3 Nov 2016

The Singles Life: Are Brooke Fraser’s greatest hits behind her?

10:21 am on 3 November 2016

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.

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Photo: Patrick Fraser

Brooke Fraser’s transition from piano chanteuse to pop princess may be going at a glacial pace, but with Therapy – the only new track on her upcoming greatest hits album – she glides slowly forth once more.


Katie: Kimbra, Bic Runga, and now Brooke Fraser: while Lorde’s away the predecessors will play, and we are being blessed with all kinds of new and random offerings from all of New Zealand’s favourite female musicians. 

Made with New Zealand super producer Joel Little (presumably also capitalising on the Lorde off-time now he’s been usurped by Jack Antonoff), Therapy is the only new track from Brooke’s greatest hits album A Sides, and a step in a new direction for everyone’s favourite Christian.

So much about this is weird. For one thing, this song sounds nothing like her. For another, even though it's poppy, it’s weirdly slow and muted. For a third, do we have other producers in New Zealand apart from Joel Little?

Hussein: Teaming up “New Zealand's Queen B” with Little (who quite possibly holds the award for most successful rebrand in New Zealand music history) feels like an attempt to get back up to speed with our biggest and most recent exports in Lorde and Broods. But Fraser’s at her best when she’s just doing her own thing, not merely tracing the lines of something else. Nothing about Therapy really sits right; perhaps the song might work better stripped right back, or maybe she just needs to embrace the EDM thing entirely. Either way, it’s dying to be remixed.

Katie: I agree, it’s weirdly hollow and surely not what her Winery Tour target audience would be into.

Having said that, I can see why she might want to get away from the good Christian piano girl thing – and really this is just a continuation of the Feist-esque rebrand she started with her last album Brutal Romantic (highlighted hair, more synth, less piano). I didn’t really pay a lot of attention then, but now it seems kind of interesting. Was that album successful? As far as I could tell, it didn’t seem to really make much impact. She did have a baby around the same time, though, so I can imagine that might take precedence.

Hussein: If we’re comparing it to everything she did previously, then I think that could be argued. Saying that, Psychosocial might be the weirdest thing she’ll ever release, which has got to count for something.

(It’s not a Slipknot cover, sorry.)

It does make me wonder what’s going on behind the scenes at her label, or whatever. IV Fridays, a collection of Brutal Romantic b-sides which were released online throughout July, just added to the confusion of everything. Were those songs meant to serve as hype for a new record? Or were they only there as a stop-gap? Does Brooke Fraser hang out with Selena Gomez on the reg? And why would you drop a greatest hits album now? There’s lots of questions. It also feels like we shouldn’t have to ask them in the first place, which is what gets me. Everything she’s done recently just feels a bit out of sync.

Katie: It all seems weirdly unplanned. I know greatest hits albums can be a way to fulfil a contract or whatever, but it seems a little bit early – particularly if she’s still trying to engineer some kind of image reinvention. It also feels a bit like a cynical bid for Christmas sales, which I feel like I’m saying about more and more music releases lately.

Female musicians get a tough deal though, and New Zealand seems to be determined to memorialise rather than celebrate them ASAP. For instance, I wonder if a man Bic Runga’s age (still very young) would be inducted into the NZ Music Hall of Fame? Or are women just seen to be past their prime once they have children? Brooke Fraser is 32, not dead. She doesn’t need a headstone.

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