Required listening: Roxette’s “Have a Nice Day”

roxette-virgin-megastoreRoxette at Virgin Megastore in New York City in the fall of 2000. It was one of my first trips into the city on my own.

There are a lot of people familiar with Roxette; their hits in the late 80s and early 90s, such as “It Must’ve Been Love,” “The Look,” Listen to Your Heart,” “Fading Like a Flower” and “Joyride” are among some of the best pop songs of the era. Unfortunately for us in the U.S., we didn’t really get to follow along with them as they kept going.

I took the photo above after a performance at the Virgin Megastore in New York City, which led to one of my first articles for my college’s newspaper (technical issues in more recent years has caused my byline to get replaced on it). At the time they had just signed with Edel in the U.S., who were using a greatest hits CD to try to crack them back into the market. As it happened, I had picked up their most recent album, “Have a Nice Day,” while in Europe on a class trip about 18 months earlier, and was impressed by their evolution since then.

The album brought in electronica into the mix; Per Gessle had mentioned William Orbit influences, which, given Madonna’s “Ray of Light” had exploded just a year earlier, seemed like a good direction.

The resulting album, in my mind, was a high water mark for the duo, packed with great songs, from trademark ballads such as “Wish I Could Fly,” the first video, and upbeat tracks like “Stars,” above.

Marie Fredriksson’s vocals could carry even an average song to a new level, but when she’s singing material such as “Anyone,” below, it really shows the strength of the duo.

Other than the opening track, which always felt just a bit soft to me relative to the others, the entire album is full of wins. I dig the vibe of “7twenty7,” above, and “Salvation,” below, is yet another incredible Roxette ballad.

They’ve recorded music since then, although a brain cancer diagnosis and treatment for Fredriksson in the 2000s put the group on a lengthy hiatus (although she’s back in the saddle and a new album followed in 2011, “Charm School,” which followed the blueprint of their recent material). The newer material is fine, but it’s my opinion that “Have a Nice Day” was their most ambitious and successful album, and it holds up beautifully 15 years later.

Fans of great pop music would be well served seeking it out.

Additional listening

“You Don’t Understand Me” preceded “Have a Nice Day,” released from their previous album in 1995, but was included on the greatest hits collection put out by Edel, “Don’t Bore Us, Get to the Chorus.” It’s another trademark ballad by the duo.

“The Centre of the Heart (is a Suburb to the Brain)” was their opening single to their follow-up album, “Room Service.” It’s a catchy track for sure, but I don’t know if it reaches the level of “Stars.”

“A Thing About You,” a more recent track, puts Gessle’s vocals front and center on a ballad, which is a nice change-up. This and the next track, “Reveal,” came off a newer greatest hits collection, and both I feel are among the strongest of the more recent material.

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