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Chartlander: Hip Hop-R&B holds a majority as New Zealand votes in its first MMP election

Every week Chartlander travels back through time, landing in a different year on the official New Zealand singles chart in the hopes of (re)discovering forgotten Top 40 gold. Today we continue our tour of classic general elections at the dawn of MMP.

The date is the 12th of October, 1996, and today New Zealanders will go to the polls for the country’s first general election under MMP. They will give National 34% of the vote and Labour 28%, leaving New Zealand First, with 13% of the vote, holding the balance of power to form the next government. The party’s leader, the Right Honourable Winston Peters, will take until the 10th of December to decide who to go into coalition with. He will choose National.

On the official New Zealand singles chart things are much simpler. Hip-hop/R&B holds a clear majority, with 28 of the top 50 tracks, meaning it can govern alone. The unruly coalition of pop, rock, alternative, dance and reggae spends this week in opposition, but like Labour leader Helen Clark, they will rise again.

☝️ Number One

Keith Sweat – ‘Twisted’

New electoral systems can be confusing and this is reflected at the top of the chart this week – the prospect of having to do two ticks on Saturday has got New Zealanders well and truly ‘Twisted’. Keith Sweat sings about how “you got to make your mind up” in this slow, seductive single from his self-titled third album, urging the listener to “make up your mind”. It is clear that the burden of democracy weighs heavy on the minds of the single-buying New Zealand public.

🏇 Best Bets

#7: Mista – ‘Blackberry Molasses’

It is a month since Tupac was killed in a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas; in his 2017 biopic All Eyez On Me this will be the song that plays on the car stereo in the moments before his murder. Produced by influential Atlanta production team Organized Noize (TLC ‘Waterfalls’, En Vogue ‘Don’t Let Go (Love)’, Outkast, Dungeon Family…), ‘Blackberry Molasses’’ haunting ‘In The Air Tonight’ drum machine and squalling guitar underpin an emotional vocal performance from R&B quartet Mista. Massive tune.

#31: Toni Braxton – ‘You’re Makin’ Me High’

A perfect slice of mid-tempo R&B written and produced in collaboration with Babyface, ‘You’re Makin’ Me High’ is the first single off Braxton’s second album Secrets. The video briefly features an early example of online instant messaging as imagined by music video directors. This trend will peak when Kelly Rowland is shown texting via an Excel spreadsheet in the video to Nelly’s 2002 single ‘Dilemma’.

#36: Kino Watson – ‘Bring It On’

The Floaters’ ‘Float On’ is one of the smoothest pieces of music ever recorded and by sampling it Kino Watson all but guaranteed himself a classic R&B slow jam. The track’s seductive groove demands equally seductive lyrics and North Carolina native Waston delivers with some spectacularly saccharine lines. “Your love is like a pastry, mmm you’re so tasty,” he sings in the verse, before laying it all out in the chorus: “Bring it on, we can do it all night long.”

Sample alert: The verses of ‘Float On’ feature each of The Floaters introducing themselves by star sign and describing their ideal woman. The full length version in almost 12 minutes long.

🃏 Wildcard

#3: Crucial Conflict – ‘Hay’

‘Hay’ is a funny and cool slang word for weed, which is what Crucial Conflict are rapping about here. This song about smoking weed is exactly 4 minutes and 20 seconds long. 4:20. The weed number.

Sample alert: ‘Hay’ samples Funkadelic’s 1974 track ‘I’ll Stay’.

💦 Erotic Expo

#37: T-Boz – ‘Touch Myself’

Election week ‘96 is a frisky time on the singles charts with a number of high-quality sex jams among the top 50. But while others may be more sultry it’s hard to go past T-Boz from TLC’s song praising the virtues of masturbation. ‘Touch Myself’ was recorded for the soundtrack of the action movie Fled, about two prisoners who escape despite being chained to one another. Scenes from the film are jarringly inserted into the otherwise sensuous music video.

🔎 Major Artist, Minor Hit

#41: Crowded House – ‘Not The Girl You Think You Are’

From the curious genre ‘new songs that appear on Greatest Hits compilations’, the Beatles-esque ‘Not The Girl You Think You Are’ was, in fact, the third new single off 1996’s Recurring Dream: The Very Best of Crowded House. Its position in the middle of the tracklist of that ubiquitous New Zealand CD means it will sound familiar to a lot of people, but as a single, it was a minor hit – this was its one and only week on the chart.

🇳🇿 Kiwi Flagbearers

Total this week: 5

DLT’s massive ‘Chains’ is the highest-charting local entry this week at #13. Annie Crummer’s’ ‘U Soul Me’ off her Seventh Wave LP is #25, while Crowded House and Shihad (‘La La Land’) are #41 and #42 respectively. Supergroove’s ‘If I Had My Way’ from the band’s rocking second album Backspacer brings up the rear at #45.

🎨 Cover Art of the Week

Ghost Town DJs – ‘My Boo’

In a week of fairly uninspired, homogenous cover art, Ghost Town DJs’ ‘My Boo’ cover stands out for its simplicity and apparent lack of any real artistic effort. Classic tune, classic cover.

Previous episodes of Chartlander:

#4: October 27, 1990

#3: June 14, 1984

#2: November 27, 1999

#1: August 10, 1991


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