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Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Muscial Politics: New National Party theme song may not be as "original" as Bill English thinks

Gosh, isn't that Todd Barclay scandal just keeping on keeping on; its the gift that keeps on giving.

Actually that's not really true as the matter was starting to fade away, with Barclay on his way out and the parties weekend conference ready to boost the spirits of the faithful, but English had to go and open his mouth and tell a few more fibs and before you know it my Monday morning paper is awash with more fallout from Tape-Gate.

Still what do you expect when you anoint a tobacco industry lobbyist as a MP and when Bill English does not have the store of  public good will and brand equity his dark master had so that come the inevitable moment when the proverbial hits the fan English just gets out the shovel and digs a little deeper.

But the conference was not a total cloud of doom and gloom with National unveiling its all new campaign song Lets Get Together which English told the audience he was sure it was "an original creation".

Well, Bill was right, it is an original creation if a rather bland Dylanesqe (think folk guitar and Bob's signature husky mumbling) rip off can be termed original.

Yet that's not all, because even if the song is an original (if safe and boring) composition, the title sure isn't.

My first thought on hearing the title was that it would be a take on the Younbloods 1966 song Get Together (also known as Lets Get Together) which everyone over a certain age knows for its flower power themes and message.

Alas it was not that song, or even anything like it, which is a shame because while a song about love and peace being brutalized for the National party would be a stomach churning moment in musical history (where as if National had cranked up a Kiwi version of the Horst-Wessel Song I would not have blinked an eye) it would have at least been brutalizing a catchy musical number that would stick in peoples heads.

But wait that's not the only song with that title. There is also this song form the 1961 Disney movie The Parent Trap and this little gem from the 2002 FIFA World Cup in Japan and Korea with the near identical title of Lets Get Together Now.

So we now have the Hayley Mills song of the same title and a bunch of K-Pop and J-Pop stars belting out a rather funky tune (channeling their inner Earth Wind and Fire for all they got) with an near identical name.

And while both are very different tunes, both are more catchy and memorable than the two minutes of my life that I wont get back* after listening to Nationals new musical mush.

Yet if you thought this was where it ended you would be very wrong because what is the layer of cyanide sprinkles on this turd sundae is the video.

First I went to the national Party website to watch it but it refused to let me watch without joining the mailing list so I ended up sourcing a  copy form MP Brett Hudson's Facebook page.

Once I got past that hurdle there was the video itself which is a montage of people and upmarket urban/bucolic rural scenes inter cut with images of the PM (running, staring into the middle distance, having a meeting and attending a party rally).

This obviously represent what National thinks is a broad cross section of NZ (or at least its voter base), set to the low budget folk styling of whichever anon they got to channel Bob Zimmerman.

What one first notices about the video is how nearly all the people in it are white Pakehas and of the few non Pakeha in it the most prominent was picking fruit while another was a builders mate (way to go with the subtlety of the message). The only other noticeable non white face was Alfred Ngaro, nearly out of shot while the camera focuses on Bill and his wife wearing Pacifica themed shirts and headdress.

Certainly if you watched that video and knew nothing else about NZ you would think it was some sort of mono cultural, white persons, paradise with a few Asians and Pacific Islanders thrown in for variety.

But if you watch to the end your rewarded with final shot of English walking towards the camera in tightly framed slow motion, in what is obviously some sort of high gloss attempt at a Tarantino homage but which ends up looking like English has been caught on camera seeing a scandal inspired media scrum hurtling towards him with microphones at the ready as his face is locked in some sort hideous skeletal grimace.

Whats worse is that the template for a good campaign song is not that hard to do. The best examples I can recall is the the 1992 Clinton Campaign using Fleetwood Mac's Don't Stop as its theme (complete with having the band play it live on stage at a rally) and Labours 1972 It's Time. Both of these songs caught their respective zeitgeists and had a good part in ensuring electoral victory for their users.

Even Nationals 2014 Eminem rip-off was a good (if copyright infringing) campaign song and video which matched a catchy beat with a simple image of people working together, so how could they get it wrong this time?

Heck, even the song I suggested that Labour use for it campaign song, last month, could probably be reworked to serve National better than this low budget Bob Dylan pastiche.

All in all its a terrible piece of work and definitely not deserving of being called propaganda but rather like something a junior advertising creative cooked up on their lunch break by taking the first 10 things from a Google search on "National Party New Zealand"and cobbling them together in a very lazy pitch slathered with buzzwords and market speak.

But despite all the scandal over National Party campaign songs this would be my pick for Nationals theme song this year.

Its a catchy little tune, totally original and I am sure that the owner would let Bill and Co use it for free.**

*-Actually six minutes because I watched it three times.
**-With only a few minimal lyrical changes to make it current.


  1. God in heaven, I watched 'Lets get together' till the end, complete with foreign sing accent. It is heart wrenching nineties Montana cowboy, and in shock I saw the rest of the pastiches and Haley original dull with wonder. They could have tried for a Bono like Lennon's 'Come together "
    When I am King we are having no political party songs at all. That was all too much.

  2. Yeah its not pretty is it. I think its the combination of glossy yet superficial which makes this so horrid.

    To be honest its not the worst thing i have ever seen but its clear they got burnt by Eminem and went 180 degrees in the opposite direction but its still came out bad.

    Pro -tip for National, fire your campaign ad agency!