By Nathan S.
What if I were to tell you that two of the most powerful people in hip-hop and r&b, the people your favorite artists call when they need a hit, were Norwegians named Tor Erik Hermansen and Mikkel Storleer Eriksen?
Would that blow your mind? Just who the f*** is Stargate? Will I spend this entire piece asking rhetorical questions?
The point is, although no one could pick them out on a crowded street, production team Stargate, comprised of the aforementioned Hermansen and Eriksen, are responsible for more hit records than almost any other producer working today.
In the last four years alone. those bald dudes you see above have been responsible for 27 Top 100 singles and several number ones, most recently Rihanna's "Rude Boy". If you had told me five years ago that American urban music would revolve around two dudes whose names contain an incredible amount of consonants, I would have said you were crazy.
So how did we get here? Slowly but surely. Stargate began to prove their chops on the Norwegian pop charts - who could forget their hit with Noora Noor "Need You" - and then slowly began to infiltrate the UK music scene, charting again with a bunch of British acts you've never heard of (S Club, Hear'Say, etc.).
But if you're looking to make it big you've got to come to the U.S., and after relocating to New York City the duo eventually broke through via a 14-year-old singer named Mikaila and "So in Love with Two" (yeah, I don't remember it either). Their big break came when they bumped into Ne-Yo at Sony Studios. Ne-Yo invited them to work on a record with a new, then unknown singer he was producing, and when that singer turned out to be Rihanna, and that record turned out to be "Unfaithful", they were on board. From there the hits just never stopped, including:
2006: "Irreplaceable" (Beyoncé)
2007: "Beautiful Liar" (Beyoncé and Shakira)
2007: "Because of You" (Ne-Yo)
2007: "Don't Stop the Music" (Rihanna)
2007: "Hate That I Love You" (Rihanna)
2007: "With You" (Chris Brown)
2008: "Take a Bow" (Rihanna)
2008: "Closer" (Ne-Yo)
2008: "Spotlight" (Jennifer Hudson)
2008: "Miss Independent" (Ne-Yo)
2008: "Mad" (Ne-Yo)
2009: "I Need a Girl" (Trey Songz)
2009: "Be On You" (Flo Rida)
2010: "I Am" (Mary J. Blige)
2010: "Rude Boy" (Rihanna)
2010: "Black & Yellow" (Wiz Khalifa)
I feel like not nearly enough people appreciate just how insane this is. As if it weren't already evident, let me recap: In an American-centric industry allergic to outsiders, two Norwegian dudes named Tor and Mikkel have become its most proven hitmakers, the power behind the hit single throne.
I can't think of a single more unlikely success story in modern urban music, especially considering that 90% of the people who buy Stargate's music truthfully don't know who the fuck they are, which is exactly why I wrote this article. So to quote the immortal B.I.G., "If you don't know, now you know."