As followers of American Idol well know, the impact of the series on the popular music landscape has been staggering and inescapable, and the situation is no different in many of the 30-plus countries to which the franchise has extended.
Norway is no exception -- indeed, as the country that boasts the surprise winner (Kurt Nilsen) of the first and only World Idol competition in 2003, it may be truer there than anywhere, and nearly all of the finalists on Norwegian Idol have parlayed their winnings into significant pop careers. Chilean-born Alejandro Javiero Fuentes' hushed, husky vocal stylings earned him a third place finish in the third season of the series (in 2005); his soft pop debut, Diamonds or Pearls, spent six weeks in the Norwegian Top Ten and went gold, spawning a number one hit in the maudlin "Stars." In 2006 Fuentes joined forces with three other acoustic guitar-slinging stars -- fellow Idol Nilsen, Askil Holm (formerly of the band Attack), and Espen Lind (a veteran artist best known to international audiences as the co-writer and guitarist on Beyoncé's "Irreplaceable") -- for a joint tour that was extended, due to popular demand, to 30 dates from a planned five or six. The foursome, who came to be known unofficially as "the New Guitar Buddies" (after a similar, earlier supergroup, Gitarkameratene, who first toured in 1988), released a live album (Hallelujah Live) that became the fastest-selling record in Norwegian history, spending 13 weeks at number one on the albums chart and included hit covers of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" and Don Henley's "Boys of Summer." In the wake of this impressive achievement, all four were primed for continued solo success in 2007, and Fuentes delivered with his lush, country-inflected sophomore set, Tomorrow Only Knows, featuring the beat-driven "Hell If I," which spent five weeks on top of the chart. ~ K. Ross Hoffman, Rovi