Alexander Rybak

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Alexander Rybak
Alexander Rybak (4) 20180510 EuroVisionary (cropped).jpg
Rybak in 2018
Background information
Birth nameAlexander Igorevich Rybak
Born (1986-05-13) 13 May 1986 (age 34)
Minsk, Byelorussian SSR, USSR
OriginOslo, Norway
Genres
Occupation(s)
  • Singer
  • songwriter
  • actor
Instruments
Years active2004–present
Labelsself-released
Associated acts
Websitewww.alexanderrybak.com

Alexander Igorevich Rybak or Alyaxandr Iharavich Rybak (Belarusian: Аляксандр Ігаравіч Рыбак; born 13 May 1986), is a Belarusian-Norwegian singer-composer, violinist, pianist and actor.[1]

Though based in Oslo, Rybak extensively worked on television programmes and on tours in Russia, Belarus, Ukraine and Sweden throughout the early 2010s. Singing in mainly English and Russian, Rybak, in his early twenties, held on to a teen idol status in Scandinavia, Eastern Europe, and to a certain extent in Western Asia.[2] His debut album, Fairytales, charted in the top 20 in nine European countries, including a top position in Norway and Russia. After two pop albums in 2009 and 2010, Rybak desired to be more of a family-orientated artist, focusing on children's and classical music alongside and frequently performed with youth orchestras throughout the world.[3]

Rybak is known for his extensive involvement in the Eurovision Song Contest. Representing Norway in the 2009 contest in Moscow, Russia, he won the competition with 387 points—the highest tally any country has achieved in the history of Eurovision under the then voting system—with "Fairytale", a song he wrote and composed. Winning at the age of 23, Rybak remains the youngest solo male winner of the contest and the only Belarusian-born winner. His win was celebrated all across Europe for crushing stereotypes about the contest, such as needing an over-the-top performance or the negative influence of neighbour voting.[4][5]

Since then Rybak has been involved several times in the contest. He represented Norway again in the Eurovision Song Contest 2018 in Lisbon, Portugal, with the song "That's How You Write a Song", winning the second semi-final and finishing in 15th place in the Grand Final. He provided as an opening act to the Grand Final in 2010 and as an interval act in 2012 and 2016. Rybak has frequently provided commentary on the contest, working as a journalist in 2011, as once-off judge on the Belgian preselection in 2016 and as commentator on his personal social media.[6][7][8]

Early life[edit]

Rybak was born in Minsk, Belarus, which at that time was the Belarusian SSR in the Soviet Union. His parents and most of his other family hail from the town Vitebsk, in Northern Belarus. His father Igor Rybak, a well-known classical violinist who performed alongside Pinchas Zukerman, defected to Norway in 1991 after a concert tour of a Belarusian chamber orchestra of which he was part of. Rybak's father lived with a musical family who gave him shelter and food in exchange for violin lessons for their son. Alexander Rybak and his mother Natalia Rybak (née Gurina), who worked as a music journalist and a piano teacher, arrived in Norway on a tourist visa and were initially refused a residence permit.[9] Eventually, the Rybak family settled in Nesodden in the early 1990s.[10] Rybak and his family received Norwegian citizenship after seven years of residing in Norway.[9]

At the age of five, Rybak began to play piano and later violin, but eventually picked up violin as his main instrument.[10][11] He stated "I always liked to entertain and somehow that is my vocation".[12] He became a student at the Barratt Due Institute of Music in Oslo at the age of 10. As a result of his success in the 2009 Eurovision Song Contest he took a break from his bachelor's degree studies at the institute, but in 2011 he returned to his studies and in June 2012 he graduated from the institute with a Bachelor of Music in violin performance.[13][14]

Career[edit]

