The Land of the Long White Cloud. Middle Earth. Home of the Kiwis. That’s right, today we’re going on a musical journey to New Zealand! For such a small country, New Zealand has produced some incredible singers that are loved worldwide.
These singers make legendary contributions to a variety of musical styles and genres. New Zealand puts up some big names in the industry, from K-pop to country music. In this article, we’ll explore 10 of the most famous singers from New Zealand and their contributions to pop culture.
You know her from her chart-topping songs “Royals” and “Team.” When not going by her stage name, Lorde, friends, and family know her as Ella Marija Lan Yelich-O’Connor.
Lorde published her first EP, The Love Club, for free on Soundcloud. After 60,000 downloads, her label commercially released it. This led to the single “Royals” becoming an international hit.
This Auckland-born singer and songwriter was only 16 years old when the song topped the Billboard 100. Since then, she has been awarded two Grammy awards, two Brit awards, and a Golden Globe nomination for her work.
Beyond her New Zealand nationality, Lorde also holds citizenship in Croatia—her mother’s family immigrated to New Zealand from Croatia.
2. Keith Urban
Our next singer is a household name in the United States. His name is recognizable even to those that don’t closely follow country music: Keith Urban.
Some people might be surprised that this famous country artist isn’t American at all but was born in New Zealand. Urban was born in Whangarei, the capital city of the Northland region in New Zealand.
Urban has been awarded four Grammy awards, including for his single “Stupid Boy,” and a whopping fifteen Country Music Awards. In addition to releasing music, Urban has made judge appearances on popular music-centered TV shows such as the Australian version of The Voice and, most recently, American Idol.
A member of the wildly successful K-pop group Blackpink, Rosé has led quite a multicultural life. Some people may be shocked to learn that she was neither born nor raised in South Korea.
Rosé was actually born in Auckland, New Zealand, and was mostly raised in Australia. She auditioned for YG Entertainment (who handles Blackpink) in 2012, and four years later, the girl group debuted and is credited as playing a part in the globalization of K-pop.
Known for hits such as “Kill This Love” and “Boombayah,” the group has gone on to collaborate with American singers such as Selena Gomez and Cardi B. Rosé has also pursued a successful solo career and released her first solo album in 2021 titled R. It became the top-selling album for a Korean female soloist.
Born in Hamilton, New Zealand, Kimbra is an artist who combines various musical genres into one unique sound. In pursuing her music career, she moved to Australia and signed with an indie label.
Her biggest song is titled “Settle Down,” which was her debut single that she wrote at just 16 years old. Her 2012 album, Vows, reached #14 on the Billboard top 200.
The singer has also worked with famous musicians such as Mark Foster from Foster, the People. She gained international recognition after being featured on Goyte’s massive hit “Somebody That I Used to Know.”
Kimbra earned two Grammys for her work on that track. She is the third New Zealand singer to win this award.
5. Phil Judd
New Zealand singer-songwriter Phil Judd is known for his work in the groups Split Enz and the Suburban Reptiles. He was born in Hastings, New Zealand, in 1953.
Judd’s musical style ranged from folk to rock and new wave. In fact, he was part of the rock group the Swingers and created “Counting the Beat” with them. After that group disbanded, he formed the Swingers out of some remaining members of his previous band.
Judd went on to do a lot of work in the movie industry. He worked on various soundtracks, including for the firm The Big Steal, and some of his work was used in commercials for decades.
6. Brooke Fraser
Singer-songwriter Brooke Fraser, from Wellington, New Zealand, has been active since 2003. Much of her work is religious and has Christian themes.
Her third album, Flags, was released in 2010 and was her most successful album. This was with the help of the track “Something in the Water,” which was her first #1 single.
Fraser has been a member of the Australian Christian music group called Hillsong Worship off and on since 2005. She won a Grammy award in 2016 for the song “What a Beautiful Name,” which she wrote and sang. Her most recent album, Seven, was released in February of 2022.
7. Hayley Westerna
Born in Christchurch, New Zealand, Hayley Westerna made a remarkable rise from the classical genre. Beyond classical music, Westerna does a long of songwriting for her music as well.
Her top hit, titled “Both Sides Now,” was released in 2005 by the Decca Music Group. In 2006, Westerna joined the Celtic Woman group and even performed for President George W. Bush in honor of St. Patrick’s day.
Westerna has built quite an international audience and has performed in Maori, Irish, Latin, Japanese, Chinese, German, French, Portuguese, Italian, Catalan, and more! She is also a known philanthropist, having worked as a UNICEF ambassador and countless other nonprofit organizations.
8. Neil Finn
Before joining Fleetwood Mac, Finn made some great contributions both as a soloist and as a leader in Split Enz. In fact, he wrote some of Split Enz’s most successful songs, such as “Message to My Girl” and “Got You.”
The Te Awamutu-native singer joined Fleetwood Mac as an official member in 2018. He toured with them from 2018 to 2019. Finn has also been a part of charity work, including the anti-drug organization the Rock Party.
9. Daniel Bedingfield
Penultimate on our list we have Daniel Bedingfield. The New Zealand-born singer-songwriter from Auckland is known for a variety of projects.
His first single, “Gotta Get Thru This,” was #1 on the UK charts. It also earned him a BMI Pop Award. Bedingfield has since had two more number-one singles as well as two top-10 studio albums.
The singer has gone on to write songs for other artists and acted in musicals. He judged on New Zealand’s version of The X Factor TV show and won a Best British Male award from the BRIT Awards.
10. Stan Walker
Although the only artist on this list to be born outside of New Zealand, Stan Walker spent much of his childhood on a marae or a spiritual, sacred space on Mount Maunganui in New Zealand. The singer is also of Maori descent.
Walker was propelled to fame after winning the seventh season of Australian Idol in 2009, becoming the only New Zealander to do so. Soon after, he released “Black Box,” his debut single, which climbed up to #2 on the charts.
Walker has gone on to win five New Zealand Music Awards and has also acted in two films. His most recent album, titled Te Arohanui, was released in September 2021. This album is unique because it is recorded in the Maori language, te reo Maori.
Summing up Our List of Famous Kiwi Singers
New Zealand has consistently produced talented musicians ranging in age, ethnicity, and genre. Artists from this small island have had a profound cultural impact as singer-songwriters, performers, philanthropists, actors, and more.
Whether you want to listen to music in the traditional Maori language or you want to branch out to K-pop, chances are there’s a New Zealander artist for you.
These music icons we’ve listed might not be the only famous ones. Who have we missed off? Let us know and we’ll add them in.