Does one verse make a superstar?

Getting to No. 1 in the US is no mean feat, but Hamilton-born and raised pop star Kimbra has done it, becoming the first Kiwi woman to reach No 1 in the US charts, featuring on the track Somebody That I Used To Know by Australian artist Gotye.

She sings just six lines, but it seems those six lines have helped to create a phenomenon.

After it featured on Glee and Saturday Night Live, it sold 542,000 downloads in one week - the fourth-highest number of downloads for a song since digital sales were first tracked in 2003.


The song has been No 1 in nine countries and the video, which sees the 22-year-old wearing nothing more than some tasteful body paint, has had more than 139 million hits online.

They're staggering statistics, but it's raised a few questions here at TimeOut.

Is it really a song that either NZ or Kimbra can claim as their own? Can we really say that "Kimbra has reached No 1 in the US"?

Undoubtedly her contribution helps make the song fly. Its success is interwoven with Kimbra's talent, and has helped her profile, and her career.

But ... it's not actually her song. Although these days with everyone "featuring" on everyone else's tracks, that does become a blurry line. Maybe we should forget about the technicalities and just embrace it.

But can we still claim Kimbra as a Kiwi? It took a move to Australia for her to establish a music career, and I bet there are plenty of Australians out there who would start a pavlova/Phar Lap/Crowded House-style debate about her.

Well, let them debate I reckon, because it was Hamilton that bred her, and had her singing the national anthem at international rugby games.

And you know what? We should make a fuss about this milestone because, though pop culture mostly filters down to us from the US and Britain, this is one of those rare occasions when NZ can sincerely scoff "we knew that song, and Kimbra, were a big deal before everyone else did".


TimeOut had her on the cover last August even. And she won New Zealand's Critics Choice Award in October.

Strangely enough I also remember watching the video for Somebody when Gotye first posted it in July. Only 14 people had "viewed" it at the time, and it was yet to be released to radio.

But being a sappy romantic, it instantly floored me. The burning, yearning, duet channelled scorned heartbreak, and made me hit replay multiple times. So this may sound smug, but I wasn't surprised when it was soon No 1.

The odd thing is, having released her own accomplished debut Vows in Australia and NZ last August, while she sells out tours and sold more than 560,000 copies across the ditch, she's yet to really make a deep impact at home.

Perhaps it's because she's only played here a handful of times - and in some odd places too, like a shoe show at Fashion Week and at Ellerslie Racecourse during the Auckland Cup - and so hasn't yet had the opportunity to truly impress Kiwis with her powerful lungs and striking charisma?

Whatever the reason, though this success and connection to a Billboard No 1 will earn new fans, I am betting her few deft brushstrokes on Somebody is but a very handy primer to what's shaping up as a big canvas kind of career.

Watch the video for Somebody That I Used to Know: