What song would you pick for this kind of scenery in Tromsø? (Photo: Diana Robinson/Flickr)
The sights of Norway are spectacular and among the world’s best, but what about the sounds to go with them? A playlist is a must for every trip, especially one that includes sailing, skiing, sky-gazing, and road-tripping.
Thanks to the wonders of Spotify, we’ve assembled this playlist of songs that are all performed or composed by Norwegian musicians, some of whom are either in the spotlight now or were MTV darlings in the ’80s. We also recommend activities for each track. To hear the songs, you’ll need to create a free Spotify account.
One side note: Although the movie “Frozen" has inspired many Americans to visit Norway, this soundtrack doesn’t include any tunes from the film, in part because none of the songs are composed or performed by Norwegians, and also because I have no interest in the movie. I tried to be open-minded when listening to “Let It Go,” only to be reminded of every musical I ever disliked. Which is to say, almost every musical all of the time.
Also, Norway has put out some accomplished black metal bands, but I don’t know the first thing about black metal or how to incorporate that into a vacation without becoming extremely depressed. Which is why, as I’ve argued, you’re better off seeing Norway in the summer.
a-ha: “Living a Boy’s Adventure Tale”
The past and future sound of Norway.
I know this choice flies in the face of a-ha’s far more recognized hit, but “Take on Me” offers nothing that resembles a Norway experience, while this song does. Every playlist — nay, every movie, Monday-morning commute, wedding, and bar mitzvah — should begin with the falsetto that Morten Harket belts out in the opening seconds of “Living a Boy’s Adventure Tale.”
(Worth mentioning here: If you think a-ha is just a one-hit wonder, stream their entire album “Hunting High and Low.” Snicker at the ’80s fashion if you must, but the title track, “The Blue Sky,” “The Sun Always Shines on TV,” and “Here I Stand and Face the Rain” are all legit songs that shouldn’t be forgotten all because of a cartoon video. OK, I’ll step off my soapbox now.)
Perfect for: Gazing out from your deck as you begin a cruise of Norway from the harbor city of Bergen. But before you go, take a walking tour of Bergen past the sculpture created by a-ha member Magne Furuholmen.
Röyksopp: “What Else Is There?”
Röyksopp isn’t just one of Norway’s most famous bands, it’s also one of the world’s most important electronic bands of the last 20 years. And the tense, dramatic atmosphere they created in this song is what I consider the band’s masterpiece. “I am the storm, and I am the wonder” sums up Norway’s natural grandeur in one line.
Perfect for: With lyrics about “flashlights and explosions,” it’s easy to imagine myself being awestruck listening to this song as the northern lights illuminate the cold, night sky.
Todd Terje: “Delorean Dynamite”
Norway’s National Tourist Route… you’ll want to keep your eyes on the road. (Photo: Greg Keraghosian)
Born in Mjøndalen, Terje is a big deal these days. He was already a successful DJ before releasing his debut album, the succinctly titled “It’s Album Time,” this year. This turbocharged song is one of its best tracks.
Perfect for: Throwing caution to the wind as you shift your car – no DeLorean required – into high gear and navigate the 11 hairpin turns of the National Tourist Route from Geiranger to Trollstigen. Just don’t stare at the incredible natural scenery around you as you drive, or it might be your last song.
The Whitest Boy Alive: “Burning”
Skiing in Norway (Photo: Heikki Rauhala/Flickr)
This cheekily named Norwegian-German electronic act stars Erlend Øye, who was born in Bergen.
Perfect for: “Caught in a motion that I don’t wanna stop,” Øye croons, and we can see this being the soundtrack of your ski descent at a resort, such as Trysil or Hemsedal.
There’s lots of love on display at the Vigeland Sculpture Park in Oslo. (Photo: Jean-Pierre Dalbéra/Flickr)
I’ve covered how to flirt in a few U.S. cities, but I throw up my hands in ignorance about how people flirt in Norway, especially during the months that have so little daylight. The closest hint I’ve had about flirting is through listening to this tune by Bergen-born DJ Annie. Apparently it involves going dancing Friday night and having a drink or two. While so many American hip-hop songs make the pick-up scene at a club sound predatory and cheap, this song literally considers getting picked up at a club a jolt to the heart. No, you don’t know their name yet, but does it matter?
Perfect for: Finding your own #RealTravel love connection.
Röyksopp: “Beautiful Day Without You”
A beautiful day at the top of Europe (Photo: Greg Keraghosian)
Because one Röyksopp song on this playlist isn’t enough. And because it’s a defiant ode to moving forward, no matter what pain you’ve experienced.
Perfect for: Maybe you indulged your Annie “Heartbeat” fling and it turned into heartbreak. Put your breakup behind you as you do what the song’s protagonist does — enjoy the wind on your back and the sun on your face. Preferably, you’re sailing a fjord, and if you do it in the summer, you’ll have a beautiful day that never ends.
Bertine Zetlitz: “Midnight”
Oslo native Bertine Zetlitz appears to be calling out a self-assured, possibly smug ex-boyfriend, playfully predicting his downfall as he plays the field at night. But we can take the song more literally than that and heed her warning not to slip on Norway’s winter ice: “I’ve seen you tripping, baby/sliding, but I’ve never seen you slip.” Thanks Bertine. We’ll wear safe shoes out there.
Perfect for: Nightclub hopping in Oslo with your buddies, possibly in an area such as Solli plass.
Edvard Grieg: “In the Hall of the Mountain King”
A statue of Edvard Grieg in his hometown of Bergen (Photo: Greg Keraghosian)
Norwegians and trolls go back a long way. One of the first things you’ll notice when visiting Norway is that troll statues are everywhere. This is one of the most recognizable, classical music songs ever, and the Bergen-born Grieg composed this to describe the main character of Peer Gynt entering a troll king’s lair.
Perfect for: A night at the theater or for tiptoeing through Grieg’s former home, which is now a museum in Bergen.
Kings of Convenience: “Homesick”
A cafe in Bergen (Photo: Arne Halvorsen/Flickr)
In addition to fronting Whitest Boy Alive, Øye founded this indie-folk duo with Eirik Glambek Bøe. “Homesick” sounds like it’s genetically engineered from a Simon and Garfunkel song, and they even appear to reference the band in the lyrics. Travel brings joy and discovery, but it can also bring the melancholy of distance, isolation, and the knowledge that “real life” awaits back home. This is a three-minute reminder of that.
Perfect for: Huddling with some hot chocolate inside a café toward the end of your trip while you upload photos to Facebook, look at what your friends or family are up to, and wistfully wish you could be with them. In a few days, you will.
a-ha: “Take On Me”
Oh, who are we kidding? I can’t keep this off the playlist. It’s “Take on Me,” for crying out loud! The country could make this its national anthem, and I wouldn’t raise an eyebrow. In fact, the world needs a national anthem with synthesizers — let’s make this happen, Norway.
Perfect for: Celebrating your last night in Norway. Because you’ll be gone … in a day or twoooooooo!