Friday, April 8, 2022

"The Look" by Roxette

#1 Alert!
Gold Record Alert!
Song#:  3801
Date:  02/11/1989
Debut:  50
Peak:  1 (1 week)
Weeks:  19
Genre:  Pop, Rock

Pop Bits:  This Swedish duo of Per Gessel and Marie Fredriksson were having some success individually before joining forces as Roxette. In the early 80s, Gessel scored four #1 albums in Sweden with his band Gyllene Tider along with a Top 10 solo album. Fredriksson had a Top 20 album and single to her name. During this time, the pair knew each other and that led to Fredriksson doing some background vocals for Gyllene Tider. The band's run of #1 albums for EMI Records caught the attention of US sister label Capitol. That potential to expand into a broader worldwide market prompted the band to record their first English language album, The Heartland CafĂ© (#4 Sweden). Capitol would grab six of the LP's tracks to create an EP for US release. However, they requested the band change their name and they came up with Roxette. The EP and singles in the US failed to get any attention, so Gessel put the band on hiatus and recorded a solo album. Meanwhile, Fredriksson recorded a solo album that got to #6. Both artists were on EMI and an exec there suggested they work together. The duo decided to give it a shot. Retaining the Roxette name, they released the one-off single, "Neverending Love." It became a #3 hit in Sweden. The success led to the duo's first album, 1986's Pearls of Passion, which made it to #2. Fredriksson then recorded another solo album in '87 that got to #1. In '88, the pair worked on a second Roxette album titled Look Sharp! It was an instant success in Sweden getting to #1 thanks to a pair of Top 3 hits. EMI had no intentions of pushing Roxette elsewhere, but things changed when an American exchange student who was in Sweden bought The Look and took it back home to Minneapolis. He handed it over to a local radio station and they began to play "The Look." Listener response was extremely positive and the song started to spread. News of the song's success made it back to EMI who then decided to issue out the single in the US and other countries. The song caught on quickly and it ended up topping the US Pop chart (#47 Dance). It would become a gold seller. The hit then prompted EMI to issue out the album as well.

ReduxReview:  With its big snare sound and jangly guitar lick, this song was instantly indelible before the vocals even kicked in. The production was immaculate and there were hooks all over the place. There are even la la's and na na's incorporated. What more could you want from a pop song? Gessel certainly had the talent to write catchy, concise pop tunes that had wide appeal and this first US hit from the duo showed off his skills.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) With "The Look" hitting #1, Roxette became the third Swedish act to reach the top of the Pop chart. Blue Swede did it first in 1974 with "Hooked on a Feeling." Then in 1976 ABBA became the second with "Dancing Queen." Ace of Base would follow Roxette in 1993 with "The Sign." In the years following, there was a Swedish invasion of sorts. While some artists would break through, it was the songwriters and producers from Sweden that were scoring hits left and right. Max Martin would be one of the most prominent songwriters/producers from Sweden. Between 1998 and 2021, he had written or co-written 25 song that reached #1 on the US Pop chart. He has worked with Britney Spears, P!nk, Katy Perry, Maroon 5, Taylor Swift, Justin Timberlake, and The Weeknd just to name a few.  2)  The band name Gyllene Tider translates as "Golden Times." While that name probably rolled off the tongue well in Sweden, Capitol Records didn't think it would do the same in the US and requested the band get a new name for the market. They settled on Roxette. The name came from a somewhat obscure song from an English pub rock band of the 70s named Dr. Feelgood. The band's blues-rock/R&B sound made them popular on the pub circuit and that led to a contract with United Artists. The first single from their 1975 debut album Down By the Jetty was "Roxette." Both the single and album failed to chart. The band's second album did better, but it was their live third album Stupidity that proved to be their breakthrough. It would reach #1 in the UK. A live version of "Roxette" was released as a single and it got to #53. A follow-up album would reach #10 while they would score their biggest hit in 1979 with the #9 "Milk and Alcohol." The band's chart fortunes dwindles in the 80s, but they continued to successfully tour. The band would nearly stop in 1994 following the death of lead singer Lee Brilleaux. However, a new era of the band would start the following year.


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