Hussein Moses attempts to assess all 20 songs on the longlist for this year’s Silver Scroll Award.
Take that New Zealand Music Month t-shirt back out of your cupboard because supporting local music this year is not over yet!
Without any hype preceding the announcement whatsoever, the longlist for this year’s APRA Silver Scroll Awards dropped very early this morning via an email that went out to media. As usual, the New Zealand music Illuminati based their choice of this year’s top 20 songs “purely on artistic merit” and whittled them down from about 200 or so entries that were released between 1 July 2017 and 30 June 2018.
From here, the longlist will be cut back a teeny bit more by APRA members who care to vote for their favourite songs until we reach our top five finalists and winner. Then we hang tight until Thursday 4 October to see who actually wins – and I feud with Nick Bollinger about it for the following week.
Until then, here’s a casual round-up of who’s nominated, who might take it out, and who is likely to have no chance at all.
The song: ‘A Woman’s Pain’, performed and written by Tami Neilson
Why she might win: The country singer has done it before with ‘Walk (Back To Your Arms)’ in 2014. This is also one of the only songs with an actual message in the entire top 20.
Why she might not: Though a welcome return for Neilson, ‘A Woman’s Pain’ seems a little too restrained to have any real impact here.
The song: ‘Alright’, performed by CYN, written by Sam de Jong and Cynthia Nabozny
Why she might win: The electro-pop singer, who cites Sixpence None The Richer and The Cardigans as influences, has a co-sign from none other than Katy Perry and is currently signed to Perry’s label Unsub Records.
Why she might not: What’s a Katy Perry co-sign really worth in 2018 anyway? Plus, she’s not actually from New Zealand. The song was produced by Kiwi mastermind Sam de Jong.
The song: ‘Aztechknowledgey’, performed and written by Troy Kingi
Why he might win: The name of his album alone – Shake That Skinny Ass All The Way To Zygertron – deserves an award.
Why he might not: Possibly too buzzy for the masses.
The song: ‘Black Crow’, performed by Louis Baker, written by Louis Baker and Steve Rusch
Why he might win: Despite often being in the company of one Thomas Oliver, this is one of his strongest works yet. And he even managed to get the legendary Chris Graham to return to directing music videos.
Why he might not: Despite the song actually being pretty good, it mostly seems to have gone under the radar here in New Zealand.
The song: ‘Conquer’, performed by SWIDT, written by Isaiah Libeau, Daniel Latu, and Amon McGoram
Why they might win: The song is literally about winning.
Why they might not: The Hard To Find Bookshop got moved and then the 312 bus got cancelled. It’s been a tough year for Onehunga. There also hasn’t been a single rap song in the top five since 2004.
The song: ‘December’, performed by Yumi Zouma, written by Joshua Burgess, Charles Ryder, Christie Simpson, and Samuel Perry
Why they might win: A young, talented local band, Yumi Zouma make a very reassuring case that such things still exist which is exactly what Silver Scrolls voters need to ward off their ever looming existential crises.
Why they might not: It’s a lie. They’re an anomaly. Three thin boys and a girl? Impossible. Next.
The song: ‘Future Me Hates Me’, performed by The Beths, written by Elizabeth Stokes
Why they might win: Rolling Stone have already called the Auckland band’s other single ‘Happy Unhappy’ the “song of the summer”.
Why they might not: A review probably won’t help the fact that no one really knows who they are.
The song: ‘Hours’, performed by Julien Dyne featuring Ladi6, written by Julien Dyne , Brandon Haru , and Karoline Tamati
Why they might win: Despite playing on countless local albums as a session musician, ex-Opensouls band member and drummer extraordinaire Julien Dyne hasn’t really seen his solo work reach a wider audience the way it should’ve. This Ladi6-assisted track, with its breezy, bouncy beat, makes a pretty strong case for why that deserves to change.
Why they might not: Musically, it’s still very much an outlier compared to previous year’s winners.
The song: ‘Hunnybee’, performed by Unknown Mortal Orchestra, written by Ruban Nielson, Kody Nielson, and Jacob Portrait
Why they might win: The blissful track is one of many highlights from Sex & Food, which saw the Nielson bros finally stop scrapping and put their differences aside for good. Like Tami Neilson, UMO are also recent winners of the Silver Scroll so they’ve been here before.
Why they might not: It’s not quite as saucy as their tale of polyamory.
The song: ‘Kalega’, performed by Rob Ruha & The Witch Doctor, written by Rob Ruha and Taina Keelan
Why he might win: Ruha has twice won the APRA Maioha Award and has long deserved acknowledgement from the wider industry.
Why he might not: A song about getting away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life in the city probably won’t cut it.
The song: ‘Laugh It Off’, performed by Chelsea Jade, written by Chelsea Jade Metcalf and Bradley Hale
Why she might win: If we’re all still feeling faux Scandi-pop then this is a perfectly concocted combo of minimalist synths and Acne Studios aesthetics – just the kind of offbeat but accessible angle the Silver Scrolls voters could be looking for.
Why she might not: If we’re not then it might be a little bit low key – it’s not an immediate banger, and not necessarily substantial enough to take it to the next level.