In 2004, Rybak was awarded the Anders Jahre Culture Prize presented to him by Viktoriya Rybak at the annual culture festival in Madrid, Spain.[15] In 2005, he entered the Norwegian version of Idol, Idol: Jakten på en superstjerne, reaching the semifinal. In 2006, Rybak won Kjempesjansen ("The Great Opportunity"), a talent competition hosted by the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation (NRK), with his own song, "Foolin".[12] Rybak has collaborated with artists such as a-ha's lead singer Morten Harket and Arve Tellefsen. In 2007, Rybak played the fiddle in Oslo Nye Teater's production of Fiddler on the Roof and won the Hedda Award for this role.[12]

Eurovision 2009[edit]

Rybak after he had won Eurovision 2009

Rybak won the 54th Eurovision Song Contest in Moscow, Russia, with a record 387 points, singing "Fairytale",[16] a song inspired by Norwegian folk music. The song was composed and written by Rybak[17] and was performed with the modern folk dance company Frikar. The song received good reviews with a score of 6 out of 6 in the Norwegian newspaper Dagbladet,[12] and, in an ESCtoday poll, he scored 71.3%, making him the favourite to get into the final.[18]

In the 2009 Norwegian national heats, Rybak achieved a clean sweep, gaining the top score from all nine voting districts and ending with a combined televote and jury score of 747,888, while the runner up, Tone Damli Aaberge, received a combined score of only 121,856 (out of a total population of less than 5 million)[19]

The song then competed in the second semi-final and won the place in the Eurovision final. Rybak later won the Eurovision final with a landslide victory, receiving votes from all the other participating countries. Rybak finished with a total of 387 points, breaking the previous record of 292 points scored by Lordi in 2006 and scoring 169 points more than the runner-up, Iceland.

After Eurovision, film and the first album[edit]

Rybak and a dancer from Frikar, at a concert in Norway, September 2009

Rybak's first album, Fairytales, was released after his Eurovision win. Rybak also co-stars as Levi in the film Yohan directed by Grete Salomonsen, which was released in March 2010.[20] Rybak also went on a tour in Norway with former Norwegian Eurovision winner Elisabeth Andreassen, something that had been decided before his Eurovision win and participation. He and Frikar also toured Norway and Europe in 2009.

In a December 2009 performance of his hit "Fairytale" at the Nobel Peace Prize Concert, held at the Oslo Spektrum, Rybak shared the stage with nine other acts.[21] EMI Norway has just released a film entitled Fairytale, the movie, directed by acclaimed Norwegian director, Rune Langlo, documenting the journey of Alexander Rybak since claiming the top prize for Norway in Moscow.[22]

In 2009, he recorded the theme song, called "I Don't Believe in Miracles/Superhero", for the Russian action movie Black Lightning produced by Timur Bekmambetov.[23]

2010–2011[edit]

Rybak performing in 2011

On 30 January 2010, Rybak performed one of his new singles, "Europe's Skies", in national final, Euroviisut 2010, to select the 2010 Finnish entry at the Eurovision Song Contest 2010. On 12 March 2010, Alexander Rybak performed his Eurovision 2009 winning song "Fairytale" on UK TV show Eurovision: Your Country Needs You. In April 2010, Rybak released a new song, featuring Opptur, called "Fela Igjen".[24]

On 8 June 2010, Rybak released the first single from his second album "Oah". A music video was made for the single. It was directed by Lars Kristian Flemmen, produced by Eirik Heldal and shot by Martin J. Edelsteen. It is filmed in a university or college. He also recorded and released a Russian version of this song called "Strela Amura" (Russian: Стрела Амура, Cupid's arrow).

