Kimbra Lee Johnson (born 27 March 1990), known mononymously as Kimbra, is a New Zealand recording artist who mixes pop with classic R&B, jazz and rock musical elements. Her musical influences range from Prince and soul singer Minnie Riperton, to Björk and Jeff Buckley. Her debut album, Vows, was released in Australia in 2011. Singles from the album include "Settle Down", "Cameo Lover" (which won an Australian Recording Industry Association Award), "Good Intent" and "Two Way Street".
A reworked version of the album was released in Europe and the United States in 2012. It featured several new songs, including "Come into My Head", "Warrior" (on which Kimbra was joined by musicians Mark Foster from Foster the People and DJ A-Trak), and a cover of Nina Simone's "Plain Gold Ring". Vows reached the top 5 in New Zealand and Australia; on 22 May 2012, the album was released in North America, debuting at number 14 on the Billboard charts. Kimbra is featured in the 2012 multi-platinum single "Somebody That I Used to Know" by Gotye.
On 10 February 2013, she and Gotye won the Record of the Year and Best Pop Duo/Group Performance awards at the 55th Annual Grammy Awards Show for "Somebody That I Used to Know". This achievement made her only the third New Zealand singer to win a Grammy Award in history. Kimbra's second studio album, The Golden Echo, was officially released on 19 August 2014 to positive critical reception.
Kimbra Lee Johnson was born on 27 March 1990 and grew up in Hamilton, New Zealand. Her father, Ken Johnson, was the head doctor at the University of Waikato's student health centre, and her mother was an orthopaedic nurse. At the age of 10, Kimbra began writing songs. When she was 12, her father bought her a guitar and "after a few years of lessons, she was on stage, performing with her guitar tutors (she was never taught to sing)". Kimbra attended Hillcrest High School, competing in the national schools' musical competition Rockquest for three years running, where she was awarded second place in 2004 at the age of 14. Kimbra made her first music video, "Smile", for the children's TV show What Now. Kimbra was a member of the Hillcrest High jazz choir, Scat.
Early public performances by Kimbra included singing at the Waikato Times Gold Cup race meeting in 2000 as a 10-year-old and singing the New Zealand national anthem before 27,000 people at the 2002 NPC rugby union final. In 2007, after winning the Juice TV award for Best Breakthrough music video for her second single "Simply on My Lips", she came to the attention of ex-Independiente Records boss Mark Richardson (Jamiroquai, Paula Abdul) and his newly formed management company and independent label Forum 5 in Melbourne, Victoria. She signed with Richardson and in 2008 she moved to Melbourne, Australia.
In June 2010, Kimbra's first single on Forum 5, "Settle Down", was released. She had started writing the track four years earlier – it was finished with François Tétaz. The music video was directed by Guy Franklin. Perez Hilton featured the track on his website citing "f 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!" On 10 December, the Australian 'indietronica' group Miami Horror released their single, "I Look to You" featuring Kimbra's vocals. Kimbra also stars in its music video, which features wide-angle and kaleidoscope shots of her in face paint and dresses walking through golden fields. Early in 2011, Kimbra's song "Cameo Lover" was a finalist for the 2011 Vanda & Young Songwriting Competition and eventually won the competition. In March she issued "Cameo Lover" as her next single, its music video was released in April and was directed by Franklin. On 13 March, Kimbra went to perform for Moomba Festival and ChillOut Festival in Sydney at Oxford Arts Factory to welcome the release of her next single, "Cameo Lover". On 15 July 2011, "Cameo Lover" won the songwriting competition, ahead of third placed song, "Somebody That I Used to Know", written by Australian musician, Gotye. On 7 June Kimbra signed to Warner Bros. Records New Zealand for distribution in New Zealand and Australia, as well as a worldwide deal for other territories with Warner Bros. Records in the US. On 5 July Kimbra sang in Gotye's single, "Somebody That I Used to Know", which was mixed by Tétaz. Tétaz had recommended Kimbra to Gotye after a 'high-profile' Australian female vocalist had withdrawn from the collaboration.
