K’Lee “Lifetime Left to Wait”

2002-k-lee-lifetime-left-to-waitIn a way, K’Lee was the Lorde of the 2000s. A young female singer going by a single name, mentored by an older male songwriter/producer, singing songs about typical teenage experiences. Only Lorde is a lot more serious and is enjoying international successes, whereas K’Lee ended up marrying Coolio’s DJ and – as she recently revealed – they narrowly avoided death when their home was sprayed with gunfire in a drive-by shooting. I can feel you, K’Lee.

“Lifetime Left to Wait” is the final K’Lee single from the Matty J years, a heartbroken ballad to wrap up her brief yet successful spell as New Zealand’s teen pop queen.

The video sees her sitting against a tree, over looking the scenic Waitemata Harbour and Rangitoto island. She’s evidently come to be alone by the tree, to mourn the departure of her boyfriend.

We also see flashbacks of the couple in happier times. There’s K’Lee filming her fellow with a Super 8 camera as he plays his guitar, K’Lee helps him cheat on a crossword puzzle, and they a game of hacky sack. Then he leaves the house, with K’Lee seeing his forgotten gym bag and throwing it down to him. It’s ambiguous what happens to the guy. Is this him walking out on K’Lee? Or does he end up meeting a tragic ending? I like that the video leaves this open. After all, the song could just be a metaphor for the end of K’Lee’s initial pop career.

I was tipped off to a slight blooper in this video. At around 3:10 K’Lee is supposed to be staring meaningfully into the distance as she sings the emotional chorus, but her eyes dart off to the side, a nervous glance off camera. Just at that moment, there’s an 18-year-old girl sitting on a hill, trying to make a music video.

Best bit: the guy’s “1 + 1 + 1” sweatshirt. Clean out your locker.

Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… a family dinner.

K’Lee “Can You Feel Me?”

2002-klee-can-you-feel-meYes, K’Lee. I can feel you. Introduced by sweeping aerial shots, our heroine returns in a Jeep, hooning along a beach. She’s not driving (possible because she couldn’t drive). Instead there’s a random blonde woman at the wheel, with two other women and a man standing at the back of the Jeep. They all look too old to be K’Lee’s friends, and the man even looks like some sort of safety expert who is supervising the ride.

It turns out they’ve come to a cave, all set up with patio lights for a nautical-themed rave. Sometimes K’Lee sits, looking like a Poseidonette; other times K’Lee and a larger group of the slightly older women and a couple of men dancing in the cave. “The beat is pumping and it’s getting krunk,” sez K’Lee. And I can’t help thinking, yeah, it looks pretty fun, but wouldn’t it be just that much more fun with a a whole lot more boys?

Some men arrive in the form of Brotha D and some Dawn Raid dudes, but just before he delivers his rap, K’Lee reminds him where her loyalties lay: “Universal is the label that pays me.” (Which is hilarious as it’s a reference to a line from “Nuthin’ but a ‘G’ Thang”.) Lucky Brotha D – at an beach cave rave with K’Lee, her women and the on-site health and safety guy.

I was a bit worried about the cave. It looks tidal so what if K’Lee and her posse became trapped by the incoming tide? Well, over on Vimeo, DOP Dan Macarthur (the man responsible for the rather good composition of the video’s shots) notes, “The scene in the cave was shot in a few hours before the tide came back in, and we had to bail at the end and drag the lights out because the waves were moving in.” Well, I’m glad.

As the evening progresses, the group safely leave the cave and frolic in the sea, which is slightly odd coming in the same funding sound as the Heavy Jones Trio’s “Staring at the Ocean”. What was it in 2002 that made people want to jump in the ocean?

Best bit: the fairy lights wrapped around the patio light, a battle of the twee lighting.

Director: Matthew Metcalfe
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… extreme close-up.

K’Lee “1+1+1 (It Ain’t Two)”

2001-klee-1-plus-1This is a magnificent track. First, the Matty J-penned lyrics. These are the top five lines from the song:

  1. “These ain’t my panties and that ain’t my skanky bra!”
  2. “While you’re getting your sex education, I’ll be smashing your new PlayStation!”
  3. “Treating our love like some twisted menage a trois!”
  4. “Playtime is over and your ass is history!”
  5. “Clean out your locker!”

