Listening to “Am I Wrong,” the first big Stateside hit from the duo known as Nico & Vinz (Nico Sereba and Vincent Dery), you’d likely never guess that the pair behind this vaguely African-sounding, reggae-tinged dance pop track hail from Oslo, Norway.
They broke the ice in 2010 under the name Envy, then changed it to Nico & Vinz prior to this single’s 2013 release in Norway—where it climbed to No. 2 on that country’s charts. And since the song’s release in the U.S. in early April 2014, “Am I Wrong” has been steadily ascending American charts as well.
Its appeal no doubt comes in large measure from Nico & Vinz’s songwriting style, which has been compared to a blend of Sting, Paul Simon and Akon. But the tune’s positive message about taking risks and persevering in the face of questions and criticism has probably played an important role in its growing popularity as well.
In an uncredited quote circulating in many articles about the band, Vinz says of the duo’s approach to their music, “We are Norwegian and African. It is important for us to inspire. We sing about things we’ve been going through and about finding ourselves. To us it’s important to have a message, and the goal for us is to inspire people to find happiness.”
That uplifting attitude is definitely present on “Am I Wrong,” which begins with two questions: “Am I wrong for thinking out of the box from where I stay?/Am I wrong for saying that I choose another way?” And as the song continues, it answers those questions by insisting that trying new things and finding your own way in the world is not wrong at all.
“I ain’t trying to do what everybody else doing/Just ’cause everybody doing what they all do,” we hear. These guys know that there will be failures and missteps along their chosen way (“If one thing I know, I’ll fall but I’ll grow”), but they’re nevertheless striving to reach for their destiny (“Now am I wrong?/For trying to reach the things that I can’t see?”).
Nico & Vinz also realize there are others out there struggling just as valiantly as they are to carve out a personal niche. Their counsel? Be decisive (“Walk your walk and don’t look back, always do what you decide”), don’t let critics and naysayers dictate terms (“Don’t let them control your life/ … Fight for yours and don’t let go”) and avoid others’ unhealthy comparisons (“Don’t let them compare you, no”). Finally, there’s this encouragement when your dusty lane gets lonely: “Don’t worry, you’re not alone/That’s just how we feel.”
Nico and Vinz are so convinced that their journey is the right one that they say to someone who’s criticizing them, “If you tell me I’m wrong, wrong/I don’t wanna be right, right.” In the context of the song, rejecting that criticism may well be a good thing. Lifted out of that context, however, this thought could easily be used to justify rebellious choices. But that’s about as close to anything problematic as things ever get.
The song’s accompanying video (shot in Botswana, near Victoria Falls and the borders of Zambia and Zimbabwe) uses a fanciful narrative construct of its own to illustrate the song’s ideas. Both Nico and Vinz wander separately through various African environments, each carrying a portable, old-school TV with static on the screen. (Never mind that they’re not plugged in.) Always-smiling people help them along the way, and the two friends are eventually reunited, with their own images now showing up amid the static on the TVs as they do a celebratory dance in the African desert. (A few of the dancers and/or helpers show a fair bit of skin.)
Nico and Vinz’s answers to life’s questions aren’t at all lost amid that static, through: Find your own way and keep on keepin’ on until you reach your final destination.
After serving as an associate editor at NavPress’ Discipleship Journal and consulting editor for Current Thoughts and Trends, Adam now oversees the editing and publishing of Plugged In’s reviews.