Full disclosure: there is absolutely no way I’d be reviewing this if it wasn’t a massive hit. This is not my type of music in any way, shape or form and it seems to be a pseudo example of Chris Molanphy’s AC/DC rule, namely the previous record is the one with the hits you remember. (Though this sold more so it’s not technically an example of the AC/DC rule.)
So, these songs are indeed catchy. Absolutely. Having no memory of this band to the extent I couldn’t even tell you what their biggest hit is, I’m at pains to tell you which of these songs were the hits. And that’s because most of these songs are quite catchy. So that’s a positive thing if you are looking for this kind of music.
But it’s the music that is the problem for me: this is the most middle-of-the-road late ’80s pop rock I think I could imagine. (Outside of something like Wilson Phillips, but this is arguably even more “middle of the road.”) There are all these decorations from other genres – notably rock music – that are used to try to convince the listener that this isn’t just a pop album. But anyone who has ever actually listened to actual rock music understands that these distorted guitars are only distorted just enough to give pop fans some illusion of “edge.” The same thing can be said for Fredriksson’s vocals – which are some kind of European approximation of soulful – or the harmonica and other instruments that are piped in to convince you this music is somehow “bluesy.”
That facade is there in part because of the songs but it’s also there because of the extremely contemporary production. It’s kind of hilarious that you have like a bluesy harmonica in a song with ’80s drums and keyboards. Or like any time there’s a guitar fill with the teensiest bit of feedback or some off notes and then you listen to the song around it. Any time you think they are actually playing “rock” music, just put on the opening of “Fading Like a Flower.”
I don’t necessarily want to grant it the influence, but I think you could make a case that Roxette actually had a profound influence on the pop producers of the ’90s and the 21st century: here is a template for incorporating edgier music (in this case, mostly blues rock) into unabashed pop music, and trying to sell it as something far edgier than pop music. That does feel like the template of so much pop since, whether it’s stuff that flirted with R&B and hip hop in the ’90s (and to this day) or whether it’s that weird time when metal volume guitars started showing up in pop hits. And if this is true, then I should definitely rank this album higher but I’m going to assume that it isn’t, so I can rate it where I want to. Because I do not like it.