Jan Hellriegel “Melusine”

“Melusine” is a lush ’60s-influenced pop song about merman love. (The Melusine is a freshwater mermaid, also the star of the Starbucks logo). The video goes in a slightly different direction, exploring Jan’s relationship with gender identity (and that makes it seem pretty serious, but it’s really quite fun).

The video starts with a waiting room filling up with handsome fellows but we soon realise that the guy in the middle is Jan in drag. She makes a pretty decent bloke, but as soon as she starts singing, we’re instantly reminded that she’s a lady.

Man Jan enters a room labelled “nga wahine anake” (women only) and begins to strip off, revealing the female form. There’s a lot of nudity in this part, but it’s shot very tastefully and cleverly. It’s not done to titillate, and director Tracey Tawhiao hasn’t needed to use any comedy prop placements to hide rude bits.

From the naked state, Jan transforms into a glamourpuss, with bold make-up and a fabulous gold lurex gown. It actually reminds me of the videos Madonna makes that mess around with gender – the feminine is a bit masculine, the masculine is a bit feminine.

NB: Jan Hellriegel has written a really good piece called the Emancipation of Melusine, where she writes about the making of the song and the ideas behind the video.

Best bit: the te reo sign, a welcome piece of New Zealand.

Director: Tracey Tawhiao
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… a tropical break.

Jan Hellriegel “Sentimental Fool”

1997-jan-hellriegel-sentimental-foolIn the past, Jan has come across as a cool rock chick, but with this song, she’s quite happy to embrace her loved-up dork side. “Sentimental Fool” is a song about falling in love, about how love can just make everything feel amazing.

The video has a similar light, happy feeling as the song. Directed by Mark Tierney, the video starts with sepia tone footage, with a faux border looking like an Instagram filter. Jan lounges about her actual house, playing the guitar, looking content. But who is the fellow that’s causing all this joy? Why, it’s only a man in a bear costume.

Bungle – I have decided to call him that because he looks like Bungle off “Rainbow” – hangs out the washing and lies around in bed with Jan. A picture of perfect domestic bliss.

We also see Jan happily lying in a grassy meadow, enjoying some sunshine and is later joined by Bungle. How cool is he? Jan sings, “He says, ‘Don’t you worry about a thing, girl. You don’t have to face the world alone.'” Aww….

But just in case there was any confusion about Bungle, at the very end of the video he pulls off the bear head revealing a cute guy with a goatee. Because it would be a bit weird if Jan was actually going out with a bear.

Best bit: the very first shot of – OMG – Jan in bed with the bear.

Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… an Elvis, a bee, priest and a ’70s dude walk into a skating rink.

Jan Hellriegel “Pure Pleasure”

1995-jan-hellriegel-pure-pleasureIn this Mark Tierney-directed video, Jan plays a catsuit-clad femme fatale, the star of a fake show called “Supervixens!”, which appears to have no relation to the legendary Russ Meyer film.

Jan and her supervixen posse – Buffy and St Marie (oh, I did what they did there) – receive a call to action: a secret formula has been stolen! The girls very stylishly hit the road, and meanwhile evil people do evil things with the secret formula.

The evil mastermind is played by Zane Lowe. At the time he was one of Urban Disturbance, whereas now he is all properly famous. Jan and los vixens make it to the criminal HQ and procede to fight the evil criminals, with Jan giving Zane a pash of death.

It’s a fun, playful video. It’s very much a work of the mid-’90s, packed full of strong ’70s pop culture references. It’s another video that was obviously inspired by the Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage”, and there’s also a bit of Tarantino cool lurking around.

Best bit: the surprise cat ending.

Director: Mark Tierney
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… Martin’s public service announcement.

Jan Hellriegel “Geraldine”

1995-jan-hellriegel-geraldineJan’s back with the first single off her second album. The title character undergoes a metamorphosis, and this guides the central theme of the video.

