In Somebody that I Used to Know, the chart-topping music by Australian artist Gotye, Kimbra's voice starts meek and low, almost whispering, non-confrontational, and unwilling to prolong a discussion. She slowly builds up the energy by fueling the words "I don't wanna live that way" to drive to the powerfully emotional "somebody that I used to know" as if finally arriving by uncharacteristically screaming in an argument, releasing all the pent up resentment.
Gotye took a good six months to find that right voice to lend just the right vocal dynamics to his music. What many fans of the song did not know is that Kimbra almost hid herself away from the music limelight.
Hamilton-born Kimbra went against her parents' will when she skipped college in order to pursue a career in the music industry. But now the charts in US and several other countries show it has to be one of the best decisions she has ever made.
Somebody that I Used to Know has topped the charts in Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, the UK, and the United States. It has made over 560,000 in unit sales in Australia, making it a certified 8x Platinum single down under.
The following are only a few of the many fascinating things about this brilliant Kiwi superstar.
Kimbra's full name is Kimbra Johnson. She is 22 years old, and was born and raised in Hamilton, New Zealand. Kimbra's father, Ken Johnson, has said in an interview that their family is not musically-inclined. But they had noticed Kimbra was different. He bought her a guitar when she was 12 years old. In an interview with NZ newspaper Sunday Sun Times, Mr Johnson said, "(A)fter a few years of lessons, she was on stage, performing with her guitar tutor (she was never taught to sing)." Still, Mr Johnson wanted Kimbra to study French or drama at the University of Auckland before she made any major step towards the blossoming of her singing career.
In 2004, 14-year-old Kimbra won second place in a national schools' competition called Rockquest. She continued producing songs and eventually, NZ On Air funded two of her singles, Deep for You and Simply on My Lips. Both gained good airplay, with the latter song becoming Juice TV's best breakthrough music video when Kimbra was 16.
Kimbra was preparing to enroll at Auckland University when she was offered an opportunity by Melbourne-based Mark Richardson, of the newly-formed label Forum 5. Faced between two paths, Kimbra moved to Australia and later produced Vows, which went platinum in Australia in 2011. The same album is now being reworked under a new contract with Warner Bros. It is expected to hit the stores in the US and Europe next month.
Kimbra's first single "Settle Down" was released in 2010 with the music video directed by Guy Franklin. Popular celebrity blogger Perez Hilton featured the single on his web site, saying, "If you like Nina Simone, Florence & The Machine and/or Bjork, then we think you will enjoy Kimbra - her music reminds us of all those fierce ladies!"
Kimbra is only the third Kiwi to top the US charts in America. OMC's How Bizarre reached the top in August 1997, while New Zealand-raised singer Chris Thompson worked with Manfred Mann's Earth Band to propel Blinded by the Light to the top in February 1977.
Mr Johnson told the New Zealand Herald in an interview that he and his wife believe their daughter will do well in the maddening world of high profile celebrities. "We do realise that the music world has hazards, but Kimbra is so amazingly grounded," he said.