From John Grenell’s ‘Welcome to Our World’ at the start of the decade, to ‘Tonight’ by pop stars TrueBliss at the end, the 1990s saw television influencing the charts. New Zealand had its own music channels, and local acts got plenty of airtime. Hip-hop emerged; 1994 saw the first local hip-hop number one with 3 the Hard Way's ‘Hip Hop Holiday’(a feat they'd repeat in 2003), DLT and Che Fu’s ‘Chains’ spent five weeks at the top in 1996. Rock and dance also made a mark. After spending just three weeks at number one in NZ, OMC’s earworm ‘How Bizarre’ became a monster hit worldwide.
Toyota launched its classic Welcome to Our World campaign in late 1989, to support the company's sponsorship of the upcoming Commonwealth Games and the Sesqui 1990 festival. This version was put together for the 1995 America’s Cup and Rugby World Cup. But there is minimum product placement in the heart-warming montage of Aotearoa landscapes and people, set to country singer John Grenell’s baritone take on the Jim Reeves song. The Geoff Dixon-directed campaign ran for a decade; the song topped the Kiwi charts when it was released in early 1990.
'To Sir with Love' was a chart topper for newcomer Ngaire Fuata in 1990, after winning unexpected airplay on the ZM radio network. Remade often since Lulu's 1967 original featured in the hit Sidney Poitier movie of the same name, this version pushes Ngaire's winning vocal and a slinky beat. The result topped Kiwi charts for five weeks. The largely black and white video shows Ngaire has little fear of the camera; she had recently begun working in TV, and would later present Pacific news show Tagata Pasifika. Ex-Commodores bassist Ronald La Praed (unseen here) plays on the track.
'Trippin'' was the debut single and biggest hit for early 90s North Shore rockers Push Push, who were powered by the lung-filled squall of future media personality Mikey Havoc. It spent six weeks on top of the Kiwi singles chart, propelled in part by this highly effective, and award-winning performance video from Chris and Tim Mauger. The clip provides ample testimony to the power of guitars, hair, t-shirts, that voice, and a healthy dose of strobe lighting. It's worth noting that, even at this formative stage of his career, Mr Havoc isn't exactly shy of the camera.
The video for this Red Nose Day chart-topper makes the most of a powerhouse combination: celebrities and cute babies. Although lead singer Hammond Gamble gets his share of screen time, the video is mostly devoted to close-ups of perhaps the biggest pile-up of famous Kiwis ever to cram into one music video. The faces include appearances early on by actors Simone Kessell, Ilona Rodgers, and Mark Raffety — plus The Wizard, sports legends Grant Fox, John Kirwan and Jeremy Coney, newsreaders Judy Bailey and Anita McNaught, and singers Tina Cross and Suzanne Lynch.
This highly charged tale of a domestic appliance with a mind of its own marked The Mutton Birds’ only number one hit. The slightly sinister video — the band’s fourth with director Fane Flaws — hints at Don McGlashan’s time with The Front Lawn. A furtive McGlashan takes the lead, with Elizabeth McRae (then known for playing Marj on Shortland Street) as his mother. The other Mutton Birds have cameo roles: seedy second-hand dealer (David Long) and Salvation Army brass section (Ross Burge and Alan Gregg). Max TV viewers voted the result their favourite video of the year.
Shot in sepia tones with barely a level camera angle on offer, the video for 3 The Hard Way’s single has classic hip hop video written all over it. A cruise around Auckland in the back of a convertible culminates in a guest verse from Bobbylon of Hallelujah Picassos. Back at home, a rugby-loving audience assembles for the song’s second half. The unforgettable hook is inspired by 10cc hit 'Dreadlock Holiday', which proved lucrative for the English band when there were issues around clearing the rights. This was one of the earliest NZ On Air-funded videos for a song that reached number one.
It had to be a big ask getting all seven members of Supergroove in one shot and looking good for this video, but the result trips along with pace, great upside down special effects, and some bonus goldfish. Shot in one epic, 18 hour session, Can't Get Enough was one of the earliest Supergroove videos directed by bassist Joe Lonie, who went on to helm 50+ clips for everyone from King Kapisi to Goodshirt. In 1995 'Can't Get Enough' was the first of a trio of Supergroove videos to take away the supreme award for Best New Zealand Music Video of the year.
