Norway’s international electronic music sensation Kygo was completely ignored last year by the jury handling his homeland’s annual music awards called the Spellemann prizes. At this year’s prize ceremony over the weekend, Kygo won the top prize as “Spellemann of the Year,” but now music critics are complaining the jury was blinded by Kygo’s commercial success.
“The wrong person won this year’s Spellemann of the Year prize,” claimed critic Robert Hoftun Gjestad in newspaper Aftenposten. He and several other critics thought the coveted prize in Norway should have gone to singer Susanne Sundfør, who took home three prizes of her own on Saturday night. She won for the best produced album, best pop soloist and for putting out the album of the year, Ten Love Songs.
Kygo himself, a mild-mannered young man from Bergen who’s become a major international star, also won the Spellemann prize for best song of 2015, Stole the Show. He was unable to attend the Spellemann ceremony broadcast nationwide from Oslo Saturday night, because he’s currently performing in the US again this winter, but he called the prize “a great honour” and thanked his family back home in Norway, “who have supported me from the beginning.”
Only Norway’s pop band a-ha has reached the same heights of fame as Kygo, whose given name is Kyrre Gørvell-Dahll. His sisters Jenny and Johanne accepted the prize on his behalf, while NRK reported that last year’s winners, the Norwegian pop duo Nico & Vinz, were with Kygo in San Francisco to celebrate. Nico & Vinz have also achieved huge success abroad, but Norwegian critics bashed their award as well on much the same grounds as this year’s complaints about the prize to Kygo: Norwegian media commentators think the Spellemann jury paid more attention to streaming numbers and commercial sales than artistic quality.
“The Spellemann jury has let international streaming numbers do their job, something that was clear when Nico & Vinz won the same prize last year,” agreed Sandeep Singh of newspaper Dagbladet. Stein Østbo of newspaper VG also criticized the jury’s choice.
Gjestad of Aftenposten acknowledged that it was “important that we have artists who do well abroad, but I think the Spellemann of the Year award should be based on more than just streaming.”
Marthe Thorsby, leader of the Spellemann jury, claimed the prize was awarded to Kygo in line with the prize criteria. “Commercial success shall also weigh heavily in evaluating the Spellemann of the Year,” Thorsby told NRK. She called Kygo “a more than worthy winner of the prize, based on all he has achieved in 2015.”
Gjestad countered that he also thought the jury missed a golden opportunity to award the top prize to a woman. “When only three of 33 prizes have gone to female artists, it gives a completely wrong picture of Norwegian music reality,” Gjestad wrote. Sundfør herself has earlier criticized the lack of female winners and gender-based prize categories. She withdrew her candidacy as a nominee in 2011 and the jury abandoned separate prizes to men and women a year later.