pursuit, as Williams tracks a fleeing Davidson. The wide open spaces of mid-Canterbury’s Mesopotamia Station make an admirable substitute for the frontier’s big sky country.
The video for BRF's second single contrasts images of youths in gas masks with This is New Zealand-style panoramic scenery. The song ominously describes a complacent society ignoring apocalyptic possibilities: it could be the theme song to The Quiet Earth. But like BRF's UK contemporaries the Cure and Joy Division, behind the brooding, melancholic music is a pop song with deceptive hooklines. The haunting melody emerges slowly from a funereal marching beat, while the chorus is almost ecstatic, with phased synthesised strings that seem to take flight.
The title track from Moana and the Moahunters’ gold-selling first album celebrates wahine and Māori cultural pride, via what singer Moana Maniapoto called “haka house music”. The fusion of traditional Māori sounds with contemporary grooves got to number nine in the charts. It was co-written with Andrew McNaughton and features vocalist Hareruia Aperahama (‘What’s the Time Mr Wolf’). Kerry Brown's video cuts the group singing together with kapa haka (the acclaimed Te Waka Huia) and whānau playing. Brown also directed the video for the group’s groundbreaking ‘AEIOU’.
Singer/songwriter Sharon O’Neill did Los Angeles inspired, mid-70s pop/rock as well as many of her contemporaries in California — but it’s hard to imagine opening lines as striking as these ones coming from that West Coast. ‘Words’ was the first single from her self titled, second long player which won her Album of the Year and Best Female Vocalist at the 1980 NZ Awards. After years behind the keyboards, O’Neill shines in this video filmed in front of an audience with a band that includes Simon Morris, Wayne Mason and future Mutton Bird Ross Burge.
On this song from her debut EP, bilingual Wellington singer/songwriter Ria Hall marries her respect for tradition and her use of te reo and kapa haka to the very contemporary beats of producer Riki Gooch (Eru Dangerspiel, Trinity Roots). This mix of old and new is echoed in director Jessica Sanderson's video. It casts Hall as four characters drawn from mythology to ward off the evil of Babylon and is set against a strikingly modern dreamscape of video effects, imagery and lighting. It won Best Video by a Māori Artist at the 2012 Māori Music Awards.
Aaradhna’s third album Treble and Reverb was released on hip hop label Dawn Raid and co-written and produced by P Money and Evan Short (Concord Dawn) — but its “retro/metro” sound channels the glory days of the classic early 60s girl groups rather than more contemporary styles. ‘Wake Up’, the lead-off single, is a bright, sunny song about trying to fix a broken soul. The video — directed by the award-winning Special Problems — nods to the era with an animated symphony of pop-coloured modern household objects happily distracting from the lyric’s call to action.
This infectious hip hop hit marked Savage’s solo debut, after his previous recordings with The Deceptikonz. A NZ chart-topper for five weeks, it went platinum in the USA (helped by its placement in Hollywood comedy Knocked Up and as the soundtrack for its DVD menu). For her video, director Sophie Findlay created a laundromat from scratch in an empty Otahuhu shop. In it she intersperses an undersized Savage and 70s-themed dancing girls with darker, more contemporary hip hop imagery. It must be all a dream, because the pimply palagi teenager is the tough guy.