With their previous video funded in 2002, Stellar returned with “Whiplash”, the first single from the band’s final album Something Like Strangers. “Whiplash” was the band’s 13th funded video, and comes a decade after their very first video was funded back in the ’90s.
While Boh Runga has always been the star of previous Stellar videos, this is the first to ditch the band entirely. Her first solo release was only three years away.
So, it’s night time in Auckland. Looking down from the balcony of a high-rise hotel room, Boh decides to go for a walk along Queen Street. As she wanders along the street (shot in black and white), various genuine drunken revellers play up to the cameras behind her. This kills any notion that Boh is just a lady taking a night stroll – no, she’s a pop star with crowd-attracting capabilities. And wearing a skirt decorated with fairy lights isn’t exactly something a shy lady does.
I was wondering if having the video shot in black and white would obscure its setting, but no – the expats there are in the comments. When a video inspires outpourings from homesick New Zealanders, that’s a sure sign that it’s hit a minimum level of Aotearoan identity.
Best bit: Boh stops off at the White Lady for a burger.
“One More Day” was the final single to be released from Stellar’s second album, and it was the first single not to chart, after a solid run of eight singles in the top 40 from 1998 to 2002.
It’s a pretty standard Stellar song, all epic motivational lyrics and Boh Runga sassing. But there’s nothing special about it, and it’s not at all surprising that it didn’t chart.
The lyrics suggest the song is a reaction to the relentless slog of a touring band (much like what Boh’s sister mused over on her song “Get Some Sleep”). The video avoids the temptation of literally depicting this with a “life on the road” montage, and instead just puts the band on a stage.
The band are performing the song on a slightly grimy looking stage, with steel grey walls and a tomato-soup-red floor. It’s reminiscent of Stellar’s first big video, “What You Do” – the band performing on a stage, with stylish coordinated outfits. The band seem so much more mature since their earlier days, but that seems to have taken away a bit of the crazy energy of their early days. Boh’s trademark neck shimmies are very restrained.
The song isn’t especially remarkable, and neither is the video. It seems like a band who have run out of ideas and have just turned to a kind of autopilot mode.
“Star” was the last Stellar song to make the charts, interesting timing, given the song is named after the band. It’s a fairly standard upbeat Stellar rock song, but the video has an intriguing concept behind it.
Julian Boshier, director of Stellar’s “What You Do” video has some fun with the new freedom technology offered with digital cameras. The video is basically Stellar performing the song on a plain performance area (all wearing black and denim), while they’re shot by a number of fixed cameras positioned around the band.
Oddly enough, it gives the video similar feeling to that of a Big Brother episode. The cameras are there to capture the action, but the shots won’t necessarily be nicely composed. But it means the cutting between shots can be done flawlessly, with a close-up leading to a perfectly matched, totally continuous wide shot.
The editing carefully creates a bit of suspense. We don’t get a proper look at Boh singing until the first pre-chorus. Before then, it’s the rest of the band pacing and playing, with the occasional glimpse of Boh in her breaks between singing.
The biggest moment happens when the chorus kicks in and it’s revealed that the band are playing under a giant star-shaped lighting rig. It’s slightly sinister, like we’ve just discovered that the band are involved in a weird cult.
I like this video as a document of video production in 2002. But it doesn’t seem like a good video for promoting the song. It’s not a particularly strong single, so having an edgier video is a risk.
This video never quite felt like it did the song justice. “Taken” is a cool, sophisticated and very romantic number, but the video feels like it’s gone for laughs and blokey-sexy instead.
The video opens with Boh Runga cruising down the green-screen motorway, flirting with a couple of unremarkable guys who drive past. Boh makes a pit stop and has her vintage car serviced by the rest of the band who bumble around. Then Boh does some more hooning, proving she’s an independent woman because she drives her own car.
Then we see her driving through a bush-flanked road, standing up in the car and wearing what looks to be a blue bedsheet upcycled into a top. No one is driving the car (because it is on a trailer), but there’s no attempt to explain why this is. Maybe Boh is such an independent woman she can make her car drive itself.
She pulls over and the band are there again to polish her car. The motorway men appear and Boh stands seductively with her bedsheet top. But the blokes aren’t interested in her. They just want the car and are more interested in her petrolhead bandmates.
It all annoys me. It’s like the video is too scared to deal with the emotional sentiment of the song and so has just gone for the great music video cop-out of putting the band in a car. But then the song reached a very respectable #6 in the charts, so perhaps the video did a perfectly good job of promoting the song.
Best bit: Boh puts on her driving gloves while hooning down the motorway.
takesStellar return with the first single from their second album “Magic Line”. “All It Takes” is a song about determination and sacrifice, but it feels a bit lazy, like Stellar have settled on a specific sound and all their songs are just variants of that.
