Aqua
Aquarium


2.5
average

Review

by Pedro B. USER (303 Reviews)
May 17th, 2010 | 21 replies | 7,357 views


Release Date: 1997 | Tracklist

Review Summary: In the pop-music speakeasy, Aqua is the ditzy, bubble-gum-blowing airhead, standing in the corner waiting for her Prince Charming: vapid, a little annoying, but ultimately harmless.

3 of 3 thought this review was well written

”Come on Barbie, let’s go party”. If you were anywhere from 3 to 300 in the summer of 1997, these words probably bring back images of people in brightly-coloured outfits swimming in an electric-blue ocean. In fact, the insidiously catchy Barbie Girl was the runaway hit of that summer, catapulting its authors, Aqua, to their ever-so-fleeting fifteen minutes, in the process influencing other cartoony dance-pop bands, such as the Cartoons and the Vengaboys. And, of course, the success of that single reflected on the group’s debut album itself, with Aquarium immediately becoming a mandatory purchase for all who loved the song.

At barely twelve years old, I counted myself in that group, but unfortunately I never did get to own the album, although I heard it extensively at summer camp. In fact, for me, that album and its numerous singles will forever be associated with dance-club night, trips to the beach, and that darn-cute redhead everybody in my common room had a crush on. Even listening to it today makes feel eleven again, if only for a few minutes. Unfortunately, said listens also highlight many of the problems my prepubescent self had not managed to pinpoint all those years ago.

Still, for all its flaws, Aquarium is worthy of somewhat more respect than most of its dance-pop counterparts. To begin with, unlike said counterparts, it amounts to something more than a collection of fluffy songs surrounding a hit single. Make no mistake, the songs are incredibly fluffy, but at least half of the eleven songs included on the original edition are fun, memorable, and very strong within their genre. In fact, next to numbers like My Oh My, Turn Back Time or absolute highlight Dr. Jones, Barbie Girl even comes off as a little underwhelming. The first half of the album is undeniably strong, and even over ten years later, most of its hooks still came back to me like it was yesterday.

Which isn’t to say even those songs don’t have their problems. Of course, this being dance-pop, you can expect vapid beats, terrible couplets (”are you really sincere” with ”I’m gonna disappear”) and at least a few bad ideas (whoever came up with that rap section on Good Morning Sunshine, I hate you). Also, most of the songs suffer from a bad case of repetition, relying heavily on the comical contrast between helium-voiced female vocalist Lene Marlin and her comically gruff male counterpart, René Dif. Not to mention, literally half of them seem to have the exact same beat, and sometimes even reuse the same melodic ideas (such as the similar-sounding keyboard lines on My Oh My and Dr. Jones). Still, the strong, catchy hooks allow us to somewhat overlook these flaws, as well as the intentionally silly lyrics.

In fact, siliness seems to be a lynchpin for Aqua. Their neon-coloured image is kitschy as hell. Lene Marlin is clearly forcing her squeaky pitch (as the slower tracks show, she can actually sing) and the lyrics sound like a 10-year-old’s romantic fantasies, whether they revolve around knights and castles (My Oh My), dolls (Barbie Girl), summer adventure-camp flings (Dr. Jones) or, puzzlingly, candy (Lollipop (Candyman)). On tracks like In The Heat Of The Night or Be A Man, things get somewhat raunchier, as if the little girl’s teenaged older sister had taken over; but Aqua seldom cross the line into sexual innuendo, the way so many of their peers do.

Another point in favour of Aquarium is that, plastic as it may be, it does seem to have a genuine musical backbone. Unlike the Milli Vanillis and the Vanilla Ices, Aqua sound as if they descended from the likes of Roxette, Whigfield or even the Bangles. Of course, this isn’t true of every song on the album, as both slower tracks evidence some of the cornier influences described above. Be A Man in particular is an album low point, as it sounds like a cross between the Bangles’ Eternal Flame and something Milli Vanilli may have wrote. But to give this album credit, it is about 70% in before filler starts to appear.

