Stargate: Norway’s Pop Wizards

Scandinavian pop sensibilities have sporadically found a home on the American charts since the days of ABBA. Like Sweden’s Max Martin, the Norwegian duo Stargate have joined the transatlantic crossover in the 21st century. Tor Erik Hermansen and Mikkel Storleer Eriksen formed Stargate in the late ‘90s, producing a string of hits for British groups like S Club 7 and Atomic Kitten that charted almost everywhere in the English-speaking world except America.

Stargate finally broke into the U.S. by helping another behind-the-scenes player step into the spotlight—the young R&B singer Ne-Yo, who had also written hits for other artists. Their first collaboration, 2006’s “So Sick,” brought together Stargate’s slick European dance-pop sonics with Ne-Yo’s soulful midtempo songwriting to great effect. They came together many times over the next few years, with Ne-Yo penning Stargate-produced hits like Beyoncé’s “Irreplaceable” and Rihanna’s “Take A Bow,” broadening that signature sound with lush instrumentation and witty lyrics.

Stargate soon began to use their foothold in R&B to nudge American radio toward four-on-the-floor dance beats with tracks like Rihanna’s “Don’t Stop The Music” and Ne-Yo’s “Closer” years before uptempo EDM grooves began to saturate U.S. airwaves. In Rihanna, they’ve perhaps found their greatest muse, producing six of her 14 chart-topping singles and putting their own unique spin on Caribbean sounds in “What’s My Name?” and “Rude Boy.”

In recent years, Hermansen and Eriksen have shown their versatility, hopping from rock (Coldplay) to hip-hop (Wiz Khalifa) to pure pop (Katy Perry). They even scored a viral hit in 2013, providing the killer dance track that made Norwegian comedy duo Ylvis’ “The Fox” a YouTube phenomenon. But it hasn’t been until this year that Stargate put their considerable music-industry clout behind a record of their own, releasing the single “Waterfall,” featuring P!nk and Sia.

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