Alexander released his second album on 14 June 2010, called No Boundaries. It was not as successful as his first album, so far it has peaked at number 7 in Norway, number 8 in Sweden and 32 in Finland. On 7 January 2011, Rybak was one of twelve contestants on the next Swedish season of the dancing show Let's Dance (Swedish version of television franchise Strictly Come Dancing), in the show Rybak danced to win the competition against other Swedish celebrities.[25] Rybak made it to the Top 4 before being voted off on 11 March, having received the lowest scores from both juries and the voting public.[26] In 2011 he released the album Visa vid vindens ängar, a collaboration with Mats Paulson whom he describes as "a legend and a great friend" On 11 December 2011, he appeared as musical guest on X Factor (Romania).[27]

2012–2013[edit]

In 2012 he released a new music video for his Russian song "Strela Amura".[28] "Strela Amura" is the Russian version of Oah which is one of his previous singles released in 2010. The music video was shot in Kiev, Ukraine. Alexander said: "For me the main thing is what is going on inside a person, not the events around them. The video for the song "Strela Amura" is about me, about my life, which consists of the airports and hotels. You give happiness to others, and you are left alone yourself."

On 30 May 2012 he released a duet with Paula Seling called "I'll Show You".[29] Seling placed third at the 2010 Eurovision. The song had already been promoted on Romanian television and radio. The German label Capsounds has signed the song and will be promoting it throughout Europe.[30]

A new single by Rybak titled "Leave Me Alone" was released worldwide on 12 October 2012. The premiere of the music video was also released shortly after the single which was on 23 October. The release of the Russian version of the song "Dostala" was on 12 November[31] "Leave Me Alone" is about a particular female fan from Israel (but speaks Russian like many others there) who has been stalking him in various ways for quite some time. The new track which will be released during the day is co-written by David Eriksen who is well known to fans of the Eurovision Song Contest for writing "Butterflies" for Tone Damli Aaberge which was the runner-up to Rybak in the 2009 Melodi Grand Prix.

Rybak released a Christmas album on 23 November 2012 entitled Christmas-tales. Recording started spring 2012. Around the same time, it was revealed that Rybak wrote a song for Norwegian singer Annsofi for Melodi Grand Prix 2013. The entry "I'm With You" reached the final of the competition and finished fourth overall.

In October 2013, he released a new music video called "5 to 7 Years". This was a gift he made for his fans after reaching 600,000 followers on Facebook.

2014–2015[edit]

Rybak performing "Into a Fantasy" live during the opening of the Slavianski Bazaar in Vitebsk, Belarus in 2014.

Rybak performed a song for the 2014 How to Train Your Dragon 2 soundtrack, entitled "Into a Fantasy".[32] "Into a Fantasy" was added as a European and Slavic bonus track to the album and was played during the closing credits in the European and Russian releases of the film. Rybak had sent in the track unsolicited to film company DreamWorks, which was charmed by the song and decided to include it in the soundtrack for the closing credits.[33]

On 4 May 2014, he released a song alongside another Eurovision winner, Marija Šerifović, titled "Gorka Hrabrost" meaning "Bitter Bravery".[34]

Rybak took part in The Hit, a live TV show on Norwegian broadcaster NRK on 10 October 2014. Rybak performed "What I Long For", a song written by Elisabet Mjanger. Despite it being the most played track ahead of the results show, it lost out to Trine Rein with "The Story of Love", which went on to eventually win the whole show.[35]

Rybak wrote two entries for national selections for Eurovision in 2015. Rybak wrote a song for Maltese singer Franklin Calleja titled "Still Here". The song was received well and finished fourth in Malta Eurovision Song Contest 2015. In Autumn 2014, Rybak travelled to Belarus to form a girlband to represent Belarus at Eurovision 2015, after having thought about the idea for over a year. Auditions were held in five different cities across the country. In early November, Rybak revealed his girlband MILKI and shortly after that premiered their track "Accent".[36] The song quickly became the favourite to represent Belarus at Eurovision 2015 among fans and receiving positive feedback from former Eurovision participants Marija Serifovic and Philipp Kirkorov.[37] On 26 December, MILKI finished fourth in the Belarusian national final, receiving the second-highest tally of votes from the public. The result led to great controversy and Rybak critiqued the jury for putting the entry fifth.[38]

In early 2015, Rybak took part in the Russian television show Odin v Odin!, in which the participants impersonated legendary artists. The premier episode was broadcast on 8 February in which he impersonated Elvis Presley. Despite initially refusing to portray female artists, Rybak impersonated Gloria Gaynor, Conchita Wurst and Russian folk singer Lyudmila Ryumina, for which he received top marks from the jury.[39][40] After the fourteenth show, Rybak was placed 6th and therefore was not among the five who automatically went to the final. However, the judges said that he deserved a place in the final and made an exception. In the final results, he was the runner-up. With the televoting results, he took a clear second place with 32.1% of the votes, behind Ruslan Alehno.