Unfortunately, once it does appear, there is no two ways about it: nearly the whole second half of Aquarium is filled with unremarkable, throwaway songs which do little but recycle ideas already used in the singles. This tendency is exacerbated in the “Special Edition”, which adds a new song – that sounds exactly the same as all the others – and a few remixes, of which only the one for Turn Back Time actually improves upon the song. These tracks help drag the album into the vicinity of overkill, slowly sapping away the fun which emanated from the early songs. As a result, out of the whole second half of the album, only Turn Back Time really shines.

At the end of the day, however, it’s hard to stay mad at Aqua or Aquarium. For all its flaws, Aqua actually seem like they’re trying with their debut effort: they show good ideas within the genre, like somewhat full sets of lyrics, and try to offer a varied gamut of song tempos and ambients. And while their ideas are not always successful, the overall fun feel of the album makes the listener feel like being lenient and just dancing around. In the pop-music speakeasy, where the likes of Ke$ha are the drunk, coked-up white-trash tramp going around trying to chat up all the guys, Aqua is the ditzy, bubble-gum-blowing airhead, standing in the corner waiting for her Prince Charming to come along and sweep her away on his Jaguar to his yacht in the Riviera: just as vapid, and maybe a little annoying, but ultimately much less noxious and lots more fun. ”Come on Barbie, let’s go party!”

Recommended Tracks
My Oh My
Barbie Girl
Dr. Jones
Turn Back Time



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user ratings (68)
Chart.
2.8
good

Comments:Add a Comment 
ReturnToRock
May 17th 2010



3448 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Had to be done.

Here it is, your moment of Zen.

Parallels
May 17th 2010



6641 Comments


good review. pos'd although i dont like this

theacademy
Staff Reviewer
May 17th 2010



28432 Comments


lmao

Digging: Kimbra - The Golden Echo

tiesthatbind
May 17th 2010



7373 Comments


Members also liked: AC/DC?

Dryden
May 17th 2010



12928 Comments


ReturnToRock reviews Aqua

WatchItExplode
May 17th 2010



3227 Comments


completely rules face

bloc
May 17th 2010



34774 Comments


Was a good album at the time.

Digging: Interpol - El Pintor

thebhoy
Emeritus
May 17th 2010



4459 Comments


You need to fix the insane overuse of commas, especially in the places that you don't need them. Also, saying a "speakeasy bar" is redundant, it's like saying I'm going to the "pub bar"

dylantheairplane
May 17th 2010



2168 Comments


who couldn't love this!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wM-Mk26N6wQ&feature=related

IndieOut
May 17th 2010



498 Comments


why would you do this to yourself

vanderb0b
May 17th 2010



3473 Comments


That rap section in GMS...that goddamn rap section.

Poet
May 17th 2010



5922 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Dammit I was actually going to review this =(

Review's great btw and Lollipop (Candyman) is pretty much awesome

ThePalestMexican
May 17th 2010



2816 Comments


Not gonna lie, I still pop in Barbie Girl from time to time

ReturnToRock
May 18th 2010



3448 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Poet, your rating was the rating I pondered giving this for a while. But I couldn't bring myself to do it.

Also, I love how I haven't kept a perfect pos' record since I finished the KISS discography.

Dotcommy
June 4th 2010



149 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

I hate you sputnik

thedougler
September 18th 2011



212 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

how can you hate something so catchy and fun? this things one giant guilty pleasure

WashboardSuds
September 18th 2011



4992 Comments


:]

Digging: Gas - Nah und Fern

clercqie
Contributing Reviewer
September 18th 2011



6440 Comments


This is when bad actually becomes so bad, it's good

Digging: Interpol - El Pintor

Dotcommy
May 15th 2012



149 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Barbie Girl is a misunderstood masterpiece. It's the Show Girls of music

NoMeansYes
September 9th 2012



1012 Comments


666th comment m/ m/ m/ m/ m/



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