Bic Runga Album Reviews

New Zealand’s Bic Runga has only released four albums of original material, starting with her 1997 debut Drive, but despite her limited output, she reigns supreme as the queen of New Zealand pop music. Runga comes from a unique cultural background; her father is Maori, and her mother Chinese-Malaysian, and they met when her mother was performing as a lounge singer in Malaysia. They moved to Christchurch, New Zealand, where they had three daughters; Runga’s older sister Boh also found national success as the leader of Stellar.

Runga burst onto the New Zealand scene at 21 – her debut album Drive was enormous, going seven times platinum, and the title track was a demo that she recorded at the age of 19. Drive often has a sparse sound and long running times; and doesn’t stand as her finest work in hindsight, even though it showcased her sweet voice and hit the mainstream. Runga went for a fuller, poppy sound with 2002’s more satisfying Beautiful Collision, while 2005’s Birds was acoustic and jazz influenced.

With her smooth voice, Bic Runga’s a little too safe and adult contemporary for my liking, even though she’s an obvious talent. But she belongs in a conversation of significant New Zealand musicians, continuing to grow as an artist, and elegantly walking the line between the mainstream and artistic integrity.