Backtracking is our recurring look back at some of pop’s forgotten albums. Because, dammit, Miley Cyrus needs to start respecting her elders.
Ah, Ace Of Base. Only in the reactionary, post-grunge 1990s could Americans have briefly embraced such a pop phenomenon. Something about the reggae-inflected synth beats and icy detachment of the Swedish quartet—siblings Jonas, Jenny and Malin Berggren, and their pal Ulf “Buddha” Ekberg—had us going bonkers for The Sign (or Happy Nation, as it was titled outside the U.S.).
And yet, when AOB’s sophomore album The Bridge was released in 1995, we tossed these supposed heirs to the ABBA throne out in the cold—despite The Bridge being a set of pop jams far superior to their first offering.
Yes, opening track “Beautiful Life” managed to dent the Top 20 of Billboard’s Hot 100 and has remained an enduring ’90s Euro-cheese anthem. But after that, the band’s wheel of fortune pretty much came to a grinding halt.
In 1994, The Sign racked up sales of seven million copies thanks to global hits like the title track, “All That She Wants” and “Don’t Turn Around.” And there was clearly a lot of cash on hand when it came time for Ace Of Base to craft their second album—the original CD for The Bridge boasts a 24-page color booklet containing photos, lyrics and personal anecdotes written in 90% grammatically-correct English!
The Max Factor: Historically it should be noted that this was the first album producer Max Martin had a hand in. The LP’s three official singles, as well as album track “Blooming 18,” were all recorded with Martin and his studio mentor Denniz PoP behind the boards. Three years later a little song Max wrote called “…Baby One More Time” would top the charts in every country it was released in, and his “Midas touch” reputation would be solidified.
Slow Jams: If anything, The Bridge should be noted for the maturity of the lyrical content—which all four members took part in writing—compared to Ace Of Base’s debut. Nearly half of the record is ballads, a factor that might have come off like a party foul in the Eurodance-happy climate of the mid-’90s. That said, hindsight is 20/20, and tracks like “Angel Eyes” and “Ravine”—allegedly about singer Jenny Berrgren’s knife attack in her own home by a female fan—hold their own against the more uptempo material on The Bridge.
Key Tracks: “Beautiful Life” is undeniable. (”Take a walk in the park when you feel down/There’s so many things there that’s gonna lift you up.” Hey, it’s that easy!) And bouncy tunes like “Lucky Love” and “Never Gonna Say I’m Sorry” are nestled nicely alongside the already-mentioned ballads “Ravine” and “Angel Eyes.” The aptly-titled “Strange Ways” and “Blooming 18″ are also hidden gems on the album. Sure, there’s no immediately-catchy “Don’t Turn Around” to be found here, but the material on The Bridge sounds far less dated when it pops up on shuffle than most anything on The Sign.
Wait, “Blooming 18″ Kinda Sounds Like…: Lady Gaga’s “Alejandro,” off The Fame Monster. Call us nutty, but when playing them each side by side, we’re thinking this is a mashup waiting to happen.
More Base For Your Buck: The Bridge is currently available at iTunes for $7.99, with European album track “You And I” intact, as well as the original version of “Lucky Love.” (Here in the States, The Bridge initially only contained the acoustic version of “Lucky Love,” which was released as the follow-up single to “Beautiful Life.”)
So Where Are They Now?: Ace Of Base went on to release two more albums after The Bridge. A dormant period followed 2002 LP Da Capo, but the band reunited in 2007 for a series of European concerts (albeit as a trio, without original member Malin “Linn” Berggren). Both a new greatest hits package and album of remixes were issued in 2008, while the band’s official site stated they were at work on a new album. But in 2009, the band’s site was yanked offline. What appeared to be the final blow to any chance of an Ace of Base revival came on November 30, 2009, when Jenny Berggren posted the following via Twitter: “We didn’t get a record out as three. My hopes are that we can work together in the future, when I have prooven myself as a soloartist… Meanwhile the boys in the band are doing their musical thing, as I do mine. We wich eachother the best of luck and work for the future.”
Hey, hell’s gotta freeze over at some point, right? Until then, why not party like it’s 1995 and take a journey across The Bridge?
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