It is rare that we get TV talent show winners in Nordic Music Central but Martin Halla has a huge claim to fame in that department, having been the winner of the inaugural series of ‘The Voice’ in Norway in 2012.
From what I can see in the UK at least it is more of a curse than a blessing to win that competition. Not a single winner has gone on to claim any sort of fame, their initial singles and albums bombing and finding themselves dropped by their label quicker than a red hot lava rock, often prompting them to give up and return to their previous careers as holiday camp entertainers, reality TV ‘stars’ or even, in one case, a fireman.
Not so with Martin. His winning song ‘Take it with me’ was released as his debut single hitting #3 of VG-lista the official Norwegian Singles Chart on its first week of release and his semi-final rendition ‘Release Me’ peaked at number 7.
Then in 2013, Martin released his debut album ‘Winter Days’ that reached number 5 in the Norwegian Albums Chart.
He had some success in 2015 with ‘You are loved’.
I met him early in 2020 during the By:Larm festival where he was appearing as vocalist with the band Löv, which also numbers Øystein Skar and Marte Eberson amongst its members, two regulars in these pages (and Øystein was a keyboards contributor to Martin’s new song) .
Löv seems to be on extended hiatus, possibly because of the numerous other commitments of the members, which is a pity. Along with Das Body, whose new song was reviewed yesterday, I think they are at the cutting edge of Norwegian pop music.
Anyway, Martin has now returned to his solo role, finally releasing a new single on 18th August, the first from a forthcoming album, titled ‘Hvis dette går veien’, which roughly translates as ‘If this works out’ or ‘if this goes my way’.
It is, he says, “about losing control when things start to unravel, and being pushed in a direction you’d rather not go. The years have passed, the path has been paved, but maybe a little in the wrong direction – now the correction begins”
That’s an intriguing comment. Is he relating the story of the subject of the song, or commenting on his own situation?
I don’t know what prompted him to write this one in Norwegian but we’re a broad church at NMC. It just means that Mr Google gets a hammering!
Having translated it I’m none the wiser. When he proclaims:
“If this goes my way, I’ll be scared/I’ve never been so good at talking about the future
It sparkles nicely at the end somewhere/But the road there is dark and narrow and steep
And the anxiety is fueled by fiery talk/I know very well where you are
You are far from here”
it is not clear if he is talking about his future prospects being the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow but having to negotiate the yellow brick road first, or whether he has to do that in order to win someone’s heart. Just the sort of conundrum I like.
It reads well as poetry and musically/vocally presents itself as a love ballad if that helps settle the argument, and another example of Nordic melancholia meets Americana (we’ve had a few recently).
The song doesn’t test him vocally but there’s no need to. This isn’t a competition, that’s in the past. This is more in the way of easy listening; undemanding but with challenging lyrics.
I’m intrigued to know if the short bridge at 2:30 is played on a synthesiser or a kazoo. Just wondering.
Of all the instruments John Lennon played I’m sure a kazoo wasn’t one of them but I couldn’t help but notice that Martin has chosen an image for his new direction that does make you think of Lennon, with the scraggly hair, round glasses and beard.
Perhaps that’s the standard he’s setting for himself with his songwriting now. We shall see.
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