Russell Baillie: Party music

By Russell Baillie

In the US presidential race, a week hasn't gone by without some rock star's lawyer sending a cease and desist letter to the McCain campaign.

The last one was the Foo Fighters saying they didn't want My Hero being used to herald the Republican nominee 'cause it tarnishes its ode to the common man. And of course, well it's the sort of song which just inspires punching the air and they were kind of worried about the old fella with the dodgy shoulder ... There have also been objections by Heart, Jackson Browne and John Mellencamp to the GOP cranking up rallies with their baby boomer anthems.

Here, we live in hope of such politico-musical controversies, however trivial. If only the Nats ripped off another Coldplay song like they did on that Meet John Key DVD last year. But no, they've gone and got their own anthem this time.

It's called A Brave Country. It's written and sung by some unknown local talent, complete with a children's chorus by the Corelli School of the Arts - "New Zealand's Fame school", says its website, which lists yearly fees for senior students at $16,000-plus a year.

The kids' chorus does sound very sweet. But it starts out sounding like a Sting impersonator singing a tune of vaguely Celtic flavour. Aye, those synthesized bagpipes should wrap up the swinging Scots descendant vote nicely.

It has words, but not many of them. One verse, so far as I can tell, but that might actually be the chorus. It could be said to be a bit short on detail. It goes a bit like this.

Where the sand greets the tide,
Where the oceans collide,
That's where I long to be
In a brave country

Quite. If only the next lines had been "Please vote for me/My name's John Key..."

As it is, it seems the Nats are campaigning with a semi-haiku that may be alluding to either rising sea levels, the desire for a beach pad at Omaha or thoughts of legging it to the Gold Coast.

The musical leanings of the minor parties are a little less of a production number.

Predictably, The Green Party had energy saving acoustic nu-folkies like Jess Chambers, Age Pryor and Justin Firefly at their campaign launch and it sounds like Chambers' lilting voice behind their main ad.

New Zealand First had John Rowles at their opening in what was a brilliant bit of synergy to the party's beloved leader - with their mutual aging fanbases, the shared sense of suave, the hair.

And in the Maori Party everyone just sings OK? No need for campaign songs. Just pass the guitar here.

Then there's Labour, the party that has been the musician's friend for the past decade. You seen any skinny local music stars lately? The various NZ on Air funding mechanisms should come with their own health warning: "Contains more calories than a starving artist needs as a daily intake."

Labour's campaign launch last weekend had performances from King Kapisi and Elemeno P which sure had it over the Nats' medley of disco hits at their bash.

And Labour has a killer campaign song - but you'll be unlikely to hear it unless you go looking (it's here at www.thestandard.org.nz/labours-earworm, as the party ad campaign has opted for soothing New Age arpeggios to go with Helen Clark's faux-interview ads.

But Chris Knox - who campaigns fairly blatantly for the incumbents on this page via wee Max - came up with Way Better!!, a full bodied vastly-worded catchy-as-heck campaign jingle.

Only problem, it seems, is that it has so much wild-eyed personality, it's only being used in-house rather than roaring from our televisions.

A pity that. And not just because it's the best New Zealand pop song supporting the left-leaning establishment since Ebony's Big Norm way back in 1974.

No, because if it got heard it would likely top the charts, and that's at least one pre-election poll Labour has a chance of winning.

- NZ Herald

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