It’s really nothing but a statistical reality. The more people that like you, the more that will profess to disliking you too. As in, if nobody’s heard of you then not only do you not have any fans, you also don’t have any objectors either. So if you happen to be big enough to sell out New Zealand’s largest stadium to the tune of more than 50,000 tickets, don’t be surprised if there’s a bit of a backlash too.
Six60 are a phenomenon. Their record-breaking, history-making gig at Eden Park on Saturday night is notable for so many reasons*, not the least of which being that it’s the single biggest concert in the world since the beginning of the Covid pandemic.
This is a credit both to the band as well as New Zealand’s handling of Covid and nobody should downplay just how big a deal it is that 50,000 people gathered at a stadium without a single mask in sight. More importantly, there was no necessity for masks either with Aotearoa among the most Covid-beating nations on the planet.
I had messages from friends in both the US and UK who couldn’t believe we’d been able to safely attend an event like what we had on Saturday. And that’s what it was: an event.
That’s what I said to callers and texters to my Newstalk ZB radio show who didn’t seem to get it, or appeared to actively despise Six60 for getting too big for their boots. One text to the program literally said, “how dare Six60 think they’re good enough to headline stadiums. They wouldn’t even be good enough to be an opening act overseas”. Ouch.
Somebody else suggested the only reason Six60 sold out Eden Park was because of a dearth of live entertainment in the Covid-19 era, a decent hypothesis until you realise Six60 had twice sold out the similarly-sized Western Springs pre-Covid.
My theory is that Six60’s highly commercial, polished blend of R&B and pop makes them not unlike America’s Maroon 5. I’ve said this to people who assume it’s meant as a putdown, which probably reaffirms the point. Maroon 5 are huge, but for every fan there’s a vocal detractor. Who really cares though when you’ve currently got 52-million different monthly listeners on Spotify?
That’s enough to make Maroon 5 the ninth most-streamed Spotify act at the time of writing, a remarkable feat for a band who’s debut album Songs About Jane turns 20 next year. Adam Levine’s falsetto combined with his gargantuan self-confidence rubs so many people the wrong way you can forget just how massive Maroon 5 are.
Need reminding? 15 US top hits spanning the 15 years from 2004-2019. Add to that total record sales in excess of 100-million across their six studio albums, compilations and singles and you’re looking at one of the most successful acts of all time.
The evidence may suggest otherwise, but if Maroon 5 ever entered a dry spell and weren’t landing in the upper reaches of the US charts any more, they should cover a Six60 song. Levine’s R&B-influenced vocals aren’t miles away from Six60’s Matiu Walters and neither are the songs. Again, this is a compliment. Maroon 5 may not be your favourite band, but they are multi-millionaire Californians with records that sound like a million bucks whether you warm to them or not.
For Six60 – a one-time Dunedin pub band who formed at a freezing student flat – to have comparable polish to their rich-before-they-were-famous Brentwood peers is some feat. And beyond the professionalism and sheen, the ear-worm hooks of both bands mean I have no doubt that Maroon 5 could saturate American radio with note-perfect covers of Six60 songs like Don’t Give It Up, Please Don’t Go, Closer and Vibes.
Likewise, Six60 would have zero trouble tackling This Love, Misery, Sugar and What Lovers Do.
Six60 have huge ambition and I don’t begrudge them for it. They’ve racked up a staggering 21 New Zealand top 10 hits in just a decade, giving them the kinds of stats not even Crowded House have achieved at home. But if they really want to be on that same plane as that most rarefied of Kiwi pop acts, they’ll have to compete with what Neil Finn and co. have achieved on the international stage and do it consistently for several decades. Who’s to say they won’t.
But regardless. Six60 already make an awful lot of people happy and there are far worse things in this life to do than that. And if anyone could write pop songs that connect with millions of people, then everyone would.
*There hadn’t been a concert at Eden Park since the Osmonds played to 12,000 people in 1975. Council consents have finally been granted after many years of delays, now allowing for up to six concerts a year at Eden Park. Credit must also be given to Eden Park’s dogged CEO Nick Sauntner and to promoter Brent Eccles for making this happen.