25 Iconic Kiwi Songs International Students Should Listen To – Part One
Here’s part one of our list of 25 classic Kiwi songs that you should listen to when you are in Aotearoa, New Zealand. The rules are simple – one song is allowed per artist, though special mentions will also be included after the chosen song/performer has been discussed. This list is in no particular order. Once the second part of our countdown has been released, there will be a link to this here.
You can find the entire list of songs in a playlist we put together on Spotify.
1. Poi E – Patea Māori Club (1984)
This number one hit song from 1984 remains a cult classic in Aotearoa and is one of only a few Māori songs to be fully embraced by the nation. The song has even inspired a movie, which tells the story of its creation and reception in New Zealand and around the world.
2. How Bizarre – OMC (1995)
Also known as ‘Otara Millionaires Club’, OMC’s smash hit became NZ number one in 1996 and stayed there for three weeks. The catchy horn-driven tune is still on many people’s playlists even today. Singer and creator Pauly Fuemana died in 2010, but his legacy will live on forever because of this song.
Special Mentions: Land of Plenty and Right On.
3. Slice of Heaven – Dave Dobbyn & Herbs (1986)
Both Dave Dobbyn and Herbs are still active today, but they are forever immortalised with a song that was originally created for the film version of the beloved Footrot Flats cartoon. Since then it has become one of NZ’s most popular and played party anthems.
Special Mentions (Herbs): French Letter – known as the ‘nuclear-free’ anthem, Parihaka, See What Love Can Do and Sensitive to a Smile.
4. Sway – Bic Runga (1997)
Sway was not only popular in NZ but also made waves in Australia, Ireland and the UK. She has been performing since 1996 and released her debut album Drive in 1997 under Sony New Zealand, who she remains signed to today. She has since released five more albums, been appointed a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to music (2006) and has been inducted into the NZ Music Hall of Fame (2016).
Special Mentions: Bursting Through, Drive, Suddenly Strange and Get Some Sleep.
5. Why Does Love Do This To Me? – The Exponents (1992)
Once known as ‘Dance Exponents’, the group produced hit after hit through the 80’s and 90’s, with their songs crossing generations and winning awards in 1984, 1992 and 2015 (when they were inducted into the NZ Music Hall of Fame). In 2007 their frontman Jordan Luck became the first ever inductee into the APRA Hall of Fame. Their three most well-known songs here could easily be swapped with one another as they continue to be just as popular now as they were when first released.
Special Mentions: Victoria and I’ll say Goodbye (Even though I’m Blue).
6. Don’t Dream Its Over – Crowded House (1986)
Made up of two Kiwis (Neil Finn and Tim Finn) as well as two Australians and two Americans, this band has sold over 10 million albums and have a string of hit songs that are still adored in both NZ and Australia. Every song they came up with seemed to be destined for greatness and it was so tough to pick just one to spotlight. However, Don’t Dream Its Over gets the nod because of its national and international success. In NZ it peaked at number one, in America it made it to number 2 on the charts and in Australia it made it to number 8. It was also written by Neil Finn, so us Kiwis can claim it even more. Check out the classic Crowded House website for a trip down memory lane!
Special Mentions: Weather With You, Better Be Home Soon, Distant Sun, Private Universe and Four Seasons In One Day.
7. Loyal – Dave Dobbyn (1986)
He’s had such a massive influence on NZ music that it’s hard to describe Dave Dobbyn (ONZM) in just a paragraph. Following up from his work with DD Smash, Dobbyn has had a highly successful solo career, releasing hit after hit and forever cementing himself in Kiwi culture. There are so many hits that could be in this position, but we couldn’t go past the timelessness of Loyal. Dobbyn was the 13th inductee into the NZ Music Hall of Fame and has won many NZ Music Awards and APRA Silver Scrolls. His talents as a songwriter, singer and instrument player are all equally incredible.
Special Mentions: Language, Welcome Home, Beside You, You Oughta Be in Love and Naked Flame.
8. Don’t Forget Your Roots – Six60 (2011)
One of the many songs that blew up from the band from Dunedin’s 660 flat self-titled debut album, this is the song that most people identify with. The band have achieved success in NZ and internationally by consistently backing up their debut album with two more hit albums and plenty of hits.
Special Mentions: Rise Up 2.0, Special, Only To Be and Vibes.
9. Forever Tuesday Morning – The Mockers (1984)
The short run of Andrew Fagan’s band (1979 – 1988) was enough to leave Kiwi music with one undeniable hit song and other classics. The band reunited for a live album and tour in 2018.
Special Mentions: One Black Friday, Swear It’s True and My Girl Thinks She’s Cleopatra.
10. Nature – Fourmyula (1969)
Dubbed ‘New Zealand’s Beatles’, this group had the top song of all time on the APRA (Australasian Performing Right Association) list of the top 100 NZ Songs of All Time (as voted in 2001). It was also the first song on the Natures Best top 30 NZ songs of all time CD collection.
11. Home Again – Shihad (1998)
Frontman Jon Toogood formed the band with Tom Larkin in 1988. The song has a hugely impressive ‘one-shot’ slow-speed (and yet sped up) video clip to see and listen to even now. A memorable song and a band that continues to this day.
Special Mentions: Pacifier and Bitter.
12. Dominion Road – The Mutton Birds (1992)
Frontman Don McGlashan arrived from ‘Blam Blam Blam’ and ‘The Front Lawn’, Ross Burge was from ‘Sneaky Feelings and guitarist David Long had played in ‘The Six Volts’. Together the Aucklanders created a legacy. Dominion Road, a street in Auckland, was immortalised in the song by The Mutton Birds. And that song, in turn, is their most memorable.
Special Mentions: Anchor Me, The Heater and Nature (a cover of the Fourmyula song).
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