Musical criticism and commentary

Rediscovering Roxette

Photo Credit: Colinvdbel -Roxette live on stage during 'Night of the Proms' at the 'Gelredome' in Arnhem, the Netherlands. For more information, please refer to www.stonechamberphoto.com.Almost 30 years ago, I was in eighth grade, I had a steady listening diet from our top 40 station, Z100. Every evening they had a “battle of the hits” where they played brand new songs back to back, and the listeners called in to vote for their favorites. One night, “The Look” by Roxette came on. I was instantly in love with this song. What is not to love? The energetic chorus, the amazing vocals? The jangly guitars? Let’s not forget that effects driven refrain! My adolescent mind thought it was the perfect song. I don’t remember what song “The Look” went up against, but I do know that “The Look” won that evening.

During the next three or so years, Roxette was a staple in my musical diet. I remember checking out a cassette of “Look Sharp” from the library. When the movie “Pretty Woman” used “It Must Have Been Love,” I kind of cheered. I bought a copy of “Joyride” in Canada and was disappointed because (I thought) the tape dragged and I couldn’t return it (I found out later the dragging was just an effect). When a classmate I deemed as “cool” made an approving comment about Roxette, I felt relieved.

After high school, I stopped following Roxette. It wasn’t because I hated them, or that they changed – but rather my choices in music changed. I mostly listened to “Alternative” stations and underground bands. Z100 was, in my opinion, not worth listening to anymore. For the most part, I was right – but they were the only station that played Roxette. I remember McDonald’s had a promotion – selling a few popular CDs at the time on the cheap. Roxette’s “Crash! Boom! Bang!” was one of the offerings. I didn’t know any of the songs so I decided not to buy this album. I still loved songs such as “Joyride,” and “Dressed for Success,” but in my musical experience, Roxette stopped being a band after their third album.  This sad period lasted till just a couple weeks ago.

The song “Dangerous” popped in my head for whatever reason – so I played it. And then I played several other Roxette songs. And then I realized…..I missed a lot of amazing music. Roxette put out the album “Good Karma” in 2016. Guess what? It’s just as good as “Look Sharp!” Of course I had to listen to “Crash! Boom! Bang!” Yeah – I should have bought it that day. While I have not gotten through all of Roxette’s catalog,  they still know how to write an amazing song.

Of course – one thing to ask – do the songs I heard in the 90s hold up? Well – I have to admit, “The Look” and “Dangerous” sound like they were made in the 80s for sure. Even more so, “Dressed for Success” seems like a song one would hear during the end credits of “The Secret of My Success.” So – yes – those three songs certainly sound dated. However, they’re still amazing songs – overproduced keyboards be damned! Then there’s the song “Joyride.” Again – that dragging effect. Oy – it annoys me so much. However, “Joyride” is a lot more guitar driven than anything on “Look Sharp.” That’s a good thing.

What about the slower songs? “Listen to Your Heart” and “It Must Have Been Love” are just beautiful. “Listen to Your Heart” really hits the spot; especially If you want a nice, slow, romantic ballad. Granted – both these songs still sound like something from the late 80s or early 90s, but they sound dated in a good way. They sound dated in the same way that, say, “Stairway To Heaven” sounds dated. “Stairway To Heaven” sounds like it was written in the 70s, sure, but that does not diminish the value of the song. Stairway to Heaven sounds classic – as do “It Must Have Been Love” and “Listen To Your Heart.” Yes, I boldly state those two ballads are classics.

If you’re like me and have not really payed attention to Roxette in sometime, I recommend taking a crash course via their latest live album: Live, Traveling The World. You’ll hear all your favorites – all the songs I mention here. You’ll also hear later hits from albums such as “Charm School,” “Room Service,” and “Have a Nice Day.” The album gives a great overview of Roxette’s 25 years (as of then) best songs. Not to say anything negative of songs not on this album – but a live album cannot be an omnibus after all.

When you’re finished listening to “Traveling the World” – you will hopefully want more. Never fear! As I mentioned earlier, Roxette released “Good Karma” in 2016. “Good Karma” argues that Roxette still has, “The Look” sound which made us all fall in love with them back in the early 90s. Their vocals, instrumentation, and most importantly, song writing is just as good today as it was nearly 30 years back! Granted – I know I said Roxette still has a similar sound, but at the same time that sound has changed. So don’t go in expecting a new “Dangerous.”

“Good Karma” has a bit more of a modern synth pop sound, and certainly less guitars than their previous releases. This just means they’re still, after all these years, willing to evolve. Tracks to check out – “Why Dontcha?” is the powerpop opener that catches your attention. There’s the the beautiful Synth pop Ballad “From A Distance,” and then of course – there’s the hauntingly beautiful and incredibly heartbreaking ballad “Why Don’t You Bring Me Flowers?”

I hope you’ve enjoyed this trip down memory lane – and I hope you feel encouraged to explore the past and current (and even future) Roxette. I leave you with this amazing acoustic rendition of “Listen To Your Heart.”

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