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Then & Now: Roxette
In a world where 20 minutes of fame is quite an accomplishment, twenty years in the limelight sounds almost unreal. Though there may have been countless duos in pop music before, none have had the impact, success and influence of Roxette. Since the late 1980s, a bunch of catchy and well-executed hit songs have made them Sweden's most successful musical export since Abba, and their global appeal has been considerable, with #1 album sales in the US, Europe, Canada, Japan and yes, even India! With twenty of the duo’s biggest hits collected in one place, their latest album Roxette Hits is more than enough for us to roll out the red carpet for this band.

Roxette ~ Then
Marie Fredriksson was already an established local artist in her own right in Sweden before becoming the international face of Roxette. After leaving school, she joined a boyfriend’s band soon after, contributing as a singer, keyboardist and songwriter. It was 1977 when Fredriksson met future collaborator Per Gessle for the first time; Gessle was performing in a new wave band that shared the same rehearsal space with hers. At first, the duo famously couldn’t get along ~ he unfavorably compared Marie's singing to Yoko Ono's and she thought he was a spoilt mama’s boy. However, in time, the two became close friends and each embarked on a solo career of their own in the early eighties. Marie released three popular albums of her own, and Gessle got a break after super group Abba’s manager Thomas Johannson took him under his wing.

At the suggestion of Johannson, the duo teamed up in 1985 to form a new English-language band. Taking their name Roxette from a song by the popular 1970s band Dr. Feelgood, they released their first album, Pearls Of Passion, a year later. Their second album Look Sharp! followed in 1988, and though the album did extremely well in Sweden, they were still pretty much unheard of in most of Europe and the rest of the world. But all that changed in 1989 after an American exchange student took a copy of their single The Look back with him to the US from Sweden. Insisting that his local radio station play it, the song became so popular after it was aired, that the station's program director copied it and distributed it to other stations.

From that small radio station in Minneapolis, the single spread like wildfire all over the US, eventually topping the Billboard Charts. The exposure the two got gave them international attention, and by the end of the year, the song had gone to number one in 33 countries, and their album sold eight million copies. Touchstone Pictures then approached the group about contributing a song to the soundtrack of an upcoming romantic comedy starring Richard Gere and a then unknown Julia Roberts. Roxette agreed and went on to record the chart topping It Must Have Been Love for the movie Pretty Woman. Third album Joyride followed in 1991, topping the US charts and selling 10 million units, thanks to the hit title track that reached #1 in many countries, proving once and for all Roxette were not a one hit pop wonder.

Roxette ~ Their Music
Marie Fredriksson and Per Gessle were the ABBA of the nineties; six singles alone made the top five on the pop charts and achieved multi-million plays worldwide. From the quiet desperation of It Must Have Been Love to the chanting pop beat of Joyride to the punchy, hopeful The Big L, they crafted superb melodies and surrounded them with amazing production. They were in many ways ahead of their time, for they explored new territories in rock and pop that most A-listers don't even have the imagination to dream of. Almost all the songs on their albums sounded like they were designed to be hit singles, not just filler between two or three good cuts.

They could do practically anything in terms of Top 40 music. Their repertoire includes them having worked with artists such as Ozzy Osbourne, Belinda Carlisle and Bon Jovi, among others. One of a handful of acts from Europe to enjoy consistent success in the charts of the Anglophonic world, their enormous popularity subsequently opened the doors for other European acts in the nineties to get their music heard. Their body of work has been extremely influential, with bands as wide-ranging as Aqua, Ace Of Base and Savage Garden acknowledging them among their roots. In order to serve their ever-growing international fan base (40 countries and counting), they’ve even recorded their songs and complete albums in different languages.

Roxette ~ Their Look
Their songs were cheerful, hook-laden pop that fared well on the radio, but what many remember best about Roxette are their iconic music videos. Many of the videos were stylish affairs, and the band has never quite escaped the glamorous and jet set image their early videos projected. Perceptively cool enough to shun the heavy, garish make-up other pop acts of the late eighties wore to glam themselves up, they’ve always maintained a focus on presenting fashion as part of the package throughout their career. Marie is a naturally beautiful woman, who knows she looks good and isn't vain about it; she even writes about that modestly in Roxette’s music.

You can read the rest of our Then & Now piece on Roxette in the November-December 2006 issue of The Record Music Magazine available at your local newsagent.


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