■ REVIEW: On Song
Well-tuned mix of Kiwi songs

Every song has a story to tell and New Zealand’s pop classics are full of great stories.

Freelance music writer and Stuff blogger Simon Sweetman had the job of picking out 30 of the best Kiwi pop songs to feature in this book and I have to say it’s a task I would have struggled with: there have been some amazing songs by Kiwi artists over the years. Where do you start? I don’t think I could have chosen which 30 songs to include or – more to the point – which ones to leave out.

Sweetman is a bloke with strong opinions on music and whether or not you agree with his opinions, there is no denying he has a passion for all things music, New Zealand music in particular.

I frequently fall into the “don’t agree with the bloke” category but that’s what makes him an interesting read, so my time reading his blog posts is punctuated with a good dose of eye-rolling and snorting, as well as nodding in agreement on occasions.

The songs featured cover every taste, style and decade of pop music and will no doubt generate a lot of debate. The stories are fascinating, from how New Zealand’s most successful song Don’t Dream It’s Over very nearly never happened to a news report prompting Shona Laing to utter that classic line “Glad I’m Not a Kennedy” and the inspiration for the best NZ song ever, as decided by APRA, Nature.

There are stacks of other great Kiwi songs in there, too (including, I’m pleased to say, Not Given Lightly) but I’m sure there will be plenty of debate among readers who will question why their favourite song was missed out. However, taste in music is hugely subjective (unless you are a Justin Bieber fan: there’s just no need for that sort of silliness at all) and it is the debate on what should or shouldn’t have been included that is half the fun.

The author has done a pretty good job of getting the right mix of Kiwi music in this compilation. He’d done an even better job of telling the great stories behind those great songs.

On Song: Stories Behind New Zealand’s Pop Classics, by Simon Sweetman (Penguin, RRP $65)

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