Pop Goes the World is a recurring feature in which we sample a selection of music from each country on this crazy blue marble called Earth.
In this edition: Norway. Not much is known about Norway beyond the fact that it’s freezing and some of our greatest Vikings come from there. Scientists believe that Norway used to be a separate island until Greenland dared it to lick Sweden and they became frozen together, like in A Christmas Story.
Musically, Norway hasn’t produced as many recognizable names as some of its Scandinavian neighbours, but with a population of only five million, it has had a surprising impact.
Hey, remember that song “Take On Me” from the ‘80s? You know, the one you think you should sing at karaoke until you remember that epic high note? That song is by Norway’s A-ha. In North America we think of them as a one-hit wonder, but they sold 36 million albums in their nearly 30-year career before breaking up in 2011. There's no denying the influence of their hit song, though. Here’s a clip of a man playing "Take On Me" with his hands.
Nobody embodied the late ‘90s pop sound like Aqua. With hits like “Barbie Girl,” “Doctor Jones,” and “Lollipop (Candyman),” the group topped the charts on three continents. Their music was super annoying but also super popular... but also super annoying. While three of the group’s four members are actually Danish, lead singer Lene Nystrøm is Norwegian and she is considered the face of the group, with the possible exception of the weird bald dude. Aqua released two albums in the late ‘90s before breaking up in 2001. In 2011 they got back together and released Megalomania, which I’m sure is great.
Sissel Kyrkjebø (pronounced exactly the way it looks) is a Norwegian pop and classical singer. She is probably best known for singing the overture in the movie Titanic, though she may have been overshadowed by another singer on that soundtrack. She has also performed duets with the likes of Placido Domingo, Diana Krall, and Warren G. You may also remember her as the hymn singer at the 1994 Lillehammer Winter Olympics... or you may not. Either way, here she is, along with a couple minutes of Olympic preamble.
Singer songwriter Sondre Lerche has made a name for himself in the indie pop world. Unfortunately that name is Sondre Lerche, which is kind of a mouthful. In 2001, at the age of 19, he released his debut album to critical acclaim. In the past decade, he has released five more albums. Here he performs “Two Way Monologue” on CBC’s Q.
No discussion of Norway’s music scene would be complete without a nod to Norwegian black metal. The genre is almost too terrifying to mention here. Let’s just say it’s like regular metal, but blacker and more Norwegian, and there’s swords and blood and stuff. It sounds like this:
The iTunes Norway charts are filled with huge international artists like Coldplay, Adele, and Flo Rida, but there are a couple of Norwegian acts at the top.
Donkeyboy is in the second spot with the song “City Boy.” It’s an English language electro-pop song about a guy with an eagle under his skin. That may be a metaphor, in which case it’s pretty advanced stuff for a second language.
The top song on the iTunes Norway chart is “M*******n” by flute-rock band Plumbo. The uncensored title is “Møkkamann,” which apparently translates to “S*** Man.” Whoa. Keep it classy, Norge. On top of that, when Plumbo won a major Norwegian music award (The Gråmmis?) in early 2012, their lead singer made a racist remark. Thumbs way down.
CBC Music: World music community
CBC Q: "To Be Surprised" by Sondre Lerche
on Feb 20, 2012