Soft pop with haunting vocals. Space disco. And of course, black metal. Norwegian music has certain genres it has become famous for – and some others, like jazz and rock, that witnessed a low-key renaissance. Below we tried to shortlist some of Norway’s most talented singers/songwriters/musicians – both established stars and exciting newcomers – whose music must reach your ears.
Some have compared her to Björk, others to Florence Welch. But Aurora Aksnes has, at just 22 years old, managed to cultivate a style that feels both elaborate and organic, vulnerable and primal. Seeing her perform live in some international stage (like recently in Coachella) or in one of her whimsical videos (her debut album, Running with the Wolves, was released in 2015), you would be excused to think she has created her own sign language – one that complements her ethereal voice and her elfin physique. She has managed to put her own stamp on iconic songs by David Bowie and Oasis, and her latest work, Queendom, just became available on Spotify and iTunes. We recommend you familiarize yourself with her work because she’s clearly destined for great things.
Norway’s space disco is a genre that started 20 years ago with a group of teenagers in the arctic Tromsø, and is still going strong, even beyond the country’s borders. One of the artists responsible for that is Todd Terje, a DJ, songwriter and record producer who is best known for his 2012 house track “Inspector Norse”. Todd’s sense of humor is apparent throughout his work, but also in the illustrations he uses to promote his latest releases or gigs on social media – he has even said he just wants his music to be “fruity”. Not bad for someone the Rolling Stone magazine has dubbed “one of the 25 DJs that rule the earth”.
Anna of the North
A duo that comprises Norwegian singer-songwriter Anna Lotterud and New Zealand-born producer Brady Daniell-Smith, Anna of the North does an interesting kind of soft electro-pop with a soul. While currently on their 3rd album since 2014 and with one of their latest singles, “Oslo“, becoming somewhat of an ambassador for “weird, Nordic pop”, it’s safe to say Anna of the North are very close to finding their true north.
That arctic city of Tromsø we mentioned earlier? There’s probably something in the water – because the number of genre-defining musicians that have emerged from its shores is certainly disproportionate with how small the population actually is. Röyksopp, who you’ve undoubtedly heard of, was founded in 1998 by Svein Berge and Torbjørn Brundtland and has been taking the world by storm since then. Constantly stretching electronic music to its limits, Röyksopp (which, by the way, is a kind of mushroom) love eccentric outfits and elaborate concert performances – often featuring guests like Robyn in their videos and live shows. They’ve also been nominated for a Grammy Award and their albums have topped the charts in many countries besides Norway. These mushrooms are not going anywhere, any time soon.
Sigrid combines a fresh-faced innocence (sometimes, she looks even younger than 21) with a normcore coolness and lyrics that take no prisoners. Her 2017 single, Don’t Kill My Vibe, brought her international success – to the point that she won the BBC Music Sound of 2018 award, and her rendition of Leonard Cohen’s Everybody Knows was included in the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack of DC’s Justice League.
Sure, you know A-ha. Or at least you definitely know their songs – pop anthems like Take on Me in 1985 and Summer Moved On in 2000 don’t just walk away from you (pun intended). But did you know they were Norwegian? Magne Furuholmen, Morten Harket, and Paul Waaktaar-Savoy topped the charts in the mid-80s and helped shape the MTV generation. They continued on until 2010, when they officially parted ways, but then reunited in 2015 and have been amazing long-time fans around the world ever since. Guess they couldn’t just walk away, either…
There’s this specific kind of voice that can only be described as “Nordic haunting”, a voice that brings to mind misty forests and elves. Aurora has it, Sigrid has it – but Ane Brun probably had it first. The Norwegian singer, songwriter and guitarist has been around since 2003 and knows how to make people feel things, both with her mellow, soulful covers of songs like Alphaville’s ‘Big in Japan’ and Cindy Lauper’s ‘True Colours’, as well as with her own whimsical music. Her latest cover album, Leave me Breathless, reinvents iconic love songs like Elvis Presley’s ‘Always on My Mind’.
Frontman of the beloved blues-alt-rock 90’s band Madrugada, Sivert Høyem has been pursuing a successful solo career after the band broke up in 2007, following the death of guitarist/songwriter Robert Burås. A magnetic stage presence with a deep timbre that resonates to parts of your soul you didn’t know you have (his voice has been compared to Nick Cave’s and Leonard Cohen’s), Sivert Høyem continues making music that is as dark as it is thoughtful. Give it a whirl.
Astrid Smeplass is definitely Scandinavia’s latest sweetheart. First female artist in 15 years to win a Spellemannsprisen (the Norwegian Grammy awards), Astrid S.’ single ‘Think Before I Talk‘ has topped the charts in Norway, and has become platinum in Sweden and gold in Denmark. If those achievements are not enough for a 22-year-old who started her career in Norway’s version of Pop Idol, we should also mention that she has done backing vocals for Katy Perry.
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