Arista Records, 1995
REVIEW BY: Michael R. Smith
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 08/09/2009
Just when I thought pop music had died, along came Ace Of Base onto the scene in 1993. The early 90’s were when grunge and hip-hop were dueling for radio supremacy, shutting dance music and Top 40 pop out completely. Only a music exec as legendary as Clive Davis could bring Euro-pop back into popularity in America at that time. Who could have predicted a Swedish quartet - essentially another ABBA, two men and two women - would take the world by storm with their debut album The Sign? Certainly no one in the grunge or hip-hop camps, that’s for sure.
It wasn’t a perfect album, nor was their follow-up The Bridge, but it did bring a new sound to radio that seemed to be a mixed-breed of techno crossed with reggae dance-hall. Both albums have too many songs with the same “clunka-clunka” beats (“All That She Wants”, “Happy Nation,” “Perfect World”), so perhaps they should have sought out other producers (Americans preferably) who could have fleshed out their sound and range. We are treated to some ballads on The Bridge (“Edge Of Heaven,” “Angel Eyes”), but most of them fall flat and are too lightweight to make any impression.
That was the fatal flaw of Ace Of Base, they just didn’t have the gravitas of ABBA to be anything more than just a flash-in-the-pan chart act. With ABBA, we were intrigued by four distinct personalities that had the talent chops to entertain and captivate us for YEARS. As old as their material is now, we never seem to get sick of hearing their music. By comparison, Ace Of Base’s music now sounds stale and murky. They really never had the ability or confidence to step outside their comfort zone, which is why an album like The Bridge feels so weighted down by filler. It’s a case of same-old, same-old.
The biggest risks Ace Of Base ever took was on the high-octane techno gem “Beautiful Life” and the equally dramatic marching tune “Blooming 18.” Talk about a much-needed shot of adrenaline…if they had continued in that direction, they might have continued to catch fire. Only dance clubs would keep spinning Ace Of Base’s tunes from 1995 on, with remixers even magically transforming an acoustic cut like “Lucky Love” into a #1 dance floor smash.
Had they narrowed the 15 selections on The Bridge down to a more manageable dozen, the redundancy factor would have been averted. Definite keepers include the hypnotic slow song “Wave Wet Sand,” the title-doesn’t-do-it-justice “Just ‘N Image,” and “Never Gonna Say I’m Sorry,” which does “The Sign” one better by incorporating a “Fernando” style flute in the mix. Save the day for pop music Ace Of Base surely did, though it’s highly doubtful that anyone really misses them now.