Welcome to weekly series The Singles Life, where known experts Katie Parker and Hussein Moses peruse, ponder and pontificate on the latest and (maybe) greatest in New Zealand music.
Just 18 months have passed since Natalia Kills and Willy Moon scandalised our small island nation with their unbridled savagery on X Factor NZ. Now they’re back and seeking redemption with a brand new act.
Katie: Imagine a parallel universe where Natalia Kills and Willy Moon hadn’t done what they did. Would they have been successful? Would they have been admired? Would their new project Cruel Youth, fronted by Kills, co-written with Moon, even exist?
We may never know. But with Cruel Youth they show that they have not given up the quest for glory, and their new song Diamond Days is yet another stab at it.
The song and their whole project feels incredibly weird. There’s so much going on. It’s like a rip off of Amy Winehouse, Lana Del Rey and Florence and the Machine, and the video is very Petra Collins circa 2009.
But it’s the kind of thing I would sing along to if it got radio play. I don’t think it’s good but I’ve had it stuck in my head. There's almost an enjoyable perverseness in liking it. But maybe I also hate it?
Hussein: Maybe they hate themselves? It’s hard not to think there’s some element of self-loathing going on between the lines, not that there’s really any subtlety about their approach.
Kills, who’s now going by the name Teddy Sinclair, describes their music as “The Ronettes on Oxy”, but that’s just the beginning of the ultra-clichéd druggy dreamworld we’re being sold here. There’s literally a song on their EP – which also happens to be titled +30mg, by the way – that serves as an ode to prescription painkillers. They really spell it out for you: “Each song is a narcotic lullaby, subtly laced with switchblade lyrics. A psychedelic jingle you might hear while waiting in line at a Western Union, or a laptop symphony soundtracking a car crash in slow motion.”
They can’t escape their past, but they seem to be doing everything they can to try and forget it.
Katie: As a rebrand it’s just so forced and a bit desperate. Cruel Youth? “Psychedelic jingle”?? There’s a song on that album called Hate Fuck, for heaven's sake.
Maybe they’re not trying to escape the past though – it’s almost as though they think they can still incorporate it into this bizarre Sid and Nancy narrative they push so hard, like the X Factor thing was just another one of their romantically rebellious shenanigans. They obviously know, or have been told, that they have to get away from it hence all the name changes and stuff, but in a way they’ve just come up with the same thing they had before.
Funnily enough, Willy Moon seems to have got a bit lost in the rebrand. He’s not featured in any promo pics or videos or anything. Where is Willy? #FreeWilly
Hussein: Don’t say things you don’t mean.
Katie: Not to state the obvious, but the fact that this is such a pastiche of other artists is fabulously ironic given the whole X Factor NZ incident was based around them finding Joe Irvine unoriginal. Actually that seems to be Sinclair’s biggest asset, and it's kind of fascinating that in spite of everything she can still be a songwriter for other artists like Rihanna and Madonna. Everything here is borrowed from someone else in the most sterile and robotic way imaginable.
Hussein: It's just impossible to take a song seriously when it has a line like, “We’re different people, Adam and Evil”. You'd have to buy into their narrative to really enjoy their music, yet doing so is not something that actually works in their favour. I'd rather listen to a Joe Irvine covers album. #BringBackJoe
Katie: Don’t say things you don’t mean.
Hussein: We should’ve just asked Joe Irvine to review this.