So Alexander Rybak’s "Fairytale" got the biggest vote-total in Eurovision history just a few weeks ago and has gone on to become a massive international hit - even breaking into the UK top 10 for one glorious week.
But when it comes to a rush-released debut album, what can this young man from Norway bring to the table? Answer: his very own brand of fiddle-driven folk-pop which conjures up visions of nights by the fire in a little wooden house in the Norwegian countryside.
Certainly that’s the vision I got with the bouncy opening track "Roll With The Wind" and its catchy "i-yi-yi" hookline.
Admittedly most of the songs are variations on the title track - which of course is the album’s best song - I guess that’s why the album is called "Fairytales" hehe. :)))
The lyrics of "Funny Little World" may have spookily predicted his rise and rise to fame - "Suddenly I’m famous and people know my name/got a thousand girls just waiting..." Anyway this has a similar vibe to Jason Mraz’s "I’m Yours" going on, and it’s already topping the chart in Norway so I guess it’ll go across Europe as the follow-up single? It’s off the cheese scale, but it’s also extremely charming.
Across the length of an album Alexander’s voice, distinctive though it may be, can become a little annoying, and the boy-meets-girl lyrics often too simplistic, but on the whole this is a much more distinctive effort than something you’d expect from, say, an X Factor winner or here-today-gone-tomorrow Eurovision winner, with the usual cover versions of "I Believe I Can Fly" and "Unchained Melody" etc. So let’s be thankful that Alexander hasn’t gone down that road but instead created a very distinctive sound all his own - and he wrote most of the songs himself
On big hands-in-the-air ballad "Abandoned" and epic number "13 Horses", Alexander sounds as if he’s channelling A-ha at times, the latter is perhaps a more daring and mature glimpse of the performer this young man can become if he continues with his musical career. Instrumental "Songs From A Secret Garden" shows off his considerable ability as a violinist - and in a unique coincidence, is a cover version of a tune by Secret Garden, the last Norwegian act to win the Eurovision Song Contest.
But then something very strange happened. There is, inexplicably, a cover version of The Proclaimers "500 Miles" (It’s funny to hear a Norwegian singing a Scottish word like ‘haver’!) - this version is played so straight that it is completely absurd and he really should have left it alone. Anyway you can’t listen to this song without thinking of Brian Potter, Andy Pipkin, "Chaka Khan" and "Bobby Davro" :)
It may not be to everyone’s taste, but I found young Mr Rybak’s debut to be a simple and refreshing alternative to what’s around at the moment. I can imagine this having wide appeal across Europe: are we witnessing the birth of a new international star, or just a one-hit wonder? Only time will tell.