Rybak released a new Russian single entitled "Котик"/"Kotik". The music video of this song which was filmed in Moscow, Russia, and it was released on 3 June 2015. "Kotik" quickly reached positive acclaim and its music video attracted a lot of views. It topped Belarusian Bel Muz-TV's charts.[41] "Kotik" became one of the most watched Russian-language music videos in 2015. Despite it being a hit online, "Kotik" did not manage to crack the Russian radio charts.[42] Rybak later declared that radio DJs refused to play the song as they felt it was a childish song and some DJs were asking Rybak for financial compensation for playing it.[43]

While announcing his desire to stay a children's musical in 2013, Rybak could not find the funds and support for this project. Instead, he decided to create a children's book with a CD with songs and an audio book attached to it. Rybak initially struggled to find a publisher for this, as most publishers were only interested in the physical book. Eventually, Rybak released Trolle og den magiske fela through Cappelen Damm.[33] Quickly after that, the Danish rights were secured[44] and the book was also complimented by Edward van de Vendel, who proof translated the book's first chapters into Dutch.[3] On 12 June, a new Norwegian song "Blant Fjell" (Among Mountains) was released.

2016–2017[edit]

Rybak performing in the interval act of the Eurovision Song Contest 2016

In early 2016, Rybak was a one-off jury member in Eurosong, Belgium's selection for Eurovision 2016.[45] Rybak also performed as a part of the interval act for the Eurovision Song Contest 2016, in a musical number satirising Eurovision songs. Shortly after that, he released his lead single "I Came To Love You", which music video was shot in Greece.

In 2016, Rybak marked his ten-year's anniversary as an artist with re-releasing former singles such as his debut single "Foolin'" and "5 To 7 Years". Next to that, he held several concert shows under the title "Entertainer".[46]

Rybak sang "Fairytale" during the final of You Decide, the preselection of the United Kingdom in the Eurovision Song Contest 2017.[47] That same year, Rybak teamed up with German singer and violinist Franziska Wiese and had a duet with her on his singles "Fairytale" and "Kotik", while also performing the former at the annual Schlagerboom festival.[48]

During the Eurovision 2017, Rybak publicly supported Portuguese singer Salvador Sobral to win the contest. Sobral eventually won Eurovision with "Amar pelos dois", breaking Rybak's 2009 record. Rybak released his own version of the song, including self-written English lyrics.[49] This version was later covered by others including Eurovision 2018 contestants Sennek and Ari Olafsson.

Although Rybak previously disliked the idea of returning to Eurovision, he revealed in late 2017 that he was thinking of returning to Melodi Grand Prix.[50]

Eurovision 2018[edit]

Rybak performing "That's How You Write A Song" at the final of Melodi Grand Prix 2019.

In January 2018, it was revealed that Rybak would be taking part in the Norwegian national selection Melodi Grand Prix 2018, to represent Norway in the Eurovision Song Contest 2018 in Lisbon, Portugal, with the song "That's How You Write a Song". The song initially received very mixed reviews.[51] Rybak stated that he wanted to take part mostly for pleasure, rather than wanting to win the competition, stating that Norwegian singer Jahn Teigen, who participated fourteen times in the Norwegian selection and won three times, was his inspiration.[52]

Rybak was not the bookmakers and experts' favourite to win the selection,[53] but topped several public polls ahead of the competition. To his own surprise and to the surprise of both of the presenters, Rybak won the selection.[54] During the show, Rybak topped four international juries – Russia, Estonia, North Macedonia and Czechia – more than any other contestant. Rybak proceeded to the last four, where he first beat Aleksander Wallman in a duel and then proceeded to the final duel with singer Rebecca, which he also won.