The video, however, is less than lazy. Going with the themes of the lyrics, the video puts the band on a picturesque fitness assault course. Boh (who has ditched the shocking red hair of “Mix” era videos) and the band aren’t even given boots and cammo to wear, struggling through the mud in their regular rock threads and carrying their instruments.
The group struggle with the challenges, hurling themselves over planks, along wires, under barbed wire, and over a big-arse wall. There are also a lot of shots of Boh away from the assault course, doing her duties as face of the band. She also bravely sings while standing on a wire, looking only slightly nervous while she sings “I’m looking out for someone who’s not afraid of anyone.”
It’s a similar kind of humour that Joe Lonie has in his videos (especially of the “make the band suffer” variety), but Jonathan King’s cinematography gives the action a much more stylish look.
Stellar seem to do ok with the physical challenges, leaving me feeling confident that they could be called on to as a pop-star territorial army, should Six60 ever take their “Rise Up” song too seriously. But then right at the end we disappointingly find the group exhausted, huddling with blankets and a hot cuppa (and one of them is laid out flat getting oxygen).
Best bit: Boh cleverly using her mike stand to hook a rope swing.
>A girl walks into a bar. The girl in this case is played by Boh Runga and the bar is staffed by the other members of Stellar. Immediately, a man walks up to Boh hands her a $20 note. It’s been defaced, with “Can I buy you a drink or” disrespectfully scrawled across the Queen’s face, and “would you rather have the money?” on the karearea side. What should she do, Timaru? The money or the drink?
Boh takes the money and runs to the bar where she purchases something that looks like a Red Bull and vodka. The $20 is given as change to a blonde woman, who has evidently purchased a $30 glass of red wine with a $50 note. She staggers to the dance floor where a sleazy guy tries macking on her. She pulls the $20 out of her top and shoves it at him. This is all starting to resemble the 1993 film “Twenty Bucks”, which follows the travels of a $20 bill in an American city.
Sleazy guy buys a drink, and again the $20 finds a new owner in the form of a woman who lip-syncs the line “I don’t need a man to complicate me”. She brings two cocktails over to her ladyfriend. Liquored up, they rush off to the loos for some adult fun, shoving the magical $20 at another woman who’s loitering in the loos. This woman wets a paper towel and we get a close-up of her wiping her armpits. Yay.
Armpit lady hits the dancefloor and gets down with a boofy-haired guy, who then pickpockets the $20. Are all the men in this bar douchebags? But karma catches up with the thief. The $20 falls out of his pocket and Boh eventually finds it again.
If you’re wondering what Boh has been doing during all this, well, she spends most of the time dancing, with frequent close-ups showing her flat stomach. The rediscovery of the $20 is quite enough for her and she leaves with it, perhaps to continue the chaotic path of the twenty at another bar.
This video hasn’t aged well. A bar full of people dressed in turn-of-the-millennium finery doesn’t look fresh or sexy in 2012. So I have to keep reminding myself that all the hair and all the clothes were once the dopeness.
Best bit: the bathroom payoff, a modern etiquette.
Are any music videos ever set in boring flats? The kind with beige-walled, under-decorated rooms that are so common in real life New Zealand. Music videos always seem to take place in a world of interesting spaces, and the setting for “Undone” is one of those.
It’s a song about the importance of chilling out and the video takes a similarly relaxed feeling. Boh and the boys relax in their cool flat. It’s that minimalist style with modern furniture, strategically placed interesting things and a few touches of shabby chic, like a Pinterest board in video form.
Boh relaxes on a beanbag while listening to music and reading a magazine, she does a crossword puzzle with heir hair in a towel, she contemplates life while enjoying a cup of Nescafe, she swivels in a chair while dressed in casualwear and generally hangs out on the staircase.
The rest of the band also have some relaxing activities. They read the paper, make a phone call on a mobile phone (remember, this was the ’90s – that’s all you could do on a mobile phone), race cars on a Scalextric set, assemble a model plane, puzzle over the crossword and play a game of pinball. Actually, it sounds like the boys get to have more fun than Boh.
The video seems like a good match for the song. It’s just a nice video that lets the song do its thing without any sense of great ambition.
There’s a crime wave in the city. Someone is stealing mirrors. Car mirrors, hand mirrors – they’re all game. What nefarious villain is behind this? It’s Boh.
Her minions deliver their latest haul. In villainess form, wearing a dark wig and light contact lenses, she looks totally different from the red-haired rock chick seen in other parts of the video. But what does this femme fatale want with all the mirrors?
It turns out she has a glue gun and precedes to glue fragments of the mirrors to the body of a nervous young man, like an R18 Good Morning craft segment.
The video, directed by Jonathan King and looking really good, teases us with this idea, spending a lot of time lingering on the band just performing the song. All is revealed at the end when the young man appears at a Stellar gig clad head to toe in mirror bits, dancing like a maniac.
The only thing left to do is borrow a gag from the Mighty Boosh and wonder if he has mirror balls.