Emma Paki “System Virtue”

Watching this video is a little bittersweet, knowing that Emma hit a rough patch soon after and left the music industry for over a decade. In the video she’s young and seems to be singing a message of hope. If only.

The video is lovely, with slow black and white footage of Maori in small towns around New Zealand, including plenty of staunch-as bros looking real hard, eh. Meanwhile, Emma busks on the streets of Auckland, with passersby passing her by, though the infamous Queen Street busker stops for a look.

“System Virtue” feels like it has a positive and uplifting message, but Emma seems to have been studying the Shayne Carter style of singing, leaving the verses sounding like they might just be make up of interesting sounds, rather than meaningful sentences. And “system virtue” – what does that even mean? But does it need to have a meaning?

By the way, if you love this song, stay away from the album version on Oxygen of Love. The distinct jangly guitar and meandering bass is gone, with distracting backing vocals inserted. The general appeal and emotion of the song has been smothered with full-on pop production style, more suited to a Feelers track. But thankfully the one-two punch of the original recording and its video are how the song is best known.

Directed by Josh Frizzell, the “System Virtue” video won Best Video at the 1994 New Zealand Music Awards.

Best bit: the lady enjoying a cup of tea in an Arcoroc mug.

Director: Josh Frizzell
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… man on the verge of a popstastic breakthrough.

7 thoughts on “Emma Paki “System Virtue””

  1. The lady is my mum.

    “System virtue” is a positive take on the saying “System Sux”. The lyrics are more than meets the eye. They don’t speak literally.

    1. Hey Emma! Thanks so much for your comment. It’s learning the little details, like the lady enjoying the cuppa being your mum, that makes 5000 Ways such a fulfilling project.

      And thanks for the explanation of what ‘system virtue means’. With just that little explanation, suddenly everything clicks into place.

  2. Is it just me or is that a non-tattooed Tame Iti holding the flag at 0:15?

    And thank you Emma for this beautiful song 🙂

    1. Actually, it might be. It looks like Emma later worked with Tame Iti’s son Wairere who is a musician, so a connection is there.

  3. I saw Emma Paki performing with this American singer at the Ohope Beach Resort (its gone now, pity) – but anyway Emma sucked, she couldn’t even sing and had no stage presence, just stood there like a statue. And the American chap who was really good kept singing hard out to her going “shake your thing” it was bloody funny. Ahhh good times.

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