Veteran Norwegian folk singer and songwriter Ole Paus said last year that he won’t be releasing any more albums. He nonetheless embraced the somewhat surprising grand prize he won at last weekend’s annual Spellemann awards, Norway’s own version of the Grammy Awards.
Paus won the top prize as Årets Spellemann, or musician of the year. Geir Rakvaag, a commentator in newspaper Dagsavisen, noted that the prize often goes to up-and-coming young musicians who’ve had a major hit and intend to make more records. Instead it went to Paus, who made it clear he doesn’t want to produce more records, claiming last year that he and the industry “have gone our separate ways.”
At an age of 66, Paus said he was sorry that the record business now focuses so much, in his opinion, on hit singles instead of on carefully crafted albums like those created when he was young. He decided to go out with a bang, though, releasing a triple album last year called Avslutningen (The End) that typically included songs with political overtones, like one celebrating the seventh anniversary of the Oslo Center for Peace and Human Rights. The album won strong reviews from critics.
Paus has been called Norway’s version of the US’ Pete Seeger or Bob Dylan, with one of his classic songs, Mitt lille land (My little country) becoming somewhat of a national hymn that was often performed at memorials after the terrorist attacks on July 22, 2011. Paus, also an author and actor, won’t be leaving the business entirely, though. He intends to write more songs and perform. There just won’t be any more albums.
Preus, Heldal and ‘The Fox’ won, too
The other major prize at the Spellemann Awards went to another singer/songwriter, Anne Grete Preus, who won the coveted Årets hederspris (literally, the Award of Honor). Some critics thought the awards should have been swapped between Paus and Preus, and not only because Preus intends to continue making albums.
Debate broke out in the days leading up to the weekend awards ceremony over the fact that of the 30 top Spellemann prizes awarded since the awards ceremony was launched, only three have gone to women. “Embarrassing and hair-raising,” exclaimed Sunniva Ørstavik, Norway’s ombud for gender equality. The Spellemann jury was widely urged to broaden its horizons.
There were other women winning prizes on Saturday night, not least 22-year-old singer Monica Heldal of Bergen, who won the prizes for both best newcomer of the year and best pop soloist. Heldal’s debut album Boy from the north has won rave reviews as well.
The list of winners in other categories was long, but to name a few: Kvelertak won the prize for best metal band of the year, Moddi won for folk songs and Ralph Myerz for electronica, all branches in which Norwegian artists have won international success.
The duo that won Årets hit (Hit of the Year) was no surprise, when Ylvis walked off with the prize for their international smash hit “The Fox.” It broke all kinds of records and has made the two brothers behind it more globally popular than they ever dreamed.