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Pop CultureMay 3, 2024

Knocked Up, American Pie, the Bean movie: A brief history of NZ music in Hollywood 


To celebrate the start of New Zealand music month, we look back at the best local tuneage that managed to weasel its way into Hollywood productions. 

There’s nothing quite like the thrilling zap of recognition when New Zealand weasels its way into a glamorous Hollywood production. Crack open a Tui for the time the Wolf of Wall Street got out of jail and showed Aucklanders how to sell pens. Put on your blackest jersey for the Breaking Bad junkies that convince themselves they should move to New Zealand to “paint the local castles and shit”. Pop a manu for the blatant map of Christchurch lurking in Parks and Recreation.

But hearing New Zealand music in flash movies and TV can stir up an even deeper swelling of national pride. One minute you’re blobbing out to The Bear, next minute you’re rising to your feet, hand on heart, eyes brimming with tears, all because of a humble Crowded House snippet. To celebrate the start of New Zealand music month, we pulled together some of the most iconic times that New Zealand music has made it into bigwig Hollywood movies and TV shows. 

Swing’ by Savage in Knocked Up 

Even if you can’t quite remember where you were when you first witnessed Seth Rogen and Katherine Heigl’s drunken dancing to ‘Swing’, you sure as hell remember the feeling of hearing that gravelly “OH SHIT” reverberate through the club scene in 2007’s Knocked Up. Savage’s enormous 2005 single went thermonuclear thanks to what Wikipedia describes as this “pivotal scene” in the R-rated rom com. It was re-released in the States in 2008 with a verse from Soulja Boy, and made it to #45 in the Billboard charts. “Is that guy from New Zealand? Really? He’s great!” Seth Rogen once exclaimed to Audioculture. Oh shit, indeed. / Alex Casey

Bravado’ and ‘Team’ by Lorde in Grey’s Anatomy

Grey’s Anatomy is famous for two things: running for about 15 years (and counting!) longer than it should have, and knowing exactly how to use a song. ‘Chasing Cars’, anyone? ‘Where Does The Good Go’?? The medical melodrama really lets songs play, sometimes in their entirety, and become the centre piece for an episode. By season 10, the music budget had evidently diminished because suddenly the “big musical moments” were all guitar covers of classic hits. So it was all the more thrilling to hear Lorde – who in 2014 was the biggest pop name around – fade in for the final act of episode eight. 

‘Bravado’ played nearly all the way through and I figured that’s where the entire season’s music budget went. Then three episodes later, Lorde was back! This time with a strangely ineffective placement of ‘Team’ over the bland scenes of April Kepner’s hen’s day. Did the show licence the music years in advance before Lorde became a mega superstar? Did Lorde allow the use of her global hit songs for free? None of it made sense and the rest of the season continued with its unrecognisable musical numbers from indie hopefuls. / Madeleine Chapman

Pressure Man’ by The Feelers in Drop Dead Gorgeous

The world slept on Drop Dead Gorgeous when it came out in 1999. A mockumentary starring Kirsten Dunst, Denise Richards and Amy Adams as beauty queens embroiled in a murder mystery, it has evolved over time into a cult classic that Jia Tolentino once called “a venerated artefact of Y2K-era camp”. But let’s crack open this hidden gem to reveal another hidden gem: the Kirsten Dunst tap dancing scene is soundtracked by… an instrumental version of The Feelers ‘Supersystem’ (?!?). Perhaps an even more powerful onscreen moment for The Feelers than when James Reid went on The Block NZ and seemed really sad and mad about it. / AC

Sway’ by Bic Runga in American Pie 

On paper, never have two pairs of words seemed less likely to appear together than “Bic Runga” and “American Pie”. And yet, Bic Runga has leant her vocal stylings to the same franchise that brought us “Stifler’s Mom” not once, not twice, but THRICE. In American Pie, ‘Sway’ soundtracks what can only be described as a sex montage, and became such a beloved part of the soundtrack that it was brought back again for American Reunion in 2012. But wait, there’s more: ‘Good Morning Baby’ by Bic Runga and Dan Wilson also appeared in the original American Pie soundtrack. A beautiful collision that absolutely nobody saw coming. / AC

How Bizarre’ by OMC in New Girl

OMC’s ‘How Bizarre’ arrives during the end of the season one finale in an incredibly relatable moment. A group of friends at a makeshift campground, all of whom have some big shit going on in their lives, deciding to just ignore everything and sing along to some nostalgic bangers. We’ve all been there. / Joel MacManus

Something So Strong’ by Crowded House in The Bear

Much has been written about the relentless sixth episode of season two of The Bear. An hour-long flashback to a Christmas dinner straight out of the bowels of hell, critics called it a “masterclass on generational trauma”, a “brilliant character study” and “television at its finest”. What they all failed to mention is the moment that Carmy puts down a plate of cannoli RIGHT ON TIME with Neil Finn crooning “love can make you weep” My love for cannoli also makes me weep, and I think that’s the real message here. / AC

Young Blood’ by Naked and Famous in… everything?

