Lorde celebrates her 18th birthday today, after an extraordinary year of international music success. NZ On Screen Content Director Irene Gardiner takes a look back at some of our other top musicians who also started out when they were still in school uniform.

Our original long-haired schoolgirl pop star was Shona Laing, who burst onto the scene via the TV talent show Studio One, and an arresting performance of her Henry Fonda-inspired song 1905. In 1973 the regional news show Newsview profiled Laing, as a 17-year-old seventh former at Hutt Valley High. Laing was a shy interviewee and her school mates were unsure what to make of her success. But American singer Lobo - who she had been supporting on tour - was effusive in his praise. The item also features spine-tingling acoustic versions of 1905 and Roberta Flack's Killing Me Softly.

You can see the Newsview Shona Laing profile here:
Newsview - Shona Laing profile

Respected singer-songwriter Bic Runga also began her music career while she was still at school.

Love Soup was a high school duo formed by Runga and guitarist Kelly Horgan. After coming third in the Smokefree Rockquest, they were picked up by Trevor Reekie's Pagan Records. This music video for the song You is about all that still exists from Love Soup, as they were overtaken by Runga's burgeoning solo career.

Watch You by Love Soup here:


Internationally successful band of brothers Evermore also competed in the Smokefree Rockquest as high school students. In 2000, they were the youngest band ever to make it to the finals of the annual competition. This Hugh Sundae-fronted TV special features Evermore's performance, along with Nesian Mystik and future members of Die! Die! Die!.

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View Smokefree Rockquest 2000 here:


The following year, Kiwi pop star Kimbra was making a very early start on television, with an appearance on What Now!. A decade before she graced the top spot on the American singles chart, Kimbra Johnson was a bubbly 11-year-old investigating the mechanics of making a hit record in a series of segments for the TVNZ kids show. Her opening line "hi, I'm Kimbra, and one day I'd like to be a pop star" has turned out to be sweetly prophetic.

You can see the 11-year-old Kimbra on What Now! here:
What Now? - Kimbra excerpt

And, of course, before all her phenomenal success as Lorde, Ella Yelich-O'Connor was a singer in a band called Extreme and competing in the covers category of the 2009 Intermediate Schools Battle of the Bands finals. The 12-year-old Belmont Intermediate student and her band belt out covers of Man on a Silver Mountain and Edie (Ciao Baby). Post-performance, Ella bemoans a "sore voice" but Extreme take third place.

You can see that Battle of the Bands performance here:


- nzherald.co.nz