George was the first Flying Nun single to make it to number one in New Zealand, and the video is also a strong one. Brooding black and white shots of singer Fiona McDonald are frenetically cut together with dark images (tattooed man crawling on concrete, wily old bloke holding birthday cake) that match the menacing lyrics of the song.
After a first video was rejected, this version directed by Lee Baker was finished just as ‘How Bizarre’ went to number one in NZ. However, it did play its part internationally as the song became a huge worldwide hit. Shot on a soundstage in Ponsonby and at Ellerslie Racecourse for a budget of $7,000, it was shown on US networks 14,986 times in 1997 and 1998. Pauly Fuemana shares the limelight with Sina Siapia, and a Filipino named Hill, who was enlisted after turning up to help out with the shoot – and became something of a celebrity in his homeland as a result.
Amidst a tale of despair in the city, a staunch 'no nukes' message is delivered with aplomb by Che Fu in this performance-based promo for his collaboration with hip hop legend DLT. "Come test me like a bomb straight from Murda-roa / How comes I got cyclops fish in my water / A Nation of Pacific lambs to the slaughter / Three eyes for my son and an extra foot for my daughter". Acclaimed music video director Kerry Brown uses bold urban Pacific imagery to accompany this chart-topping track with its deceptively catchy chorus: "Living in the city ain't so bad ..."
Che Fu’s influential debut album 2b S.Pacific (1998) melded Pasifika with reggae, soul and hip hop, to create a unique musical home brew. The first single 'Scene III' went to number four on the local charts, and this follow-up (a double A-side, paired with 'Machine Talk') got to the top in October 1998. Cinematographer Duncan Cole (Born to Dance) directs the music video, which sees a pair of Fu personas (street and club?) facing cameras in a film studio, while singing about making "the planet shake". Later Che Fu adds some comedy to a breakdance battle.
John Clarke created an unofficial Kiwi national anthem when his alter ego Fred Dagg first released 'We Don’t Know How Lucky We Are' in 1975, simultaneously celebrating and poking fun at national pride. This video is a 1998 update of the song, instigated by TV's SportsCafe. Times change, but the recipe remains the same: "good clean ball and for God's sakes feed your backs!" Alongside a roll call of celebrities, politicians and sports stars — Sean Fitzpatrick, Chris Cairns, Zinzan Brooke — Clarke spreads the grateful gospel at the United Nations.
‘Cold’ was another number one hit for dance act Deep Obsession. The video (one of two made for this track) arguably takes the title a trifle too little literally: extended studio close-ups of coldly-lit vocalists Zara Clark and Vanessa Kelly in blue eye makeup are contrasted with glimpses of the band performing live. Third member (and later director) Christopher Banks can be seen sporadically. The second of three consecutive chart-toppers for the band, ‘Cold’ saw Banks and Clark nominated for best songwriting at the 2000 NZ Music Awards.
This dance pop anthem was a number one for the reality TV series-generated act TrueBliss — and the biggest selling single by a New Zealand artist in 1999. It was written (like most of the TrueBliss album) by Anthony Ioasa, an APRA Silver Scroll winning co-writer for Strawpeople's 'Sweet Disorder'. The video features a girls' night in slumber party, complete with home movies, hairbrush microphones, pillow fights, dress-ups, American Indian head-dresses and hula dancing. There is also quite a lot of moody introspection for what is essentially an unabashed love song.
Deep Obsession flared brightly but briefly in the late 90s, releasing a string of Eurodance songs. They are the one and only act to manage three consecutive number ones on the Kiwi music charts. ‘One and Only’ was the third, released after group founder Chris Banks had left the group. That left singers Zara Clark and Vanessa Kelly to get viewers primed for the dance floor. Impeccable music video logic sees the singers clinging to watery fluorescent-lit walls and overseeing a room of fishbowls. An alternative video for the song featured scenes in a desert and underwater.