‘Young Blood’ has been enjoying a new life with Gen Z on TikTok, but The Naked and Famous’ energetic youth anthem has soundtracked screeds of coming of age sequences since its release in 2010. I have vivid memories of it in Skins, but you try googling “naked and famous skins” and you’ll see why I quickly ran into issues corroborating that. Beyond that, Young Blood has popped up in the Carrie remake, Made in Chelsea, Gossip Girl, Chuck, The Leftovers, as well as ‘Punching in a Dream’ popping up in Pitch Perfect 2. Ah yeah yeah yeah yeah. / AC

It’s Too Late’ by Evermore in The OC

Ride ooooooonnnnn, ride till early morning sun. God, remember The OC Mix CDs?! Evermore and The OC became about as deeply intertwined as “mmmm whatcha saaaaaay” and the slow motion firing of a gun in the mid-2000s, with their hit single used extensively in promos for the series and eventually making its way into an episode and The OC Mix 2. Can we find the precise episode ‘It’s Too Late’ features in? No. Did we enjoy these fan-made supercuts of Ryan and Marissa? Yes. 

Don’t Dream Its Over’ by Crowded House in Miami Vice 

You’ve heard of The Bear, but have you seen this hair?! The Crowded House classic pops up in the climax of 11th episode of Miami Vice season four, 1988. With a popped collar and more popping perm, Caitlin Davies-Crockett (Sheena Easton) is getting ready to go on tour, but not before an emotional goodbye to her blonde mulleted, silken blouse-wearing beau (Don Johnson). “I know it’s different worlds Sonny, but tell me we can make it work,” says Caitlin, breathlessly rubbing a silken pec. “Or die trying,” says Sonny, going in for a huge pash while Neil Finn bellows “HEEEEYY NOW, HEEEEEY NOW.” / AC

Axolotl’ by The Veils in Twin Peaks: The Return

In 2017, The Veils joined the likes of Sharon Van Etten and Nine Inch Nails as real musical acts who have performed in fake Twin Peaks bar The Roadhouse. During a climactic scene in the 15th episode of Twin Peaks: The Return, their song Axolotl provides a suitably hectic soundtrack for one of the characters to crawl along the floor and scream her lungs out to. More impressively, Finn Andrews hat remained firmly on his head through all the chaos. / AC

Royals’ by Lorde in Hustlers

Nearly the entirety of ‘Royals’ is used in this scene from Hustlers, which probably cost a fair few diamonds from the old timepiece. In the scene, Jennifer Lopez’s Juicy Couture-wearing Ramona and her gang of titular hustlers are foiled one by one, the lyrics “I’m in love with being queen” colliding with their jail cell slamming firmly shut. “I love that this movie uses the entire song and not just short clips like the usual Hollywood crap cough Suicide Squad cough,” one Youtube commenter wrote. “Petition to make this the official music video,” wrote another. / AC

Starlight’ by Zed in The Hot Chick 

Move over Muse, sayonara Taylor Swift: Zed’s ‘Starlight’ is the only Starlight I recognise. Not only did the song feature in the 2002 body swap comedy The Hot Chick, but star Rob Schneider himself appeared in the the music video in the role of “funny janitor”. You gotta love the moment where he sips from a plastic bottle and magically swaps places with Nathan King to become the lead singer of Zed. That’s why we have “no lips” down here in Aotearoa, dearest Rob. / AC

Green Light’ by Lorde in New Girl

The ‘Green Light’ moment is incredible. After six season of increasingly intense will-they-wont they, Nick and Jess finally realise they should be together, run around on some stairs, and seal the deal with some heavy pashing in an elevator. It’s the second best moment of the show (only topped by their first kiss in season two). It was a slightly weird choice to use a breakup song, though. / JM

Yellow Bird’ by Sol3 Mio in Only Murders In The Building

OK it’s a cover and OK it was in the credits, but still a huge moment for SOL3 MIO and Selena stans across the motu. 

Killing Me Babe’ – Foley in The Kardashians


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In the most impactful local Kardashian collaboration since Kylie Jenner wore one of Iyia Liu’s waist trainers, Foley’s ‘Killing Me Babe’ was deployed in the season finale of The Kardashians just last year. The birthday-themed bop soundtracks a sequence where the sisters arrive in typical slow motion to Scott Disick’s royalty-themed 40th birthday party. “Are we part of the family yet?” the duo posted on their Instagram reacting to the episode. “Cant believe this is happening.” As one fan put it: “”I’ve always said Foley is good getting out of the car music.” / AC

I Love LA’ by OMC in the Bean movie (soundtrack)

There is perhaps nothing that better sums up little old New Zealand artists taking on big flash Hollywood than this: OMC doing a random cover of Randy Newman’s ‘I Love LA’ for the Bean movie soundtrack. God defend our free land. 

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