After the show, several news outlets claimed that Norwegian broadcaster NRK had favourised Rybak, putting him last in the running order.[55] NRK denied this, pointing to the voting statistics that showed that Rybak had won with a large margin.[55] He won his first duel with 94.3% of the votes and his final duel by 71% of the votes, receiving a total of 306,393 votes, the third-highest number of votes an entry ever reached in Melodi Grand Prix history.

Rybak was drawn to perform first in second semi-final on 10 May and finished first overall, becoming the first ever Eurovision performer to win two semi-finals after he also won the second semi-final in 2009. In the final, on 12 May 2018, Rybak performed seventh in the running order and finished in fifteenth place, receiving a top jury score from Italy.[56]

2019–present[edit]

In 2019, Rybak's children's musical Trolle og den magiske fela premiered in Kristiansand and received wide critical acclaim by reviewers.[57] The show sold over 10.000 tickets and had to schedule extra performances to curb the demand.[58]

In 2020, Rybak co-wrote an entry for Melodi Grand Prix 2020 together with JOWST for singer Magnus Bokn called "Over the Sea". The song won the fourth-semi final of the selection show and proceeded to the final, where it eventually lost out to Ulrikke Brandstorp's "Attention".[59]

Rybak was set to appear as part of an interval act at Eurovision 2020, which was later cancelled due to the covid-19 pandemic.[60] As a result of the contest cancellation, several countries organised a produced show or held a vote to determine their country's favourite Eurovision song of all times. Rybak's "Fairytale" finished 3rd in Wallonia's Votre top 20, 17th in the Netherlands's NPO Radio 2 Songfestival Top 50 list, and 6th in the United Kingdom's special Eurovision: Come Together show.[61][62][63] "Fairytale" therefore re-entered the UK sales chart at #65 in late May 2020.[64] A year prior, the Norwegians had voted "Fairytale" as their all-time favourite Eurovision song.[65]

Artistry[edit]

Musical style and genres[edit]

About his own musical style, Rybak has said: "Generally, I do everything from writing folklore, children’s music, DreamWorks songs to arranging for symphony orchestra and making cover versions of Eurovision songs.(...) I do not make more albums, I like to publish one and a song on YouTube. It can be a classic piece, a pop song, a collaboration with Philip Cecil or just a cover song, but I will always have something visual to my songs, and maybe a music video."[66]

Voice[edit]

Rybak is often classified as having a tenore di grazia voice.[67] Rybak has also been noted multiple times for having a strong natural vibrato in his voice.[68][69] His voice has been appreciated for creating whole and clear sounds.[69]

Personal life[edit]

Rybak was raised in the Orthodox religion.[70] In family circles and in his childhood, he used to be referred to as Sasha, the Russian diminutive for his first name.[71]

Rybak did not visit his country of birth for 17 years between his emigration to Norway and his first performance in Belarus in the Summer of 2009.[71] Though he grew up as a child alone, Rybak revealed he had a sister, whom he was estranged from, from an earlier marriage of his father.[72] In 2012, Rybak met his half-sister for the first time in many years.[73]

Rybak bought a new apartment and lives now at Aker Brygge (Oslo, Norway). Rybak speaks Norwegian, Russian and English fluently, and has performed songs in all three languages. Rybak has also performed in Belarusian[74] and, with Elisabeth Andreassen, in Swedish.

