When it comes to one hit wonders, it’s generally easy at first blush to write off an artist, particularly one that made their mark with a novelty record. So it comes as no surprise that many didn’t expect much out of Aqua when they scored with megahit “Barbie Girl.”
Of course, many forget that their follow-up, “Lollipop (Candyman),” was a top 40 hit; a third song, ballad “Turn Back Time,” above, made impact at radio; and the album the songs came from, “Aquarium,” went triple platinum, making their album the most successful Eurodance release to hit the U.S. since Ace of Base a few years earlier.
While their first album clearly was a success, their second album, which wasn’t given much notice in the U.S., showed some hints of what a group like Aqua could evolve into, and it was a pretty marvelous thing. “Aquarium” built upon their dance-pop framework and added in all sorts of glorious touches, such as background vocals and orchestral strings that felt epic in feel, production that was both more diverse and more ambitious than their first effort, and songs that continued in the quirky tradition they set, yet felt more substantial than their predecessors.
The album was also more cohesive, a nod to the fact that the writing and producing was kept completely in-house by the group, as opposed to sharing them with others on “Aquarium.” The end result were anthems as epic as “Cartoon Heroes,” above, as well as “Around the World,” below, and the previously-posted “Halloween.”
While working on a third album, the group broke up, and it seemed that might be it. However, a couple of years ago, a reunion led to a new greatest hits album, and some new tracks to accompany it.
“Back to the 80s” is the most obvious comeback song ever, trailblazed by LFO’s “Summer Girls” and seen most recently in the Relient K/Owl City pairing “That’s My Jam,” where the song is just a strung together references to things of old, in the name of nostalgia. The song sounded more modern, yet had production touches that hinted at the 80s pedigree they were honoring, reflecting their tendency to put a bit of extra care in what they put out there.
They then finally released their third album, “Megalomania,” and while a lot of the quirkiness of the early material is gone (perhaps inevitable, but they could’ve still sold it), and most of the album is more straight-ahead EDM (also inevitable when attempting a comeback), they can still produce some solid music, as seen by “Playmate to Jesus,” above, or “Dirty Little Pop Song,” which probably comes closest to their previous output lyrically, although tamer.
While their second album, for me, is their high-water mark, all of their recordings offer some great entry points into a group that’s managed to offer a more unique taste on dance music, and should be given a bit of respect for what they’ve accomplished.