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The paths of New Zealand popular music through Nature's Best


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The Nature’s Best compilation albums (2002, 2003) comprise a canon of New Zealand popular music. Voted the ‘best songs of all-time’ by a mix of musicians, critics and industry figures in 2001, these songs present a particular snapshot of the New Zealand recording industry from around 1970-2000. This paper examines these albums with respect to the musical-historical stories that they tell about New Zealand popular music. My analysis focuses on matters of style—as defined by instrumentation/texture, production, harmonic language, form, and singing techniques—and the large-scale trends that can be observed in this area.
Several trends emerge from the analysis. The first is the absence of direct blues and gospel influences on the 1970s generation of songwriters, who, instead, favoured folk, new wave and ‘soft’ rock stylistic models. The second is the tendency for 1990s songwriters to work within a pop song framework (standard structures, ‘clean’ production), but to adopt the sounds of a variety of international styles (trip-hop, hip-hop, R ‘n’ B, alternative rock). These combine to produce an overall historical reading of Nature’s Best: by 2000, one can identify two contrary narratives within New Zealand popular music history—one committed to the ‘austere’ and traditional pop-rock world (see Bannister 2006), and one showcasing a growing musical diversity. Nature’s Best thus celebrates what New Zealand popular music has been, as well as its progression. Contemporary examples from More Nature (2006) and beyond suggest that these narratives are ongoing in local musical discourse.

Item Type: Paper presented at a conference, workshop, or other event which was not published in the proceedings
Uncontrolled Keywords: Analysis, Music, New Zealand
Subjects: M Music and Books on Music > M Music
Divisions: Schools > School of Media Arts
Depositing User: Nick Braae
Date Deposited: 15 Nov 2016 00:13
Last Modified: 21 Jul 2023 04:25

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