Despite having attracted attention within the music community in London where she is based, Norwegian singer and songwriter Kate Havnevik was until recently a little known name. But she used 2006 to teach everyone a lesson in how to wield the new tools of the internet in pursuing an artistic career.
With almost a million downloads from her Myspace site Havnevik is by far the most successful Norwegian internet artist. Still little known to the mainstream, on Myspace, the biggest meeting place on the net, Havnevik is bigger than e.g. Katie Meluha.
The Oslo girl exemplifies the new, and future, generations of artists who both master and enjoy all the benefits of the “new structure and conditions of popular music.” One aspect of this is Myspace, which pertains to how the music is proliferated, i.e. by continuous and patient presence on the net where “new things” are picked up and spread by “word of mouth” friends, and their networks. But it also has a lot to do with how one works in “reality,” i.e. the conditions of the creative process and how artists increasingly collaborate and help each other in ways that bypass “the money” and the traditionally powerful facilitators.
London is doubtlessly the global hub for innovative, experimental pop music (America is still predominantly typological) and having gradually established herself there over almost then years Kate Havnevik has collaborated with some leading names, suffice it to mention Röyksopp and producer Guy Sigsworth. Her time in London has given her both artistic renown and a place in a sphere where word travels to the right people and things happen in a downplayed manner. The interesting point is how the actual artistic milieu, such as London’s , and its internal workings and relations transcend into the virtual sphere of the web and create channels that parallel the independent spirit of the artists themselves.
Notwithstanding Havnevik’s great success on Myspace, the chief event of last year was the release of her debut album Melankton, which became available on Apple’s iTunes music store in March and then in stores in Norway in April. Before the UK-release in October, the album had been pre-ordered in fifteen thousand copies; a high number indeed for a debut by someone almost unmentioned in traditional media.
However, the most important indication of her music’s appeal and her promising future was perhaps the repeated use of Havnevik’s music in the hugely popular American TV-series Gray’s Anatomy (the streets of NYC were empty; word has it, when the season’s last episode was aired). She actually wrote a song exclusively for the series and her music features on the big-selling series soundtracks. So America is already thoroughly introduced to her music and everything points towards a huge potential for her deep and clear species of pop; transparent yet substantial, like unpolluted water.
Havnevik is equally fond of electronic and acoustic airs, but she seems to prefer not merging the different kind of soundscapes too much, but rather let the dynamic play out from song to song, and in fact record to record: In addition to Melankton she has been working on two other separate albums, one of them purely acoustic.
The recurring trait in her music is her ability to create hugely different moods that fit equally well to her vocals, which range widely, her voice being always the essential trait. A comparison might be Dido with whom she shares a coolness of voice and a sense of strong and warmly captivating melodies. This dynamic between cool distance and under-skin melodies plays out also in the aforementioned acoustic/electronic distinction.
Her influences are tri-pop and acid jazz and the dark and grand soundscapes and soaring, luminous melodies that these genres gave us in the nineties. But with classical training on piano and guitar, she also has a love for bringing instruments all the way to the fore and drawing the sound near. Some Norwegian critics have disdained her “outdated 90s pop,” but one may wander why she should care all the while the biggest TV-series in America has made her its preferred soundtrack voice. And with the close of the year it seemed that Norwegian papers had gotten the picture too, calling her one of the most promising names for 2007.