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.
Kiwi legend and all round amazing man Stan Walker is back again with new music and an insane new video that signals a radical new direction for the pop star. Katie Parker and Hussein Moses check out what’s cooking.
Hussein: Last time we checked in with Stan Walker, he was armed with a brand new sound. 'You Never Know' might not’ve got the traction it deserved, but it was a good sign of where he needed to be heading (as far away from doing cover albums as possible). Of course, we won’t forget that brief moment he stepped over to the dark side and teamed up with Destiny Church’s Brian Tamaki anytime soon - yes, the lunch offer is still open - but all good pop stars are at least a little unpredictable, right?
All of that brings us to his latest single. It’s called 'New Takeover'. You should watch the video right this minute because it’s awesome.
The black stallion in the clip was a totally calculated decision, it turns out. Stan is still dishing out the best quotes you’ve ever heard - remember when he said he felt like a “little pork dumpling next to all these tall, skinny models” after attending NZ Fashion Week last year? - so we’ll just leave it to him to explain what’s going on here.
“If I’m on a horse, and if I’m on a big black stallion like I was on, man, I’m in a position of power,” he told RNZ. “You don’t muck with me. I’m on the Mufasa of blimmin’ horses.”
THE MUFASA OF BLIMMIN’ HORSES.
I wouldn’t dare muck with Stan.
Katie: As loved as he is, I feel like we’re all guilty of underestimating Stan. Maybe it's the reality TV affiliations or his sweet, beautiful angel face but there’s always been a "my mum would love him" novelty value that he finally seems ready to shed.
'New Takeover' the song, the video and even just the title - is a pretty explicit change of direction for Stan and a really clear statement that he expects us to take him seriously. And it's amazing: racing along the beach on that whopper of a horse, flying the Tino Rangatiratanga flag, and performing with dancers from the Hawaiki TŪ theatre company. The video is nothing short of iconic and, for Stan, unexpectedly radical.
As he says in the RNZ interview: "I wanted to be intentional about my lyrics, about the video, about what I’m wearing, about what they’re seeing, about what they’re experiencing because I’m done with doing just songs.”
The curse of wishy-washiness plagues reality television alumni and New Zealand pop stars in equal measure and, as both, Stan is making some very bold steps here by foregrounding and celebrating traditional and contemporary Māoritanga on a mainstream platform.
Is this what Katy Perry meant with “purposeful pop”?
Hussein: It's not quite the Colin Kaepernick-style turn we were gunning for, but it's not that far off. He's playing to his strengths and the defiant tone of the song and video help to push it to another level. Just check out that opening line: Young boy ain’t no more / I got dem scars, like a soldier. It's a call to arms, a rallying cry and a show of confidence. Give me a whole album of this.
Katie: Totally. And if what he’s been saying is anything to go by, hopefully he will.
The first time I watched the video, I felt like maybe the song jarred with it - you have that super intense, super-stylised opening and then he opens his mouth and this kind of synthy Rihanna-esque pop voice comes out.
But having watched it and listened to it a few more times, I like that kind of clash. The song is catchy and accessible without being soft or compromising and the anthemic repetition of the phrase “new takeover” really drives the video’s imagery home.
Hussein: He said it best himself: “Be proud of who you are, where you come from and whom you come from … I've come from nothing but I have everything.”
It’s hard to argue with that.