On 29 August 2011, Kimbra's debut album, Vows, was released in New Zealand and 2 September in Australia. In its first week of release it charted at No. 3 in New Zealand, No. 5 in Australia and No. 14 in the US. In its second week, it rose to a peak of No. 4 on the ARIA Albums Chart. Australian producer 'M-Phazes' produced Kimbra's track "Call Me" and assisted on other tracks on Vows. Its artwork including body art and illustrations were created by Rhys Mitchell and Raphael Rizzo. She has won the Critics' Choice Prize at the 2011 New Zealand Music Awards and Best Female Artist and Best Song (for "Cameo Lover") at the ARIA Music Awards of 2011. The US release of Vows featured new tracks not available on the Australian or New Zealand version of the album. She had performed in various location such as, at the Forum Theatre, Melbourne on 9 September 2011, at Astor Theatre, Perth on 17 September 2011, at the Adelaide Botanic Garden in Brisbane on 1 October 2011, at Adelaide, Australia on 3 October 2011, at Queenscliff Music Festival, Queenscliff, Victoria and Wellington Square, Perth on 25 November 2011, at Homebake Festival 2011, at Royal Botanic Gardens, The Domain, Sydney on 3 December 2011 and at the Falls Festival Lorne, Australia on 30 December 2011.
On 19 January 2012, "Good Intent" was played on an episode of ABC's drama Grey's Anatomy. The track also appears in the video game, The Sims 3: Pets, which Kimbra recorded in Simlish for the soundtrack. Also in January, Kimbra won the "One to Watch" award at the 2012 Rolling Stone Awards. Kimbra has collaborated with Mark Foster (of Foster the People) and DJ A-Trak on the track "Warrior", which was released on 2 April. On 14 April, she performed "Somebody That I Used to Know" with Gotye on Saturday Night Live. On 15 July 2012, she went to perform in Santralistanbul, Istanbul, Turkey. On 26 August 2012, she went to Parc de Saint-Cloud, France and later went to perform at The Deaf Institute, Manchester on 30 August 2012. On 25 September, her song With My Hands was featured in Tim Burton's movie, Frankenweenie. On 1 November, she had been nominated at the Vodafone 2012 New Zealand Music Awards and won for the International Achievement, Best Female Solo Artist, Best Pop Album, Breakthrough Artist of the Year awards, and also won as a featured artist for the song "Somebody That I Used to Know", for Most Played Australian Work and Song of the Year, at the APRA Music Awards of 2012. on the same year, she also received an award for Best Female Artist at the ARIA Music Awards of 2012 for the second time. On 14 November 2012, Kimbra performed at the Calvin Klein Collection which held an exclusive dinner to celebrate the brand’s Women’s Creative Director, Francisco Costa. Kimbra also performed for other events such as, at Homebake Festival 2012 On 8 December, at Festival of the Sun in Port Macquarie, New South Wales on 14 December, at the Rhythm & Vines Music festival 2012 in Gisborne, New Zealand on 29 December 2012 and at the Summadayze Festival in Adelaide, Melbourne, Gold Coast on 30, 31 December 2012.
On 4 and 5 January 2013, Kimbra continued her performance for the Summadayze Festival in Perth, Australia. On 25 January 2013, Kimbra went to Singapore for the St. Jerome's Laneway Festival. On 10 February 2013, Kimbra and Gotye won the Record of the Year and Best Pop Duo/Group Performance awards at the 55th Annual Grammy Awards Show for "Somebody That I Used to Know". This achievement made her only the third New Zealand singer to win a Grammy Award in history. Kimbra was also featured with the soul-pop RNB singer John Legend in the song Made to Love, published in the album Love in the Future. The single was released on 11 June 2013 and the album was released on 30 August 2013. On 15 September 2013, Kimbra performed for Rock In Rio Festival in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Kimbra has also recruited to collaborate on the record which includes pop iconoclasts Daniel Johns, Dirty Projectors's Dave Longstreth, Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s Ruban Nielson, abstract beat wizards, Steven Ellison a.k.a. Flying Lotus and Stephen Bruner a.k.a. Thundercat, progressive rock heroes, Mars Volta’s Omar Rodríguez-López and Deantoni Parks, members of the Dillinger Escape Plan and Queens of the Stone Age, seductive soul singer Bilal and the legendary composer Van Dyke Parks, who has worked with notable performers, mainly Brian Wilson from the Beach Boys, Prince’s New Power Generation keyboardist Morris Hayes and John Robinson, were also invited to drop by the studio. Besides working for her music career, Kimbra was also involved in a non-profit charity organization called So They Can, it is a registered charity in New Zealand, Australia and Kenya focusing on education and building the local economy through micro finance and social business. Kimbra became the ambassador of So They Can within the year of 2013.
