Bic Runga Belle

10 Best Bic Runga Songs

Bic Runga was born in 1976, the youngest daughter of a Chinese Malaysian lounge singer and a Maori ex-serviceman. While still in her teens, major record labels entered into a bidding war for her signature.

Bic Runga’s a New Zealand music icon despite releasing only four studio albums of original material. She was a huge star in New Zealand during the peak-CD era of the late 1990s and early 2000s, with her first two albums, 1998’s Drive and 2002’s Beautiful Collision particularly successful. “Anywhere else I would be filthy rich,” she said in a 2002 interview. “As luck would have it, I sell a lot of records in the smallest territory in the world.”

Despite her success and smooth voice, there’s enough restless creativity to make Runga an interesting artist. Each of her albums has a distinct identity from the introspective singer-songwriter of Drive, to the unabashed pop of Beautiful Collision, to the music geekery of Close Your Eyes. Read on for her ten best songs.

10 Best Bic Runga Songs

#10 The Lonely Sea

from Close Your Eyes, 2016
Never a prolific writer, Runga’s 2016 album was comprised mostly of covers. They demonstrate the taste of a keen music fan, taking in critically adored artists like Love to The Blue Nile. Runga told Offbeat Music that “I think the songs that made it onto the record, they felt autobiographical. They felt like I was using my own words.” The best of the covers is her version of ‘The Lonely Sea’, a very early Beach Boys song that benefits from a fuller arrangement.

#9 Sway

from Drive, 1997
‘Sway’ is easily Runga’s most famous song – it featured in a key scene in American Pie, while in 2002 it was voted the 6th best New Zealand song of the 20th century. Runga, barely out of her teens, wrote and produced ‘Sway’ singlehandedly. She told AudioCulture that “I wrote that on my porch, and again it just happened really quickly: it seemed to write itself. People might already know this but there was a piece of graffiti on the Wellesley Street bridge which said “sway”. I just liked the word and the image it conjured up. I’d also been listening to David Bowie a lot and there’s that great line in ‘Let’s Dance’ where he sings “sway through the crowds to an empty place”, so that word just resonated with me.”

#8 Get Some Sleep

from Beautiful Collision, 2002
In 1998, Runga played Lilith Fair, a travelling show for female musicians. She later explained to NZ Herald that the Predominantly female and excitable – the sort of thing men should really get along to. But she felt unable to relate to the Lilith Fair artists, and on her second album she embraced a poppier sound. ‘Get Some Sleep’ was the highest-selling song from a New Zealand artist in 2002. 

Bic Runga Birds

#7 If I Had You

from Birds, 2005
After the pop of Beautiful Collision, Runga’s sound was darker and more contemplative on Birds. It was recorded live in the studio, and the darker mood was inspired by the death of Runga’s father. On ‘If I Had You’, Runga is in torch song mode. It brings out a depth to her voice better than her first two records.

#6 Good Love

from Belle, 2011
On her fourth album, Belle, Runga experimented with working with co-writers. ‘Good Love’ is the first of two songs on this list written with Evermore’s Dann Hume. It captures a 1960s girl group flavour – it’s not miles away from a Supremes song.

#5 Gravity

from Beautiful Collision, 2002
One of my favourite songwriting tricks is withholding the song’s central riff. There’s a simple piano figure at the centre of ‘Gravity’, but it’s often missing, Its absence gives ‘Gravity’ a tension, a feeling that someone’s missing.

#4 Hello Hello

Runga made an effort to regain some pop zip after the darkness of Birds. She told AudioCulture that “‘Hello, Hello’ is one of the catchiest songs on the record. It was a conscious effort, after Birds, to have a song that radio would go for because I’d learnt, the hard way, that’s a necessity these days. There are a few songs on the album that are deeper than ‘Hello, Hello’ so it was a practical consideration to include a lighter song, like this, to have that radio appeal. It’s important, to me, to be able to tread the line between writing a catchy song while not surrendering your own sensibilities and I think this song does that.”

#3 Listening For The Weather

from Beautiful Collision, 2002
It’s mandatory for every major New Zealand artist has a song about the weather – DD Smash’s ‘Outlook for Thursday’, Crowded House’s ‘Four Seasons in One Day’, and Straitjacket Fits’ ‘Hail’ are among numerous examples. Runga’s contribution to the canon is ‘Listening for the Weather’. New Zealand’s unpredictable weather is used as a metaphor for the lack of certainty in her life. The harmonica gives

#2 Something Good

from Beautiful Collision, 2002
After feeling oversaturated with ‘Sway’ and ‘Drive’ from Runga’s first album, the poppy delight of ‘Something Good’ was the song that made me into a fan. It’s breezier, and the string section is a nice touch. Runga told AudioCulture that “I wrote ‘Something Good’ when I was on tour with Dave Dobbyn and Tim Finn. They were actually the first people I played it to, backstage before a show. It was in one of those big, old theatres, where it’s all dark behind the curtains, and I remember playing it to them just before we went on. I don’t remember Dave saying much about it but Tim said, “Oh, yeah, that sounds good.” We managed to get that song together for the tour, and it was cool playing it live with those guys.”

#1 Winning Arrow

from Birds, 2005
Runga took a step back from commercial concerns on her third album. ‘Winning Arrow’ is less catchy than the singles from Beautiful Collision. It features guest appearances from other notable New Zealand musicians – Crowded House’s Neil Finn is on piano, Trinity Root’s Riki Gooch on drums, and Anika Moa and Shayne Carter on backing vocals. ‘Winning Arrow’ benefits from the full sound, supporting Runga’s pretty melody.

Did I leave out your favourite Bic Runga song?

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  1. I love Bic Runga. These are all great choices, and “Listening For The Weather” might be my favorite from this list, but surely there was room in the top 10 for “The Be All And End All.” I wish she was more prolific but I’ll take whatever music she shares with us.

    • It’s a cool there’s a fan out there in the blogosphere – I was assuming noone would have heard of her!

    • Yeah, ‘Sway’ was featured on American Pie, which is a somewhat dubious claim to fame, but probably what she’s best known for outside of NZ.

    • Yeah, she never really got big outside of NZ. I like her quote about being “filthy rich” if she was a star in a bigger country.

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