A big night out and just a little controversy

By GRAHAM REID

What would an awards show be without a little controversy? And it doesn't even need to be malicious gossip or the all-important "rumour and innuendo". Just questions seem enough.

And at tonight's annual New Zealand Music Awards the Tuis do have a few questions hanging over them.

However, let's admit it's an impressive line-up of local talent from Salmonella Dub and Che Fu (with seven nominations apiece) through Anika Moa with five, to the inaugural inclusion of R&B/hip-hop and electronica categories. The awards don't simply acknowledge the big and familiar names but also salute the largely unacknowledged talents in the areas of folk, jazz, country, classical and children's music.

The controversies some years ago over what categories there should be for Maori or te reo recordings seems to have settled with mana reo and mana Maori sections. And Maori, and Pacific, artists appear with considerable regularity in all the general categories - witness this year's selection.

But there have been some niggling questions, so who better to ask than Terence O'Neill-Joyce, chief executive of the Recording Industry of New Zealand?

First, why is commercial success a criterion? It isn't considered relevant in our national book, film and art awards?

O'Neill-Joyce prefaces his answer with a personal comment about the music business in which he long recorded jazz, Polynesian, folk and classical music so understands commercial success or the lack of it.

No, this is an utterly practical consideration, he says, when the business is about selling music to the public at large. This is an industry driven by enormous amounts of money so commercial success is a reasonable part of the criteria.

Then how do you measure the commercial success of a single in the single of the year category - if the song was never released as a single? We're thinking Anika Moa's radio hit Youthful.

Ah, the singles charts are based on both airplay and sales, and the airplay success of Youthful drove the sales of her album Thinking Room. So it was a commercially successful single.

Right, even if it was never a single.

The judging then? In previous years judges have been given the nominated albums and singles to consider, then got together for a chin-wag and voting session. It allowed judges to raise issues of concern - like maybe this year why Zed can be in the top group when they didn't release anything new except a repackaged version of their debut album Silencer which was seldom played? But this year judges do it from home and it's a first past the post result, no revote on the shortlist of finalists.

The reason is, according to O'Neill-Joyce, sheer logistics. There were 30 judges (29 actually, one had to drop out) chosen from the media, retail and radio - but no record company people, he insists. That hasn't been uncommon in the past.

It would be expensive, and probably impossible to get all judges together in one place. And the recording industry hasn't discussed the idea of a re-vote after the nominations have been culled to the finalists. It's maybe something to consider. But at the moment it's simply the one with the most votes wins.

And that question about Zed? Well, their record company, Universal, put them forward and they got nominated. Simple.

So there you have it: some questions and some answers. But the music awards have always been like this and probably that's part of the fun. Hiss the villain. It'll be a good night as always - and some will drink too much.

But these being people who prefer to speak through music means there are few memorable acceptance speeches (There have been a few long and tedious ones from people other than musicians, however.) But one thing is sure - and this can be considered a memo to an actor who sometimes plays music. No one will be dumb enough to want to read a poem.

* New Zealand Music Awards, St James Theatre, from 5.30pm (tickets available). Screening TV2, from 10.30pm.

NZ Music Award Nominations

Album of the Year:

Anika Moa (Thinking Room), Che Fu (Navigator), Neil Finn (One Nil), Salmonella Dub (Inside the Dub Plates), the feelers (Communicate).

Single of the Year:

Aaria (Kei A Wai Re Te Kupu), Anika Moa (Youthful), Che Fu (Fade Away), Nesian Mystik (Nesian Style), Salmonella Dub (Love Your Ways).

Top Male Vocalist:

Che Fu, Neil Finn, Tiki Taane (Salmonella Dub).

Top Female Vocalist:

Anika Moa, Boh Runga (Stellar), Hayley Westenra.

Top Group:

Salmonella Dub, the feelers, Zed.

Songwriter of the Year:

Anika Moa (Youthful), Che Fu (Fade Away), James Reid and Donald Reid (Communicate - the feelers).

International Achievement:

Anika Moa, Nathan Haines, Salmonella Dub.

Top New Act:

goodshirt, K'Lee, Pluto.

Compilation:

Various artists (Live at Helen's), Greg Johnson (The Best Yet), Th'Dudes (Where Are Th' Girls).

Producer:

Malcolm Welsford (Scorpio Righting - Garageland), Paddy Free and Salmonella Dub (Inside the Dub Plates), Tom Bailey and Stellar (Magic Line).

Engineering:

Dave Wernham, Tiki Taane and Paddy Free (Inside the Dub Plates - Salmonella Dub), Luke Tomes (Magic Line - Stellar), Simon Holloway (Broken Wings - K'Lee ).

R&B/Hip-Hop:

Che Fu (Navigator), Dark Tower (Canterbury Drafts).

Electronica:

Rhian Sheehan (Paradigm Shift), Shapeshifter (Real Time), Sola Rosa (Solarized).

Country:

Beau Redding (Dime Box), Dennis Marsh (Faded Love), Topp Twins (Grass Highway).

Jazz:

C L Bob (Stereoscope), Nathan Haines (Sound Travels), the Rodger Fox Big Band (Warriors).

Classical:

Gareth Farr (Warriors from Pluto), Jack Body (Pulse), New Zealand Symphony Orchestra (Landscapes).

Gospel:

Felt (Colour of the Sky), Parachute Band (Amazing), the Lads (Marvel).

Folk:

Beverley Young (The Tinkerman's Daughter), Bob McNeill (Covenant), Jacky Tarr (Defenestration), Phil Garland (Swag o' Dreams).

Children's album:

Fatcat & Fishface (Dog Breath), Kids Music Company (Singers on a High Note II), Michelle Scullion (Peaks to Plains).

Mana Reo:

Brannigan Kaa (Taputapu), Ruia and Ranea (Waiata of Bob Marley), T-Sistaz (Whakamanahia).

Mana Maori:

Rangiatea Concert Party (Rangiatea), Ruia and Ranea (Waiata of Bob Marley), Te Ati Kimihia (Te Ati Kimihia & the Children of Tane).

Best Cover Design:

Che Fu & Kelvin Soh (Navigator), Kelvin Soh (Good - goodshirt), Shayne Carter & Andrew B White (I Believe You Are A Star - Dimmer).

Best Music Video:

Che Fu (Fade Away), Dimmer (Seed), Gramsci (Complicated).

Radio Programmer:

Brad King (Rock Network), Dallas Gurney (ZM Network), David Ridler (Channel Z), Marty Lindsay Star FM Wanganui.

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