After the Grammy Awards, Kimbra relocated to LA to work on her second studio album, known as The Golden Echo, taking up residence on a farm. People who collaborated on The Golden Echo include Rich Costey, Daniel Johns, Taylor Graves, Matt Bellamy, Thundercat, Mark Foster, Bilal (Singing on the #8 track 'Everlovin' Ya'), John Legend, John Robinson and also Kimbra's bandmates, Timon Martin and Benjamin Davey. During the making of the second album, Kimbra was invited to play at a concert in Adelaide and was invited to perform at WOMAD 2014, also debuting a new song titled "Nobody But You". On May 19 2014, Kimbra released the lead single from The Golden Echo called "90s Music" to largely positive reviews. Jason Lipshutz of Billboard called the song "captivating" when he previewed it in May 2014. The official music video was not long released after the audio, debuting on YouTube on June 3, 2014. The song did not chart in New Zealand or Australia. 'Miracle' was released as the second single on 24 July 2014. It was her first song to chart on Billboard, peaking at #37 on the Japan Hot 100. The song has received mainly positive reviews from critics, with many complimenting the song's disco-influenced feel. Olivia Forman of Spin stated that the song has a "flawlessly fluctating beat" and additionally complimented Kimbra's vocals. The music video for 'Miracle' was released onto YouTube on August 19, 2014, the official music video for the song was directed by Thom Kerr. The Golden Echo was released on 15 August 2014 (AU/NZ) and 19 August 2014 (US) charting Australian Albums (ARIA)at 5, New Zealand Albums (RMNZ) at 5 and US Billboard 200 at 43. The Golden Echo received generally positive reviews from critics. On Metacritic, the album obtained a normalised score of 70 out of 100, based on reviews from 16 selected mainstream critics. The release of the album was followed by a 12-show US tour with Empress Of in November 2015.
In April 2015, Kimbra toured the US with a total of five shows. Kimbra is featured in a song by Bilal called 'Holding It Back' from his album In Another Life. On July 15, Kimbra released the video for her third single from The Golden Echo called "Goldmine", which surpassed 110,000 views in a matter of a day. On September 30th 2016, Kimbra released a new single called "Sweet Relief".
Muzic.net.nz states that Kimbra's music delves beyond the "four chord cliché but still maintains strong hooks and catchy melodies that are sometimes unpredictable but satisfying". In an interview with American Songwriter, she listed Daniel Johns, Prince, Rufus Wainwright, Guided by Voices, Imogen Heap, Mike Patton, Michael Jackson, Minnie Riperton, and Stevie Wonder as her influences. Her musical style is eclectic.
The Grammy Awards are presented annually from 1959 by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS). In 2012, Kimbra's collaboration with Gotye, "Somebody That I Used To Know", won the Record of the Year and the Best Pop Duo/Group Performance awards.
The APRA Awards are presented annually from 1982 by the Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA), "honouring composers and songwriters". In 2012, Kimbra was nominated for two awards as a solo artist and won two awards as a featured artist.
The ARIA Music Awards are presented annually from 1987 by the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA). In 2011, Kimbra won one award as a solo artist and two awards as a featured artist. Gotye featuring Kimbra performed the single, "Somebody That I Used to Know", at the awards ceremony.
The New Zealand Music Awards are awarded annually to musicians of New Zealand origin, by Recorded Music NZ.
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