Following Drive, Runga recalls playing Lilith Fair alongside Jewel and Sheryl Crow, and realising that that she didn’t like any of the female singers she was lumped in with. I didn’t enjoy the songs of Drive, but Runga gained my attention with the sunny pop of Beautiful Collision. Runga enlisted a veritable who’s who of New Zealand music, including Dave Dobbyn, Neil Finn, Pluto’s Milan Borich, various members of Goldenhorse, and her sister Boh (from the much less interesting Stellar). The result’s a charming album of sophisticated pop, full of gorgeous string sections, but with enough whimsy and personality to avert blandness.
Beautiful Collision is full of good songs, opening with the sweet and minimal ‘When I See You Smile’, with just Runga and her guitar, followed by a beautifully constructed and upbeat singles, the wonderfully effervescent ‘Something Good’, with a beautiful string interlude, and ‘Get Some Sleep’. These are balanced by more introspective moments like ‘Honest Goodbyes’ and ‘She Left On A Monday’, and topped off by more ambitious pieces like the closing ‘Gravity’, where the arrangement is constantly waiting for a delicate piano figure that only appears intermittently. The title track is one of the most eloquent songs ever written about sex, while ‘Listening For The Weather’ is yet another gorgeous piece.
You could argue that Beautiful Collision is a little generic, but it’s an accomplished collection of sophisticated pop music, a huge step forward from her uninteresting debut.