I remember being in my adolescent years and literally not being able to turn on the radio without hearing “Don’t Turn Around” or “The Sign”. The Swedish pop group Ace Of Base would influence the likes of Lady Gaga and Katy Perry. Ace Of Base would release four pop albums between 1992 and 2002.
Ace Of Base is composed of Ulf Ekberg, Jonas Berggren, Malin Berggren, and Jenny Berggren. Behind ABBA and Roxette, Ace Of Base is the third most successful group to ever come out of Sweden.
Ace Of Base initially formed as a cover band called G Konrad, they would cover punk music. After the formation of the band, they would struggle with names, then they settled on Ace Of Base after viewing the music video for “Ace Of Spades” by Motorhead. They struggled initially in Sweden because metal music, not techno/pop music, was king in Sweden at the time and they released their debut music video entitled “Wheel Of Fortune”.
Then, Ace Of Base discovered their sound and they wrote their first mega hit entitled “All That She Wants”, which was influenced by “Another Mother” by Kayo. “All That She Wants” would go to number 1 on the pop charts in ten countries, including holding the number 1 position on the Billboard Hot 100 for 9 consecutive works. It would show that mix of reggae and pop, which would be the trademark sound for Ace Of Base. This would be the first single from “The Sign”.
The single led to an international distribution deal with Arista Records. Clive Davis insisted that Ace Of Base wrote some new songs to capitalize on the international success of “All That She Wants”. Ace Of Base would pen their biggest hit entitled “The Sign”. “The Sign” ranks at Number 60 on the All-Time Billboard Hot 100 songs for the first 50 years of pop hits. The song would receive a Grammy nomination for Best Pop Vocal Performance By A Group or Duo for the 1995 Grammy Awards. The song was also the number one song of 1994 by Billboard Magazine. It would reach number 1 on 11 different international charts. The song would also be featured on Full House, Fuller House, and American Dad.
“Happy Nation” was re-released with “All That She Wants”, “The Sign”, and the other two singles “Don’t Turn Around” and “Living In Danger”. “Happy Nation” would sell over 23 million copies worldwide. “Don’t Turn Around” would reach No. 1 on the U.K. charts but only peak at No. 45 on the Billboard Hot 100, primarily due to the immense success of “The Sign”. “Living In Danger” would top the Billboard Dance charts and peak at No. 20 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts.
“Don’t Turn Around” was initially supposed to be a B-side single to “Typical Male” by Tina Turner, however Clive Davis wanted Ace Of Base to have the song, and it led to further international success for Ace Of Base.
After two years of intense international touring and promotion, Ace Of Base was pressured by Arista Records to have a swift follow-up to capitalize on the success of “Happy Nation”. The four members, despite being burned out, wrote songs separately and submitted them to Arista Records, and in October 1995, they released their second album entitled “The Bridge”. In a vast majority of the songs, gone were the vast majority of reggae meets pop and dance club sounds in favor of more experimentation in the music including a few ballads on “The Bridge”. The two big singles from this album were “Lucky Love” and “Beautiful Life”. Both songs would top the dance charts, whereas “Beautiful Life” would peak at No. 15 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts.
“The Bridge” would sell two million copies in the United States and seven million copies worldwide, this fell far short of the 25 million album sales that “Happy Nation” had. Citing burnout, Ace Of Base would take some time off before recording their third album entitled “Flowers”. They only performed at the Brit World Music Awards and for Princess Victoria of Sweden’s 20th birthday party.
“Flowers” would incorporate Motown and gospel influences into the music and fans would see Linn relinquish her lead vocal duties to her sister Jenny due to her disdain of fame and being in the spotlight. Two hits came about of this record that was released in June 1998, and that was the number one European single “Life Is A Flower” and their top ten Billboard Hot 100 single, their cover of “Cruel Summer”, which was originally done by Bananarama. The album never charted in the United States, however, it would achieve gold and platinum status in several countries in Europe, including United Kingdom and Switzerland.
In 1999, the “Singles of the 90’s” greatest hits compilation was released, including the single “Cest La Vie(Always 21)”, which was a number one selling single in Spain. The album and single never charted in the United States. In 2002, their fourth album entitled “Da Capo” was released in Europe and Japan, but not in the United States. There was dissension in the band as Jonas and Linn were no shows for many promotional touring events in Europe. In fact, Linn only made one appearance in Germany. Ace Of Base would go on hiatus from 2003 to 2006. Jenny would sing at several Christian concerts as she developed an interest in making Christian music. In 2005, the band minus Linn would reunite including the “Night Of The Proms” concert with Donna Summer in Belgium.
Ace Of Base would reunite from 2007 to 2009 without Linn and Jenny in an interview confirmed her departure from the band, and in 2008, due to contractual obligations, they released a 3-Disc “Greatest Hits” album, which one disc featuring their hits, a second disc featuring remixes of their hits, and the third disc being a DVD package of their music videos.
In 2009, Ulf and Jonas recruited Julia Williamson and Clara Hagman to replace Jenny and Linn. Jenny claimed that she never left the band and demanded that this new band not be called Ace Of Base. A new album was created entitled “The Golden Ratio”, which featured top 40 German hit “All For You”. Ulf changed the name of the band to Ace Thursdays. In 2014, a remix EP was released featuring a remix of “All That She Wants”. Julia and Clara both left Ace Of Base. The website of Ace Of Base became defunct and they announced that they would no longer be working together, but the three siblings will still be family.
Madness To Creation’s take: Ace Of Base exemplified 90’s pop music, where their music was chocked full of guilty pleasure fun. They were major influences on today’s pop stars such as Britney Spears, Katy Perry, and Lady Gaga. Their songs and their harmonies and melodies were absolutely infectious, I’ve always called them “the ABBA of the 1990’s”. Their songs still have an impact in pop culture to this day. I felt that they could’ve had an even bigger impact if it wasn’t for the intense pressure from Arista Records. Madness To Creation rates Ace Of Base an 8 out of 10!