Friday, August 31, 2007

The Sign

Song: The Sign
Artist: Ace of Base
Album: The Sign

I can’t help it… I like Ace of Base. And I should just get over it.

What I really need to come to terms with is how much I like dance pop. From Madonna to the Pet Shop Boys, Kylie to the Scissor Sisters, Annie to Calvin Harris, I really can’t stop listening to goofy, bop-able, dance songs. I need to just be man enough and fess up… this is who I am. Why does this feel like AA?

Actually, if you read my blog at all you know this. Sure, I’m a rock fan, I dig alt-country, jazz, hip hop, folk… I’m into all sorts of stuff… but dance pop is one thing, at least here in America, that just isn’t cool at all. Despite dance pop being THE type of music in the UK and parts of Europe, in the U.S. it just doesn’t seem to jive. Sure the boy-band and Britney/Christina period had its moment on the U.S. pop charts but it was relatively short lived and it was NEVER respected. And while artists like Robbie Williams, Kylie, and the Scissor Sisters are HUGE all over other parts of the world, they have a hard time getting arrested in the States. Dance pop is just NOT popular here. But this is not always the case.

Back in 1993 the Swedish band Ace of Base took the entire world by storm with their lite-reggae infused dance pop anchored by three mega-smash singles; “All That She Wants,” “The Sign,” and “Don’t Turn Around.” After blowing up in Sweden and then the rest of Europe with “All That She Wants” and their album “Happy Nation” and then, after being turned down repeatedly in the U.S. by record label after record label being told “that will never work here,” Arista’s Clive Davis took them on, had them record a few new single possibilities (including “The Sign” and “Don’t Turn Around”) and the rest is dance pop history. Combining the sales of “Happy Nation” and its U.S. counterpart “The Sign,” Ace of Base hold the Guiness Book of World Records spot for “Best-Selling Debut Album.” Twenty-three million copies sold. Whoa!!!

Aside from the teen-pop era of dance pop in the U.S., most “Huge in Europe” dance artists and bands have only managed to have one-off singles here in the U.S., but Ace of Base did it, and did it big. Despite the ABBA comparisons (in a time when ABBA were still not cool, “Mama Mia” was not on Broadway) “All That She Wants” took the U.S. pop charts by storm, reaching #2 on the Hot 100. The songs subject matter wasn’t new… Heart’s “All I Wanna Do is Make Love to You” was basically the rock version of “All That She Wants”; a woman who just wants a child, no man for her thank you. (She’s gone tomorrow!) “The Sign” was even bigger, reaching number one despite obtuse (and/or stupid) lyrics. And it is in fact pretty empty headed… “Life is demanding without understanding,” “I saw the sign… and it opened up my eyes!,” “No ones gonna drag you up, to get into the light where you belong, but where do you belong?” Oy. It is despite this, and because of this, that I love this song and am so embarrassed to admit it.

I didn’t know that third single, “Don’t Turn Around” was not written by the band and actually has quite a history. Written by Diane Warren and Albert Hammond in 1986 for Tina Turner, who recorded the song but only released it as a b-side of “Typical Male.” Warren was reportedly not happy that it wasn’t put on one of her albums… I haven’t yet heard Tina’s version. Bonnie Tyler recorded the song in 1988 and soul singer Luther Ingram had a #55 R&B hit with his version of the song the same year. Aswad, a UK reggae band, heard Luther’s version and recorded the song seeing his version go to #1 on the UK singles chart again in 1988. And lastly, Neil Diamond (Neil Diamond!!!!) recorded a version in 1992 that went to #20 on the Adult Contemporary charts here in the U.S. Ace of Base did best with the song though, having it go #4 on the Billboard Hot 100, #5 in the U.K., #2 in Sweden, and #1 in Canada, as well as top 20 in over ten other countries. Carazy!

Ace of Base had middling success post “The Sign” but like most record-breaking successes, it’s hard to really top them. They are currently working on a fourth LP with plans to release it in the spring of next year. I’ll be interested to see what they come up with, and in the meantime I will finally exhale and rest easier knowing that my secret is out, and my love of dance pop and various guilty pleasures will not bound my semi-hipster lifestyle. (I am now officially taking this too seriously.)

Below are the videos from “The Sign” and then just below that are all the guilty pleasures you sent me… thank you!


All That She Wants

Man, I haven’t listened to that one in a while.

The Sign

Don’t Turn Around (live)

Living in Danger

Your Guilty Pleasures (Most with YouTube links!):

The Carpenters
Carole King
Carly Simon
60’s Girl Groups
UK Chick Singers
“Pure Moods”
Return to Innocence” – Enigma
Peg” – Steely Dan
Don’t Lose My Number” – Phil Collins (Anything by Phil Collins… almost) [wecastmusic admits to LOVING “Invisible Touch” yikes!]
Teenage Dirtbag” - Wheatus ("I've got two tickets to Iron Maiden baby")
“Those Were the Days” - Mary Hopkin
I think I Love You” - Partridge family
Dominique” - The Singing Nun [I had to look this one up… wow]
Alone Again (Naturally)” - Gilbert O' Sullivan
Brandy (You're a Fine Girl)” - Looking Glass [I once met a Brandy… and she was named after this song! She seemed like a fine girl too.]
Close to You” - The Carpenters
Mr. Dieingly Sad” - The Critters
"Which Way You Going Billy?" - The Poppy Family [Terry jacks!! I LOVE “Seasons in the Sun]
What Have They Done to My Song, Ma” – Melanie

And one reader had such good ones I feel the need to post not only his selections, but his killer explanations too:

Kiss Me” - Sixpence None the Richer (Perfect pop song. People hate this just for the fun of it, no one takes time to just enjoy.)
"My Prerogative" – Britney Spears (Pretty much the END of her career, but funny, I consider this her Sinatra "My Way" moment.)
Glycerine” - Bush (For one song, he nailed it. He suffers from the David Beckham syndrome. Plus he never made another good song.)
Just What I Needed” – The Cars (The Wife let the stupid Circuit City commercial ruin the song for her. I still think it's great.)
INXS - Anything in the 80's
John Mayer - Anything (I like him, period.) [Honestly, he can be hysterical]
Oasis – “Definitely Maybe," "Morning Glory," "The Masterplan" (No apologies on any of those albums. Afterwards....)
"California" - Phantom Planet (I actually like this song MORE as the theme song. [The O.C.] I mean, was that the most perfect theme song since “Diff'rent Strokes” or what?)
You Should be Dancing” – The Bee Gees (Anyone else try to recreate the sat night fever dance sequence at a wedding reception? Me neither.)
Don’t Fear the Reaper” and “Burning for You” – Blue Oyster Cult
Dancing Across the USA” and “Holiday Road” - Lindsey Buckingham (nat'l lampoons vaca)
We Got the Beat” - The Go-Go's - (This thing burns as good as any hardcore punk song.)
One Night in Bangkok” – Murray Head (I have no rational explanation) [No need… it can make even a hard man humble.]

GOOD list. Said reader also let me know that a new indie compilation is out of, what else, indie rock covers of guilty pleasures! Read about it here.

Thank you all who contributed!

Enjoy the long weekend.

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