Unreasonable facsimile

I’m not ashamed to say that I truly love me some Ace of Base.  It’s one of many unpopular opinions I hold, but I can’t help it.  They were a huge portion of my college soundtrack – well, at least The Sign was – and they spent 10+ years making some of the catchiest, if lightweight, pop music.  Even after they stopped having hits in the U.S., they persisted overseas and their last formal album as a band was 2003’s Da Capo – an album that didn’t even see a U.S. release even though it was one of their stronger albums.  Their songs feel pretty timeless while simultaneously capturing the 90s quite well.

Well, Linn (the blond) was the first to call it quits and then in 2009, Jenny (the brunette) announced her decision to pursue a solo career, leaving the future of Ace of Base in doubt.  Would this be the end of Ace of Base, now that the female voices were gone?  Where in the world would we get our fix of Swedish pop?  Those were the questions on everyone’s my lips.  I was kind of resigned to the fact that four Ace of Base albums were all we would get.

I should have known better.

The two remaining band members, Joker & Buddha, did what you would probably expect – they got new girls.  Enter Clara and Julia, the new blond and brunette in Ace of Base.  Many bands have survived line-up changes and surely, Ace of Base could do it.  As long as their voices were just similar enough to Jenny and Linn’s we’d be okay, right?  And besides which, isn’t all that 90s Europop kind of interchangeable anyway?  Who really cares who’s singing the song as long as it has the right BPM?  I have to admit that I was pretty excited when I heard that a new Ace of Base album was coming our way back in 2010, even if it wasn’t really Ace of Base.

The only trouble was that it wasn’t getting a proper American release.  Not surprising, really.  The last time they’d had a hit on the U.S. pop charts was in 1998 and that was with a cover of Bananarama’s “Cruel Summer.”  A cover!  Sure, it wasn’t too shabby, but it was no “All That She Wants” or “Beautiful Life” (which amazingly did not go U.S. Top Ten.)  So I was resigned to having to listen to a web rip of the first single “All For You” that was of dubious quality.  Much like my assessment of “Cruel Summer”, it wasn’t too shabby.

While it was certainly easy on the eyes, it was almost Ace of Base.  And that was probably the most frustrating part.  It’s like a song that’s sung almost on key.  It’s so close, it just makes you want the real thing that much more.

I stumbled across the Ace of Base v2.0 album, The Golden Ratio, on eMusic awhile a few months back and it was priced to sell – $5.99 for 13 songs.  I was probably trying to use up the last little bit of my eMusic monthly allotment so I decided what the hell.  Even if it wasn’t classic Ace of Base, it was sure to be good old trashy Europop, right?  I can’t deny that there are a handful of good songs on there, but sadly, only a couple that really hearken back to Ace of Base’s glory days.  The aformenetioned “All For You” was one of them, and “Blah Blah Blah On The Radio” was the other.  I also liked the high-energy “Black Sea” but the rest of it was pretty unmemorable.  Even the worst Ace of Base v1.0 songs were better than some of this stuff.  I guess it just goes to show you that you can’t just hire two beautiful women and hope to capture lightning in a bottle a second time around.  I’ve listened to a lot of Ace of Base in my day, and this, my friend, is NOT Ace of Base.  It’s listenable if you forget about the fact that it’s Ace of Base, but when you’re listening to Ace of Base, you shouldn’t have to do that.

I still keep The Golden Ratio around and when I’m on an Ace of Base binge and I’m shuffling all the Ace of Base songs in my iTunes library (for the record, that number would be 71), I still listen to them, but the songs from The Golden Ratio really stick out like a sore thumb.  I’m tempted to think that it’s because I don’t have the history with them that I do with all the classics.  Even a song as old and as dated as “The Sign” still sounds fresh as it plays in the background right now while I’m writing this post.  I just don’t see that happening with any of the generic stuff on The Golden Ratio.  The voices, in this case, really DID make a difference.

My friend Robbie says that if you want to listen to classic Ace of Base, just go listen to “Alejandro” 150,000 times in a row.  There is a certain element of truth to that – that song seems unduly influences by our Swedish friends.  But for my money, you need look no further than former Ace of Base vocalist Jenny Berggren’s solo song “Gotta Go.”  I have recently rediscovered this song and really, it prompted this nearly 1000 words on Ace of Base.

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