Review Summary: Ace of Base offers some catchy singles with their debut album, but that is about as far as it goes.
Anybody who has a slight recollection of the early to middle nineties should know about Swedish pop sensation Ace Of Base
. The groups dance/reggae beats combined with the infectiously catchy melodies enabled the group to dominate airwaves in the US from 1993 to 1995. Their debut album The Sign
(titled Happy Nation
across Europe) was an instant hit in Europe, and US success came quickly when the lead single All That She Wants
hit #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1993. The group consists of sisters Jenny and Linn Berggen taking up vocal duties along with brother Jonas and friend Ulk Ekberg filling in the rest of the sound. Although The Sign
’s constant club and reggae beats make for a fun first listen, it is only the singles that create any true replay value for the album.
The lead single All That She Wants
provides a great barometer for how the rest of the album carries itself. Keyboards creating a pseudo-reggae beat with many electronic sounds filling out the bass and drums. Even the vocal melodies share a same pattern throughout the album, at times they succeed in their catchy hooks, while at other moments it becomes just as dull as the beats that back it. The group’s sole #1 hit in the US, The Sign
, and their third hit Don’t Turn Around
follow the exact same pattern as the previous single. Same old keyboard-tinged reggae beat with a synthesized lead, and the same pattern for the melodies as before. Even though the three songs have a genuinely similar feel, it is easy for groups to make a few successful songs with the same formula. It is when they have exhausted their short well of creativity within that formula that groups begin to falter.
Beyond the three main singles, the album struggles with inconsistency and originality. Young And Proud
changes things up with a genuine dance beat, but that is as far as the song gets, offering no standout moments through the track to grab the listener’s attention. The generic keyboard sounds that are tossed in feel as if they were there just because “dance tracks have weird stuff like that”. Hear Me Calling
sounds interesting at first listen due to its overbearing electronic effects upon a dance beat, but it quickly becomes apparent that there are only two types of songs on the album. Dance. And club reggae.
Waiting For Magic
is probably the only track that shows signs of life besides the singles, with an upbeat piano identifying the chord progression that then moves to follow a catchy ascending vocal melody. The common dance beat is back, but Ace of Base clearly chose to put some effort into this one. The rest of the album just complete suffers, and reeks of filler. The title track is just the same old club-reggae with a complete Enya rip-off for a vocal melody. The rest of the album just does the exact same thing that the rest of the album does, offering the same beats, same melodies, and same staleness. It makes for any easy conclusion that the Ace of Base songwriting well ran dry after just three tracks.
While The Sign
may have offered promise with its successful singles, the fact that they are all the same type of song should hint at listeners to beware. The rest of the album is just a rehash of the same beats over and over again that present nothing new the table, and the groups limited US success after this album show that many American listeners felt the same way. Instead of purchasing The Sign, a Greatest Hits pack suffices plenty, offering the key tracks from this album, and the only other worthwhile ones from the band’s career.