Hannah Donald “Thinking Of You”

2002-hannah-donald-thinking-of-youHannah Donald is a Christian singer who was later nominated for Best Gospel/Christian Album at the 2007 NZ Music Awards. “Thinking of You” was a track on that album, released four years after the song was initially funded.

It’s not an overtly Christian song, though I’m sure the spirit of Jesus in there if you know where to look. It’s also not the sort of pop song that was popular in the early 2002. It has more of an ’80s sound, like the sort of thing Sharon O’Neill would have released.

The video is set in Auckland and opens with a great DIY aerial shot of the rain-soaked city, courtesy of the Sky Tower. And because it’s a rainy day, Hannah spends most of the video moping around Auckland, wearing different hairstyles and outfits.

The misery continues until she stops by the Open Late Cafe (RIP) in Ponsonby and has a coffee – and because it’s during the day, she’ll all by herself. But this leads to a more cheerful mood, with a joyful dance in the rain. See, it’s not so bad.

It’s a nice song and a nice video, but it just doesn’t feel strong enough or interesting enough to survive in a pop world alongside Shakira or Avril Lavigne.

Best bit: the old stained glass windows at the Open Late.

Next… a long walk.

Epsilon Blue “u r a star”

2002-epsilon-blue-u-r-a-starIn a post-Strawpeople world, electronica act Epsilon Blue have the chilled-out “u r a star” (all their song titles are in lowercase), with lush guest vocals from Josephine Costain. It was their first and only NZ On Air funded video.

The song’s lyrics primarily consist of “you are a star” repeated over and over, but as my fourth form English teacher said, repetition can be used to get the point across. So what’s the point here? Well, that the subject of the song is a star. Madonna took a similar thematic route with her 1983 hit “Lucky Star”, heavenly bodies and all.

The video takes an astronomical theme, with an elegant assortment of telescopes, monitors, knobs and levers, all culminating in some big old satellite dishes. This all implies that the “you” in question literally is a star, a luminous sphere out in the milky way. If that’s the case, then this video take a tired concept (“baby, you’re a star”) and turns it into an ode to celestial bodies.

It’s a very attractive video, with the camera slowly gliding around the scientific equipment. Most of all I’m pleased that a video can be set in a scientific setting without resorting to the old “mad scientist” trope.

Best bit: The R&B hands that Josephine briefly does near the end. So 2002.

Director: Paul Redican

Next… what to do when it rains.

Eight “Moments Gone”

2002-eight-moments-goneAfter the very serious video for previous single “Whale” (starring the lone traveller and his crossroads conflict), Eight return with a much more lighthearted video for “Moments Gone” – but a song with the same epic rock scope as “Whale”.

This time the action centres around the unusual goings-on in the lobby of a building. Away in a dark room, a man with a neckbrace and a stern bespectacled woman review a security tape, trying to get to the bottom of the incident that saw him end up with a neck injury.

On the tape we discover an assortment of wacky zany madcap characters causing chaos in the lobby. There’s a cleaner who seems more interested in using his mop like a mike stand, a naked guy, shifty fellows in trenchcoats and fedoras, aloha party office workers, a girl on rollerskates, a flasher and, in a special cameo, the traveller from “Whale”.

The tape also shows the source of the man’s injury – he slipped on a banana peel. But how did the banana get there? Why, it was dropped by a giant gorilla. The woman quickly works up a sketch of the culprit. But is this fair? Surely the cleaner should have noticed the banana peel and picked it up. But no – he was too busy pretending to be a rock star to do his job properly.

Here’s my dilemma. It’s a fun video, but it seems completely at odds with the tone of the song. It’s more like the sort of goofy adventures drummer Paul Russell’s old band Supergroove would have had in their early videos. These guys have a mature rock sound. Their video should be more advanced than a high-school-quality romp.

Best bit: the sketch artist’s detailed likeness of the gorilla.

Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… written in the stars.

Bic Runga “Get Some Sleep”

There’s the old maxim “write what you know”, which comes with a caution in the world of pop. As soon as an artist becomes successful, their ordinary life becomes that of a constantly travelling entertainer and soon bands start writing epic songs about “the road”.

With the first single off her second album, Bic Runga had also reached that point, with this ode to the tiring routine of a promo tour. Thankfully the video avoids the temptation of showing Bic having Groundhog Day moments in record shops around America. Instead the video sees her driving around New Zealand in a mobile radio station van. And radio is so much more romantic than sleep deprivation.

As she travels through picturesque New Zealand towns, picturesque young people listen to her broadcast. It makes everyone happy. It inspires people to dance. Life is sweet.

The mobile studio’s technology is interesting. Bic plays a CD, but there’s also an LP spinning (that van must have serious shock absorbers). And occasionally we see a tiny grainy, digital shot of Bic broadcasting, which I’m guessing is a webcam shot, back when webcams were tiny and grainy.

With the chorus wondering if Bic is having fun (she believes she might be), the video gives a more definitive answer. Yes, she is. She’s hooning around the country with a dog and a dude, playing records, meeting fans and enjoying herself. And the final shot of Bic finally taking the wheel of the van makes it clear that she’s in charge.

Best bit: the appearance of dudes with stretched earlobes.

Note: There’s an alternate version of the video, which I assume was made for international audiences. It takes a more literal and more glamorous angle, with Bic rolling around on a hotel bed, before running off into a limousine. It was directed by UK director Alexander Hemming, who around the same time had directed the slick-as “Just a Little” video for UK Popstars rejects Liberty X.

Directors: Ann Kim, Graham Sinclair
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… caught on camera.

Augustino “Captain Zero”

2002-augustino-captain-zero“Captain Zero” is an unusual song in that it’s quite good, but also not. It’s a hook-laden pop-rock number, but yet it somehow feels a bit too clean. It’s like if there was a movie about an indie rock band that had one big hit record, this would be it. And it wouldn’t quite be convincing.

The video is just as nice. The video starts with shots of the band lazing around a bar. While the song is kicking off with great energy, the band looks tired and depressed as they slouch in the bar’s booths. But as soon as the first verse begins, the band are suddenly in position with their instruments, rocking out.

The proper bandmanship continues until the chorus, a laid-back bit regarding Captain Zero himself. This sees the band return to their lazy-arsed positions, all looking fairly disappointed by this Captain Zero chap.

This alternating style continues, but as the song approaches its end, things get shaken up a little. The camera begins to wobble and go in and out of focus, as if it’s been overcome by the intensity of strange world of Captain Zero. This is a bit of a trademark of Greg Page, something that has taken on an uneasy new meaning after the earthquakes of recent years.

New video editing technology is put to use with a filter that keeps only red colours, rendering everything else in black and white. Now it’s the sort of thing you could now do with an iPhone app, but back in 2002 it was a cool new thing.

Maybe I’m inflicting really high standards on Augustino based on their previously brilliant videos and songs. “Captain Zero” is a good video and a good song, but it just feels like there’s something missing.

Best bit: the serious jacket pocket zip-up.

Director: Greg Page
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… pirate radio.