In 2010, Rybak was featured in the media negatively after a few incidents of uncontrolled anger. Both times, Rybak had a heated discussion with a sound technician. It resulted in Rybak breaking his fingers in May 2010, and during a later instance, also breaking his violin on stage. Rybak then said: "I never raised my voice before, and that's why I did what I did. I'm just a human being—and perhaps not the glossy image many believe. So it was good to get out frustrations so I could go on. It's only me that goes beyond the same."[75][76] Rybak later blamed the behaviour on his hectic touring schedule, which led to him being overworked, also opening up about battling with depression due to his touring schedule, calling early 2011 the toughest moment of his life.[77][78] He later stated he had to learn to say "no".[79] In 2018 and 2019, Rybak struggled a lot with an unidentified illness, which led him to cancel several performances.[80] To Ukrainian newspaper KP, Rybak said he was initially diagnosed with fatigue-related problems after his second Eurovision participation.[81] In October 2019, Rybak declared he was hypochondriac, stating "all people above 20 have their own battle with something".[82] Rybak stated working in a group for his children's musical Trolle og den magisken fela has helped him. For this production, he temporarily moved to coastal city Kristiansand.[83] In May 2020 Rybak revealed that he had been addicted to sleep medications and antidepressants for 11 years, and has begun to recover after entering rehab in January.[84]

Discography[edit]

Filmography[edit]

Year Film Role Notes
2009 Fairytale – The Movie Himself Documentary about Alexander Rybak after his ESC-Victory
Some Sunny Night - Live in Lillesand Ketil Moe Musical
2010 Yohan: The Child Wanderer Levi Film
How to Train Your Dragon Hiccup Animated Movie (voice, Norwegian dubbed version)
Moomins and the Comet Chase Moomin Animated Movie (voice, Norwegian dubbed version)
2014 How to Train Your Dragon 2 Hiccup Animated Movie (voice, Norwegian dubbed version)
2019 How to Train Your Dragon 3 Hiccup Animated Movie (voice, Norwegian dubbed version)
Trolle and the Magic Fiddle Trolle Musical
2020 Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga Himself Film

Awards[edit]

  • Winner of "Sparre Olsen – competition for young classical musicians", in 2000 and 2001.
  • Winner of ”Anders Jahres Culture-Award" 2004.
  • Winner of TV- talent-competition "Kjempesjansen" 2006.
  • Winner of the ”Hedda-Award" to the "Newcomer of the year in Norwegian Theater", 2007, for the title role in ”Fiddler on the Roof" at Oslo Nye Teater.
  • Winner of "Norwegian Melodi Grand Prix" 2009, with the highest score of all times.
  • Winner of "Eurovision Song Contest" 2009, with the highest score of all times.
  • Winner of "Australian Radio Listeners Award" for European musicians, 2009.
  • Winner of the "Marcel Bezencon Press Award" at Eurovision 2009.
  • Winner of Russian Grammy for ”Newcomer of the year" 2010.
  • Winner of Norwegian Grammy-awards: "Spellemann of the Year" 2010.
  • Winner of ”International Russian Name Award" in Moscow 2011.
  • Winner of ”Countrymen of the Year". Belarus 2013
  • Winner of Melodi Grand Prix 2018

Notes[edit]

The song "Into a Fantasy" is played during the ending credits to the movie How to Train Your Dragon 2 in European releases. Rybak provided the Norwegian voice-over for the animated character Hiccup.

References[edit]

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External links[edit]

Awards and achievements
Preceded by
Russia Dima Bilan
with "Believe"
Winner of the Eurovision Song Contest
2009
Succeeded by
Germany Lena
with "Satellite"
Preceded by
Maria Haukaas Storeng
with "Hold On Be Strong"
Norway in the Eurovision Song Contest
2009
Succeeded by
Didrik Solli-Tangen
with "My Heart Is Yours"
Preceded by
JOWST
with "Grab the Moment"
Norway in the Eurovision Song Contest
2018
Succeeded by
KEiiNO
with "Spirit in the Sky"
Preceded by
Espen Lind
Recipient of the Spellemannprisen
as This year's Spellemann

2009
Succeeded by
Karpe Diem