Filmed on and around the back steps of St Kevin’s Arcade in Auckland, the video starts with a waiflike Jan singing the song surrounded by instruments, her band absent. In the background, a few random K Road freaky people wander past.

A greasy looking businessman strolls by and enters one of the flats in St Kevin’s, where the Wine Bar now lives. The businessman is played by Mika, which should be a hint of things to come. In his apartment, he shaves and emerges as an extravagant Maori warrior. It’s all on.

The monochrome world has changed into a Geraldine’s lush reality. Jan vamps it up, with her hair transformed into lush Alanis Morrisette curls. The back steps of St Kev’s are alive with feathers, smoke, wigs, fire and sinister extravagance.

It perfectly matches the not-quite-right tone of the lyrics, creating a extravagant messed-up world that might not have literally existed in Auckland in 1995, but it’s nice to think it might have.

Best bit: the extravagant moment of transformation.

Director: Kerry Brown
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… a strategically placed smudge of axle grease.

Jan Hellriegel “It’s My Sin”

“It’s My Sin” is a cruisy ode to life. The video is shot in high-contrast black and white, usually on a close-up of Jan’s head. Sometimes her hair and makeup is neat, other times it’s a little messed up.

It’s a simple video, but has really strong visuals. Jan vamps up well, and the high-contrast effect emphasises this even more. Also appearing in the video is an occasional microphone, a blindfold, a candle and a freshly poured half-pint of lager. And given that Jan spends most of the video under what are obviously very bright, hot lights, a cold beverage would no doubt have been very welcome.

On the YouTube page, Jan notes, “During the video I start to melt,” which conjures up an image of a Doctor Who alien, the melting pop star who can’t sustain human form away from the spotlight.

Best bit: the random blindfold at the beginning.

Director: Matt Noonan
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… indie fun day at the beach.

Jan Hellriegel “The Way I Feel”

In 2009, the Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision had a public vote for the top 100 New Zealand music videos. The top video was the dramatic “Maxine” by Sharon O’Neill, while number two was the glorious “Way I Feel” by Jan Hellriegel. Hell yeah.

It was the first song of her debut solo album “It’s My Sin” and great effort was made to make sure she really kicked off. “The Way I Feel” is a stylish black and white video directed by Chris Mauger. Layers of windswept Jan, night-driving Jan, moody poolhall Jan, and guitar-playing Jan float on top of each other. Oh, and some boy scouts too. The video is as cool as the song, which is as cool as the video.

Night-driving Jan features a lot, and that’s what I enjoy the most about it. It captures that feeling of driving on a still night. Not hooning up and down Queens Street, but going out on a quiet night to visit your secret lover.

Jan is again rocking a peasant blouse, but you know what? She totally owns it. Hey, isn’t it time for a peasant blouse revival? Yeah, I think it is.

Best bit: an old man blinks rhythmically.

Director: Chris Mauger
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next: Nature is really awesome!

Jan Hellriegel “No Idea”

The first single released off Jan Hellriegel’s debut album “It’s My Sin” was the lush “The Way I Feel”, and yet the later release “No Idea” was apparently the first to get video funding. I guess someone had second thoughts about which song would be best to launch Ms Helleiegel into pop hyperspace.

“No Idea” is a rock tune that deals with a person who has annoyed the singer. The video, though, is a little confusing. It features Jan singing the song (ok), but is cut with extreme closeups of her band – so close that it’s not apparent that they’re actually playing musical instruments. So it’s like “Who are these random Westies and what are they doing in this video?”

It doesn’t help that one of the guys suddenly drinks from a glass of wine, followed up with a later close-up of a glass of wine. This feels like a reference to West Auckland winemaking (which Jan also touched on in her song “Westie Girls”) but it’s not totally clear. Maybe they just fancy a wine.

But aside from that, Jan in her peasant blouse, high-contrast makeup (including matt lipstick) and shoulder-length hair pretty much represents the cool look of the early 90s.

Best bit: with no context, a man climbs through a window.

Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… Chris and Alec’s four-for-one deal.