From Crowded House to Lorde, not a year goes by without a Kiwi artist or group making their mark on music’s world stage. Rolling Stone unearths eight more destined for a global chart attack.
Your favourite Kiwi rapper’s favourite rapper. “If I could bet all my money on anyone, it’s Shiraz,” Melodownz once said of the rising Tāmaki Makaurau artist, and it was far from undue praise. Boasting a hypnotically smooth delivery and impressive consistency, Shiraz’s career has been on a steady upward trajectory for a few years now. Whether he’s performing alone or hooking up with another underground star like Diggy Dupé, his verses are always killer. The country’s hip hop scene is thriving in 2023 thanks to performers like Shiraz.
Supporting Future Islands at Powerstation is a huge career landmark for any artist, but doing it without releasing one song? That’s just showing off. Tāmaki Makaurau-based singer-songwriter D.C. Maxwell did just that earlier this year, and when he finally shared his first single, “The Leading Man”, he proved that the hype wasn’t premature at all.
The track was a remarkably assured debut, Maxwell positioning himself confidently and stylishly in the spotlight, clearly eager to show what all the fuss was about. A preacher with a point to prove, he channelled Townes Van Zandt and Nick Cave on the stirring single, unwinding an enthralling narrative. Maxwell possesses an unabashedly theatrical performing style that recalls folk rock crooner Father John Misty, and New Zealand has a fascinating experimental pop artist to contend with in 2023 and beyond.
The project of Zoë Larsen Cumming, who spent years promoting rising Aotearoa talent on 95bFM, Babe Martin finds her exploring her own artistry with thoughtfulness and gracefulness. Her debut single under the moniker, “Knocked for Six in BHX”, revelled in gentle beauty, hesitant keys, and haunting swells of cello — lifting Cumming’s fragile voice. The tender simplicity left plenty of room for stillness, and the track held the listener strangely captive. Where some artists come flying out of the traps on a debut release, overeager to impress, Cumming rightly believed in the quiet effectiveness of her style.
Christchurch might just have a future global pop star in its midst. Chosen to showcase at SXSW, ASHY’s songs are propelled by supreme self-confidence and cheeky swagger, the sound of an artist that knows this is her moment. Her debut EP, Status, dropped this year, filled with dazzling pop gems like “LA Talk”, which wryly called out the “basic bitch” types that she’s endured in the music industry. More than most, ASHY knows how meaningful it is to get to this point: the Kiwi-Indian singer isn’t about to let all of this fade away, and her songs proudly explore what it means to be an artist of colour in Aotearoa today.
Rita Mae comes from an Aotearoa music family, but she’s not let that fact rush her fledgling career. The daughter of late Jean-Paul Sartre Experience guitarist Jim Laing, Mae has developed her music at her own steady pace, finding a tender songwriting talent along the way. The Muriwai singer-songwriter’s debut EP, Superfeeling, paired soft vocals with contemplative instrumentation, Mae showing herself to be unafraid of vulnerability in the raw songs. The EP glided between melancholic indie and brooding emo pop, Mae sounding like a cool cross between BENEE and Vera Ellen. Music is in her DNA, and Mae’s future as an artist in her own right looks very bright indeed.
There’s a reason that everyone from ASHY to JessB loves Jujulipps; a force of nature, a fearless hip hop artist who performs with a feverish flow. She made waves with the dynamic anthem “Hilary Banks”, proclaiming herself as the main character; “know you’re that bitch,” as she once told NZ On Air. Born in South Africa and having ancestral ties to Burundi and the Congo, Jujulipps’ hip sound contains traces of everything from Amapiano to Afrobeat. This child of the diaspora loves to celebrate global sounds in her music, and her songs are all the more vibrant for it.
Atmospheric indie-rock trio Soft Plastics were chosen to take part in the global discovery platform Ones To Watch earlier this year, and they built on that success with the release of Saturn Return, one of the best New Zealand albums of 2023. The band’s beautiful songs are lightly melancholic, their style wholly unhurried — a sonic balm in these hyper-digital times. A towering creation of hypnotic pacing and emotional lyricism, Saturn Return was a mighty impressive debut offering from the Te Whanganui-a-Tara outfit.
With an artist name that seems wilfully elusive, there’s actually nothing subtle about dœgægé’s music. Caleb Doe’s songs under the moniker have expressive titles like “A HEADACHE & A BLACK EYE” and “A DYING GNOME”, and he performs like the 1975’s Matty Healy doing his best pop-punk impression. Born in Aotearoa but now based in Melbourne, dœgægé (pronounced doh-gah-gay) creates music that is peculiar, precocious, but undeniably fun. It sounds like he’s aiming for a genuinely new sound, and powered by youthful exuberance, he often succeeds in this mission.
This review features in the September 2023 issue of Rolling Stone AU/NZ. If you’re eager to get your hands on it, then now is the time to sign up for a subscription.
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