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.

8 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.

      1. Ronnie Taylor is a genuine black American singer who sounds like the real thing. So glad he has been in NZ for so long and we are able to get a taste of the stuff we’ve heard and been accustomed to for ages – right here on our doorstep. That song you’re talking about is Shakey Ground. Sounds rather strange that I’d make a comment like that but not bad for a statue. I don’t remember the gig. I only remember a mirimiri [traditional Maori massage my Mum gave me that day at our accomodation in Ohope. Hard to believe I didn’t give “Shakey Ground” the treatment I usually did in those days. Ronnie had a choice of amazing singers he could have taken on that tour but he chose me. One lady cried because she wasn’t chosen and she’s a great singer. The other night I got a standing ovation at Auckland Town Hall. I have no explanation of your experience – at a guess, the only thing I can think of was that I was shy of someone in the audience. It was my home town. Your experience was that I didn’t rise to the occasion. Well, I remember us neighbours from the riverside I was bought up at entered a talent quest at the Ohope Hall virtually across the road from the venue when we were little kids. Perhaps that had something to do with it. Nah, lol. Anyways
        let me know if I suck again if I manage to achieve that for you. You’re lucky I’m not a comedian. Thank you so much for being the only one I’ve found to comment negatively on my gig performance. Took me half a century to find. Chur Johhny. BTW, My first boyfriend I shacked up with told me his Dad was drunk when he filled out his birth certificate and misspelt his name he was stuck with – Jasson. You’ve got two silent “h’s” – unique.

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