We power rank the Silver Scroll finalists, from powerful to slightly-less-powerful-but-still-powerful.
Ruban and Kody Nielson
If this doesn’t win, I’ll eat my parrot. I’ll bite his head off and swallow it whole, leaving nothing but a dead, feathery body. This song does something funny to your brain. It’s a pop song, but it’s so much more. If I was that way inclined, I’d say this is one of those songs that might get your third eye fluttering. It’s bigger than a song. It taps into another world entirely. It must win.
Multi-Love sounds a bit like the music that plays at a funhouse in a horror movie, with its warped toy piano, distorted drums and falsetto vocals. In keeping with much of the Nielson brothers’ work, it’s weird, angular, and brilliant.
The Nielsons have been nominated five times. They deserve to win, and it’s most likely their turn. They are the Silverest Scroll.
If a song wins that isn’t UMO, I want it to be this. Tonnon performed on Newsworthy recently and sitting there hearing it performed live for the first time really moved me. And that’s what a good song should do. Tonnon is obviously a fiercely talented writer. This is just a compact little song, but he’s telling this incredibly complex political story. If he won I’d be happy, as he’d deserve it and I wouldn’t have to eat Keith.
Water Underground is the best, and only, song about Nick Smith.
It starts in 2010. Tonnon was working at bFM. Smith, then Environment Minister, had sacked Environment Canterbury’s board after getting a report accusing it of being “science led, not science-informed”.
The board was replaced with commissioners hand-picked by the Government. In Tonnon’s eyes, Smith wanted to get at the aquifers under Canterbury - to use the water to amplify dairy production in the region - despite fears that could have disastrous environmental consequences.
Smith’s transformation into something like the Frank Bainimarama of Canterbury deserves to be spotlighted. The problem is that it’s a hard story to cover. It’s complex and it involves irrigation; empirically the most boring topic in the world.
Somehow Tonnon turns Smith’s bureaucratic maneuvering into a kind of psychological melodrama, distilling the material into a few evocative lines. He fits dozens of news stories into six minutes of chugging rhythm and wailing vocals, and still finds time for a 90 second guitar solo.
Now that’s rock star economy.
Conflict of Interest Declaration: I’m an APRA member and I voted for Water Underground.
Ella Yelich-O’Connor and Joel Little
This is a wonderful song but you can’t win twice, can you? That would be crazy. There would be riots. New Zealand wouldn’t cope. Ella gave such a wonderful speech back in 2013 after winning the Scroll for Royals - any awkwardness in the room evaporated - but I think she’ll be there cheering for the likes of Multi-Love or Water Underground, or any of the wonderful finalists.
This is Lorde in New Zealand music awards.
Yellow Flicker Beat is a great pop song, but Lorde already won a Grammy. If she wins the Silver Scroll this year, she’s like our dad wasting us at ping-pong to teach us some kind of ill-defined life lesson. I just want to know why you did it dad.
Admittedly it’s not really fair that Lorde should be excluded from winning just because she’s better than us. A good solution would be establish a Lorde-themed awards ceremony called The Royals.
I’m a big fan of a simple band performance video. At the end of the day, it’s nice to see people you like just having a jam in a room. Not every music video needs to blow your mind with action scenes or overly-bizarre imagery. While no band will ever pop the best band performance video of all time (A Perfect Circle’s Judith, directed by David Fincher), Mel Parson’s has made a good one. It’s simplistic yet beautiful. I don’t really have an opinion on the song, but man I love the video. If only this were a video competition.
As the saying goes, when life deals you a car crash, make it into a song.
Mel Parsons nearly died when her car went off the road and flipped on the way home from a skiing trip. She went home, decided she was too materialistic, and started writing Get Out Alive.
It’s a good tune, with a stomp-along country rhythm and well-arranged harmonies underpinning Parsons’ strong lead vocals. But there’s probably better songs on this list. It’s a great list! Hooray!
Marlon Williams and Tim Moore
I don’t fully understand the Marlon Williams thing. It’s all so earnest and intense. Obviously he knows how to write a marvellous song - I guess it’s just not my thing. It doesn’t speak to my soul. I feel nothing.
Marlon Williams is awesome, but I don’t think he should get a Silver Scroll for Dark Child.
The song was written by Christchurch musician Tim Moore. He is listed on the nomination alongside Williams, but he won’t be the one who principally benefits from winning. The Silver Scrolls are marketed as a songwriting award and though Williams’ arrangement is beautiful and haunting, all the other finalists either wrote or co-wrote the songs for which they’re nominated.