The song: ‘New Wave’, performed and written by Seth Haapu
Why he might win: The epic, sub-three minute ballad from Seth Haapu is about “diving deeper into my culture and the confidence that comes from strength and identity.” With his perfect, golden voice, Haapu has always shown potential but with a brief catalogue to his name he hasn’t had the chance to really back it up until now.
Why he might not: “Come hell or high water”; “a new wave”; “dive in” – there’s a few too many H2O metaphors going on here. Plus, playing the piano on the beach will automatically get you docked a few points. Take note from Supergroove and set fire to that MF.
The song: ‘Nobody Gets What They Want Anymore’, performed and written by Marlon Williams
Why he might win: A certifiable darling of all those who enjoy melancholy ballads, doomed high profile romances and sexy young men (according to my girlfriend), Williams speaks equally loudly to the horny and the heartbroken. With a devoted baby boomer following (reports of the fainting elderly plagued his latest Auckland show), he’s one of the strongest contenders for New Zealand’s most elitist music prize.
Why he might not: With the track in question charting the demise of his relationship with ex-paramour and 2017 Scrolls finalist Aldous Harding, voters may be tempted to pick sides and super sexy does not an underdog make. Could Williams be TOO HOT to take this prize??
The song: ‘Nothing To Regret’, performed by Robinson, written by Anna Robinson, Allison Crystal, and Larzz Principato
Why she might win: Touted as the next Lorde as so many before her have, Robinson has perhaps been the most promising successor yet. One of the poppiest of the bunch, Robinson is certainly less depressing than some contenders and sure to pique the interest of those looking to champion a young female artist without having to think too hard.
Why she might not: The other day someone said to me “whatever happened to Robinson? Wasn’t she meant to be the next Lorde?” and I said “Who? Bobinson???” and they said “No, Robinson.” and I said “oh. No, I don’t know.”
The song: ‘Slow Train Creek’, performed and written by Holly Arrowsmith
Why she might win: Similar to Nadia Reid, Marlon Williams and Tiny Ruins, singer Holly Arrowsmith is making a name for herself with a raw, throwback take on folk music – which has already netted her a Tui for Best Folk Album.
Why she might not: Despite the slow-burning beauty of a song like ‘Slow Train Creek’, it’s hard to imagine voters looking past some of the bigger names already on the list.
The song: ‘Temporary Me’, performed by KINGS, written by Kingdon Chapple-Wilson
Why he might win: Known for his breakaway 2015 hit ‘Don’t Worry Bout’ It’, this one is a cute track about an ex’s rebound relationship failing ie. very relatable and just the right amount of petty. Catchy, likeable and pleasantly cathartic, it ticks all the right pop music boxes.
Why he might not: For the hoity-toity music elite, this might just not be quite cerebral enough. No longer a tasty new artist, nor the flavour of the month, cultural capital slurping voters might not consider KINGS enough of a delicacy to champion.
The song: ‘Two Free Hands’, performed and written by Anthonie Tonnon
Why he might win: Anthonie Tonnon’s style has evolved over the years from indie singer/songwriter to leftfield pop maestro. Hypnotic, sublime and totally understated, the synthy ‘Two Free Hands’ is yet another step forward in his transformation. Consider him the underdog of this entire silly competition.
Why he might not: Perhaps too leftfield? Though perfectly executed, ‘Two Free Hands’ isn’t in line with much of the ~trendy~ pop sound that a lot of the list seems to be made up of.
The song: ‘Wallace Line’, performed by Ha The Unclear, written by Michael Cathro
Why they might win: If you’re a fan of cute and clever tales about the pointlessness of long-distance relationships, then this one is for you. (It will also appeal to all the biology nerds out there.)
Why they might not: Despite being way better than a lot of other meh Auckland bands around at the moment, Ha The Unclear have struggled to capture the momentum needed to make a splash at an award show like this. In other words, they’re likely facing the same fate as 75% of the other acts on this list.
The song: ‘We Light Fire’, performed and written by Julia Deans
Why she might win: A veteran and veritable icon of New Zealand music, Deans is one of the few female performers to survive an industry notoriously fickle towards women into the latter years of their career. Still a talented songwriter and performer, ‘We Light Fire’ proves that Deans hasn’t given up the ghost – and provides the Scrolls with a perfect opportunity to prove that all the #GirlBoss biz of 2017 wasn’t just talk.
Why she might not: A female musician over 25 winning a New Zealand music award? It was probably just talk.
The song: ‘You Got Me’, performed and written by Lisa Crawley
Why she might win: Another woman who has dared to outlast the Logan’s Run life-clock that is New Zealand music, Lisa Crawley may have had a stop and start career, but it is one that has over time built her a loyal and devoted following. Reminiscent of an early-2000s era Bic Runga track, ‘You Got Me’ is Crawley at her most melodic and melancholy.
Why she might not: This song is lovely but let’s be real: there are 20 songs in this list. Imagine giving someone on the street even three songs by New Zealand musicians and asking them to form a solid, hierarchical opinion. So, 20? Think of the songs you’ve already heard of. It’s gonna be one of those.
The Spinoff’s music content is brought to you by our friends at Spark. Listen to all the music you love on Spotify Premium, it’s free on all Spark’s Pay Monthly Mobile plans. Sign up and start listening today.
The Bulletin is The Spinoff’s acclaimed daily digest of New Zealand’s most important stories, delivered directly to your inbox each morning.