U.S. talent abroad

Photo: TV2. Rachael Lee Flores at her audition for Idol.

American Rachael Lee Flores does well in Norwegian Idol contest

Kelsey Larson

Managing Editor

Growing up in the U.S., Rachael Lee Flores probably never thought she¹d one day enter the Norwegian Idol competition.

Flores, originally from California, met her husband in El Paso, Texas; a Norwegian soldier who was stationed in the U.S. through an exchange program.

And the rest is history; Flores now lives in Stavanger, Norway with her husband and children.

This year, she decided to try something new, and auditioned for Norway’s “Idol” show. With a similar structure to the popular U.S. program “American Idol,” many famous Norwegian singers have emerged from the TV show, including Alexander Rybak, who later won the Melodi Grand Prix contest; Tone Damli Aaberge, who acted as a judge for the show this year; and Linnea Dale, who later became famous for singing with well-known Norwegian band Donkeyboy.

Flores auditioned with a strong performance of Mark Ronson and Amy Winehouse’s song “Valerie,” earning praise from the judges (Kurt Nilsen, another former Idol competitor; Tone Damli Aaberge, Gunnar Greve Pettersen, a hip-hop artist and rapper from Bergen; and Esben Selvig, also known as Danksen, The Dane, for his Norwegian / Danish background).

She made it through the audition round and on to Norway’s version of the “Hollywood Week” (called “Oslo Week,” naturally), in which the top 40 contestants compete in the semifinals. They are divided into groups of 10, and viewers of the show vote for their two favorites in each group, who then go on to the final round.

So what did Norwegians think of having an American in their competition?

“The judges were okay with it, and the producers, but the people I’m not so sure,” says Flores with a laugh.

In the end, of course, it all comes down to how Norwegian viewers at home vote.

“The majority of everyone was really cool…but it was hard to keep up with the language,” Flores said of the experience.

Luckily, Flores did have a small advantage, as a native speaker of English, since most audition songs and songs during Oslo week were sung in English. “Everyone auditions with American music…rarely do they ever sing in Norwegian,” Flores says. “So in that regard, it was easier.”

Flores impressed the judges with her take on Rihanna’s “Stay” during the third round of semifinals in the Oslo week.

“I think you sing it better than Rihanna,” said judge Damli, as the concert hall burst into applause.

Flores got caught in a little drama with her choice of song for that round, as Damli’s high-profile relationship with actor Aksel Hennie had recently made headlines for potentially failing, and the media grabbed onto Damli’s feedback as evidence.

“In her feedback, Tone revealed that had recently felt a strong connection with the song [Stay], which is about love trouble,” reported TV2.

“‘I love the song. I feel a very strong relationship with this song, and have listened to it a lot recently’ she said. ”

All in all, the experience was an exciting one for Flores. Unfortunately, she was cut in the semifinals, and did not make it into the top 10.

“I think I was disappointed in the beginning, but then I was a little relieved in the end,” she says.

Flores will continue to watch “Idol” as the season progresses. “I have a really good friend on the show, Martine,” she says. She plans to cheer her on.

“It was a really great experience,” says Flores of the contest. “I’ve never had a TV experience before, and it was really important for me.”

This is just the beginning of Flores’s singing career. She is currently going into new auditions for the TV show “The Voice.” She also hopes to release an album sometime early next year, and a single by the years end. “Even though Idol was short-lived, it gave me the confidence to keep going and the response from people who have become fans of mine are invaluable, so I have a lot to be grateful for,” says Flores.

To see clips from Rachael Lee Flores’s performances, visit www.tv2.no.

This article originally appeared in the Mar. 15, 2013 issue of the Norwegian American Weekly. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (800) 305-0271.

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The Norwegian American is North America's oldest and only Norwegian newspaper, published since May 17, 1889.