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Kurt Nilsen

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Kurt Nilsen was a plumber by trade and the singer of a promising young rock band in his native Bergen, Norway. That is, until his life was turned upside down by the crazy roller coaster called reality TV. Nilsen's band, Breed, put out a few singles before changing its name to Fenrik Lane and issuing the Come Down Here EP. But that was before 2002, and his participation in the Norwegian version of the smash hit TV talent contest Pop Idol. The golden-throated, gap-toothed Nilsen was victorious on the show, and his version of the formerly minor Tal Bachman ditty "She's So High" went ten-times platinum in Norway, becoming the country's biggest-selling single of all time. BMG Norway followed up with the hasty full-length I before bustling Nilsen off to London for Christmas 2003's World Idol competition. The show pitted 11 Idol winners from around the globe against one another in a pop reality showdown of preposterous proportion and questionable import. American entry Kelly Clarkson and the U.K.'s Will Young were heavily favored; Nilsen was seen as a dark-horse winner at best. But his anthemic performance of U2's "Beautiful Day" made a big impression on the panel of international Idol judges, and suddenly the Scandinavian singing sensation, good-natured plumber, father of two, and ex-frontman of a rousing, seemingly Hooters-influenced rock & roll band was being bandied about as a spoiler by the offshore betting parlors. Sure enough, on New Year's Day 2004 Nilsen tallied 106 votes to Clarkson's 97 out of a possible 112 to take home the World Idol title and give millions of Kurt-loving Norwegians a late Christmas present. ~ Johnny Loftus

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