1. Kylie – Locomotion
My eldest brother gave me this cassette for my 7th birthday and it remains the best thing he's ever given me. I thought Kylie – with her blonde perm piled on top of her black hat – was the coolest thing in the world and this was greatest song. I would dance around my bedroom, mirroring Kylie's dance moves for hours. Little did I know that 20 years later, I would find myself dancing alongside Kylie herself at an Alicia Keys concert in Auckland.
2. Both Sides Now – Joni Mitchell
As a 7-year-old, my favourite part of school was the weekly singing assemblies on Friday mornings. And my favourite song to sing was Both Sides Now (closely followed by Yellow Submarine and Yesterday). I actually had no idea who the song was by – or what it was called – until years later, when it cropped up in Love, Actually. Imagine my surprise when I realised Joni Mitchell's soulful, heartaching ballad was the same jolly singalong we used to belt out each week. In short, I love this song. I love Joni Mitchell. And I bloody love Love, Actually.
3. Country House – Blur
As we entered the 90s, once again my brother played a big part in my musical education, introducing me to the world of Cool Britannia. In 1998, he took me to my first-ever concert, to see Oasis at the Logan Campbell Centre (great gig, terrible venue). Despite that milestone event, I still favour Blur over Oasis in the great Battle of Britpop debate and it remains one of my life's great disappointments that I've never seen them live. I interviewed Alex James in 2015 and he promised me they would tour here. He also promised he'd come and eat cheese rolls with me. I'm still waiting...
4. Last Nite – The Strokes
In 2004, I fell madly in love. It was mid-afternoon on a scorching January day and I – along with 30-odd thousand other people – was at the Big Day Out. New York rockers The Strokes were on stage, swaggering their way through a blistering set, and I was besotted. I went home and obsessively stalked them online, before joining their official fan club, eventually receiving a signed poster. I saw them again at the St James in 2006, which only reaffirmed my obsession. I'm sure I should be embarrassed by this but I'm really not.
5. Shake it off – Taylor Swift
Taylor Swift first entered my world in 2008, when I was asked to review the album Fearless. At the time, I was a feature writer for TimeOut and I was instantly taken by the young country ingenue. Fast forward six years and I had just returned to TimeOut and the Herald after a fairly toxic stint at TVNZ. Two weeks after I returned, Tay Tay released Shake It Off and it perfectly captured the joy and freedom I was feeling. A month later, I saw Swift perform the song live at the iHeartRadio Music Festival in Las Vegas, along with my new workmates. It was a moment of real clarity and affirmation as I knew I had absolutely made the right choice. Whenever I hear the song now, it reminds me that you can choose to be happy.
6. Party Boy – Marlon Williams
One of the first projects I launched when I returned to TimeOut was a web series with Anika Moa, which remains an absolute highlight of my career. I don't think I've ever laughed so hard or had so much fun while at work (and I laugh a LOT). Through the series, I was introduced to a host of Kiwi musicians including a then-little-known Marlon Williams. If you've ever met Marlon, you'll know he is one of the most charismatic people. He radiates charm. But when he sings, it's thoroughly bewitching. I love all of Marlon's music but especially this song. And I love Anika for introducing me to it.
7. 9 to 5 – Dolly Parton
Growing up, I remember Dolly Parton being the regular butt of jokes. Grown-up jokes that I didn't really understand but recognised that she was the punchline. And then I grew up and realised Dolly Parton is a goddamn queen who was light years ahead of her time and has done more to champion the feminist cause than nearly any other musician in living memory. The best bit? No one realised what she was up to thanks to her broad smile and bedazzled jackets. My morning anthem is 9 to 5, played at least once before I set foot in the office to bolster myself for the day ahead. Try it for yourself and feel the swagger take over.