Copyright © 1997. All Rights Reserved.
Let's go party
Aqua are just getting started to annoy all you happy girls and boys
As 1997 comes to a close and music critics try to wrack their alcohol-addled memories for artists, songs and albums that made an impression on them this year, a good majority will step off a ledge and end their miserable lives forever. The one thing that this past 12 months in song will be remembered for is the deluge of sometimes annoying, often wonderful one-hits that were chiseled repeatedly into our tiny brains.
There's your Hanson, Spice Girls, Chumbafuckinwumba, Smash Mouth and, lest we not forget those saucy Scandinavians who invaded our subconscious with that infamous little ditty about an infamous little dolly - Aqua.
And while many people in North America have been oiling Mr. Smith 'n' Wesson, dreaming of a one-hit opportunity of their own for Aqua, don't worry, the residents of Denmark have already killed the band's sexy elfin frontwoman Lene Nystrøm. Three times.
"That was a rumor put out in Denmark about a month ago and after that I've died two more times," explains Aqua's very-much-alive vocalist during a recent promotional stop in Toronto. "So I've got six more lives to go now.
"Some people say you're not big before you're declared dead, so we're starting to get there now."
Starting to? Jesus H - how many more albums does the band have to sell before they can call themselves big. In their home country of Denmark, Aqua have already sold 350,000 copies of their CD, Aquarium. To put that into perspective, that's over one in 12 households that are blessed with the quartet's infectious debut. (No, the nog hasn't curdled - je friggin' t'aime!)
Part of their notoriety on this continent could be due to the legal circus surrounding their hit "Barbie Girl." Mattel, producers of the anatomically incorrect plaything, took exception to the Aquating of their doll to a real-life ready-to-be-twisted-and-turned-by-any-Ken blow-up doll. The legal battle (which Lene - who has never owned a Barbie - says has been thrown out, leaving Mattel's and Aqua's record company lawyers to come to some out-of-court agreement) had the band's name in the papers long before any Canadian radio station was playing them.
But, maybe just maybe the reason behind their success is because "Barbie" - like much of the album - is a 100 per cent fun plastic fantastic pop song. Who can resist Lene's taunting sing song schoolgirl sweetness chased around by beeps boops and René Dif's leering big, bad wolf rap? It's simple, it's stupid, it's unbelievably infectious. And you can dance to it too! Like Ace of Base or the Scandinavian catchy, bubblegum grandpoppys ABBA, the band is as disposable or indispensable as you want - or admit - them to be.
"Being compared to ABBA is a really big compliment for us. They had the same problem when they were released - it wasn't credible music and all that stuff. But when you look back on ABBA now they were one of the best bands ever in pop music," Lene says.
"We call our music 'pop music' and we don't want it to sound like Euro beat or dance music. When you hear a song and it gets stuck in your mind, many people think that's irritating, but it's hard to find a good melody in pop these days."
The good or bad news, depending on your stage of denial, is that in the near future it probably won't be so hard. According to Lene, there are more just like them back home waiting to make the jump into the dark recesses of North America's pop music memories.
"There's many clones coming out now," she says. "Suddenly you're allowed to enjoy and make pop music. A year ago people were screaming 'wannabes' after us because of our image - people didn't have any belief in our music at all. And suddenly every record company is producing all these lookalikes.
"In a way you should be honored, but you're also annoyed by it that people want to copy you."
And many, I'm sure, will be annoyed right along with her.
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