The video of this angry tirade against an unfaithful lover focuses on K’Lee and her posse of six backing dancers. They go through different looks in different settings – there’s edgy street K’Lee, fun K’Lee, blonde Britney-style K’Lee and a J-Lo-style DJ K’Lee.

The backing dancers do a lot of formation dancing behind K’Lee. They’re good, but seem to be in need of a few more rehearsals to get to world-class music-video-dancer quality. But then, K’Lee’s dance moves are retricted to the waist up, which makes me think she wasn’t skilled enough to join in with the formation dancing. Instead she gets a few arm movements and some clever editing and camera angles.

Directed by fancy Australian director Mark Hartley, it’s comes across like an attempt at a modern pop video, but it doesn’t quite get there. There’s not an obvious point of failure, it’s just a bit weak all over. But if you tone down your expectations, the video ends up being highly enjoyable camp fun. The wardrobe changes are entertaining, particularly the frequent bra-as-a-top aesthetic. And it’s strangely refreshing to see bra-wearing women in a music video that doesn’t also involve male performers asserting their desirabilty.

K’Lee ends up as a master of disguise, predating Britney’s wigtastic “Toxic” video. And even though K’Lee’s different looks are done more minimally than Britney, somehow K’Lee ends up looking quite different with each look. Her sassy DJ seems staunch and mature, while the blonde fedora character is too cool for any relationship drama.

This is the most unashamedly pop video I’ve come across so far. It has set its sights high, hasn’t quite got there, but is still a wonderfully entertaining video.

Best bit: K’Lee’s sneering turntablism.

Director: Mark Hartley

Next… an unexpected journey.

K’Lee “Broken Wings”

2000-k-lee-broken-wingsAfter having some success with his own solo career, Matty J Ruys then turned his talents to a behind-the-scenes role as a pop svengali. He needed a tuneful teen to transform into a popstar and discovered 17-year-old jeans shop worker Kaleena McNabb. She was transformed into the popstar K’Lee, though now in her role as a Mai FM DJ she goes by the more mature handle K-Lee.

K’Lee had a run of four top-20 songs, and was apparently the first female New Zealand artist to have four top-20 singles off one album. There was always a bit of backlash from people who felt that K’Lee was a bit rubbish, mainly due to being an attractive young pop singer who was suddenly enjoying hit singles without having “paid her dues”. Woteva. She made fun pop. It makes people happy. It still makes me happy. So let’s delve into the first video of K’Lee.

“Broken Wings” is a cover of the 1985 Mr Mister song. It’s actually way better than the original, with fresh beats, oriental violin motifs and an R&B break in the middle. There’s an article at NZ Musician that looks at the production of the song.

There’s some money behind this video. Directed by Greg Riwai (last seen here with Salmonella Dub’s “Johnny”), it’s shot in a fancy house and uses fancy digital effects, so Universal were obviously wanting to launch K’Lee with maximum impact as a serious popstress.

The video begins with K’Lee phoning up her ex-boyfriend – and we see another woman sitting on his couch. All he manages is a “hello” before K’Lee hangs up. She’s obviously a bit stressed, so goes over to her bedroom turntables and scratches away her sorrows. The camera slowly pans across and we discover there are two K’Lee – one scratching, the other sulking.

The rest of the video is basically multiple K’Lees mooching around the house. And it made me wonder. What if actually there were several K’Lees. What if one K’Lee started dating the guy, then the other ones wanted to get involved. And at first it was hilarious, like “The Parent Trap”, but then some of the K’Lees got jealous, and the original one was like “Nuh-uh, he’s mine!” And eventually the guy found out and was like “Screw this,” leaving all the K’Lees mopey, depressed and single. Yep, that’s plausible.

All in all, it’s a perfectly good pop video for a good pop song. It seems strange thinking that there was once controversy around K’Lee, but it didn’t stop the song making it to number two in the charts.

Best bit: when the pile of photos transform into doves.

Director: Greg Riwai
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next…warehouse party.