Artist Profiles: Alexander Rybak

Alexander Rybak is a familiar face within the Eurovision world, first and foremost due to his win back in 2009. Since then, he has been a staple in the Eurovision world, whether that’s as a participant, interval or songwriter.

Who is Alexander Rybak?

Alexander Rybak was born in the Belarusian capital, Minsk, with his parents and family hailing from Vitebsk in Northern Belarus. The family moved to Norway, and after seven years living in the country, received Norwegian citizenship. Alexander began playing piano at the age of five, but eventually began learning violin, following in the footsteps of his musician father. At the age of 10, he began studying at the Barratt Due Institute in Oslo. After his Eurovision win in 2009, he graduated with a Bachelor of Music in violin performance.

The Journey to Eurovision

In 2005, Alexander Rybak entered the Norwegian version of Idol, where he reached the semi-final. The following year, he went on to win ‘Kjempesjansen’, a talent competition hosted by Norwegian broadcaster NRK with his own song, ‘Foolin’. In 2007, he played the fiddle in the Oslo Nye Teater’s production of Fiddler on the Roof, and won the Hedda Award for that role.

Norway kept with tradition in 2009, selecting their Eurovision entrant with the show Melodi Grand Prix. The competition featured three semi-finals, a second chance round and the final. Interestingly, future Romanian Eurovision participant Ovi also participated in Melodi Grand Prix, marking the second time he had participated as the lead artist. Both Ovi and Alexander Rybak qualified from the third semi-final.

Of the eight finalists, four were selected to continue to the Gold Final, where they face the final vote. Ovi didn’t continue in the competition, but Alexander Rybak went through to the next round. Votes were counted from regional juries and televoting regions across Norway, and it became clear that Alexander Rybak was the overwhelming winner. Finishing with a total of 715,888 points, Rybak won his ticket to Eurovision. In second was Tone Damli who received 99,850 points.

Even before winning the national final, his entry Fairytale topped the charts. This was the first time in Melodi Grand Prix history that the winner reached the top of the charts before the contest had concluded. With that in mind, Rybak became a clear favourite to win Eurovision as well.

At the contest, Norway dominated the second semi-final, comfortably qualifying in 1st place. In the final, Alexander performed in 20th place in the running order, and went on to win the contest with a total of 387 points. The EBU split results with jury and televote revealed that Norway managed to top both votes. Norway won the contest with a significant point margin in both jury and televote. The nation received 16 sets of douze points!

What Happened Next?

Rybak released his first album after his Eurovision win titled ‘Fairytales’. In December 2009, he performed his Eurovision winning song at the Nobel Peace Prize Concert at the Oslo Spektrum. In the same year, he recorded the theme song ‘I Don’t Believe in Miracles/Superhero’ for the Russian action film, ‘Black Lightning’.

In 2010, he co-stared as Levi in the film Yohan, directed by Grete Salomonsen. In the same year, he did as many Eurovision winners do, and toured the national final circuit. He performed his new single, ‘Europe’s Skies’ in the Finnish national selection, and performed his winning Eurovision song in the UK selection.

Later in the year, he released the single ‘Oah’ which also featured a music video. Just a few days later, he released his second album titled ‘No Boundaries’. It peaked at 7th on the charts in Norway.

In 2011, he competed on the Swedish version of Strictly Come Dancing, finishing in the Top 4. In the same year, he released the album ‘Visa vid vindens ängar’ which was a collaboration with Mats Paulson.

In 2012, Alexander collaborated with Paula Seling on a song called ‘I’ll Show You’. In the same year, he also released the single ‘Leave Me Alone’. At the end of the year, he released a Christmas album titled ‘Christmas-tales’. At this time, it was also revealed that he had written a competing entry for Melodi Grand Prix in 2013 for Annsofi. The entry ‘I’m With You’ reached the final, finishing 4th overall.

In 2014, Alexander performed ‘Into a Fantasy’, a song for the How To Train Your Dragon 2 soundtrack. It was played during the closing credits for the European and Russian releases of the film. His eagerness to collaborate with other Eurovision stars continued in 2014, releasing a song with Marija Šerifović titled ‘Gorka Hrabrost’.

Rybak competed in a live TV show called ‘The Hit’ in Norway in 2014, however unfortunately did not win the show.

In 2015, Rybak wrote two entries for Eurovision national selections. The first was for Maltese singer Franklin Calleja titled ‘Still Here’ which went on to finish fourth in the Maltese selection. He also went back to his birth nation Belarus to launch a bid to represent Belarus at Eurovision as a songwriter. He travelled around Belarus to form a girl band, which was eventually called MILKI, and their competing single was titled ‘Accent’. The group ended up also finishing in fourth place, despite being favourites to finish on top.

In the same year, he competed in the Russian television show Odin v Odin, where participants impersonate legendary artists. In the season, he impersonated a number of artists including Elvis, Gloria Gaynor and Conchita Wurst. He finished in 6th place, which normally wouldn’t lead to a qualification, however the judges made an exception. He finished in 2nd overall, finishing behind Ruslan Alehno – another former Eurovision artist.

Another side project for the artist was releasing a children’s book with a CD of songs, and the audio book attached. The book was eventually released, titled ‘Trolle og den magiske fela’

Alexander’s participation in the Eurovision world continued in 2016, where he acted as a one-off jury member in the Belgian Eurovision selection. In the same year, he was featured in the interval act at Eurovision 2016. In 2017, he performed at the UK selection, You Decide.

In 2018, it was revealed that he would be returning as a competing artist to the Norwegian selection, Melodi Grand Prix. He stated that he wanted to take part for pleasure, rather than wanting to win. He competed with the song ‘That’s How You Write a Song’ which received mixed reviews. He went on to win MGP, and booked another ticket to Eurovision. At Eurovision, he won his semi-final, marking the first time a Eurovision performer had topped two semi-finals. Overall, he finished in 15th place.

His book was created into a children’s musical in 2019, and received critical acclaim. In 2020, he co-wrote an entry for Melodi Grand Prix with JOSWT for singer Magnus Bokn titled ‘Over the Sea’. The song won the semi-final, however did not win the competition overall. He also featured as part of the Will Ferrell film, Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga.

Earlier in 2021, he released a single with former Eurovision participant Sirusho titled ‘Stay’