Sometimes when traumatic or depressing things happen to us, human beings like to cling to things that make us feel comfortable. Comfort food, for example. After a bad day at work some people crave a toasted PB&J. Some people want chicken n’ dumplings. I want mole enchiladas and a giant bowl of queso. There are movies and books so familiar that it comforts us to watch them again and read them until the binding falls off. Some of these things are… somewhat embarrassing. Music and movies we love, but we don’t know why and would never tell another soul. I’m talking, of course, about guilty pleasures.
This week on Funkhouser we’re going to be delving into our own personal guilty pleasures. Who knows what we’ll stumble upon in the dark, cavernous depths of our pop-culture experiences. For me, it’s a little bit tough because I don’t feel overly guilty about the things I like. I don’t feel even a smidgen of embarrassment when I tell people how much I enjoy Troll 2 or reading Shatner’s TekWar series. (Oh, you didn’t know that Shatner wrote fiction? I even did a book report on Shatner’s The Return in 6th grade. That book was about the Borg cloning Cpt. Kirk to come back and fight against Picard after the events of Star Trek Generations. I did this report in song form. Set to the tune of Jive Talkin’ by the BeeGees. I was an awesome 6th grader.) What I had to do then was reach back into my bag of nostalgia and think about all of the things I liked when I was a kid solely because my parents liked them. I’ve grown to like some of them on their own merit, The Beatles or the Muppets for example. But then I started thinking about some that I can’t so easily defend. Little Lord Fauntleroy. A Snow White Christmas. Blankman.
On top of it all, though, is something I still like, something I know is embarrassing but just can’t help myself with. Roxette.
For those of you (some might say blissfully) unawares, Roxette is a Swedish pop band. Describing themselves as “pop rock” they became kind of a big deal in the late 80’s and early 90’s. I know all about them because they were a band that my mom listened to a lot when I was a kid. I’m (kind of) embarrassed to say I still know the words to songs like “Cinnamon Street”, “It Must Have Been Love” and “Joyride.” A duo consisting of Marie Fredriksson and Per Gessle, they were a Swedish super group when they came together and even still tour from time to time. In their heyday they had four US #1 hits and they’re the kind of infectious pop songs that still get produced today (they should be in the same wheelhouse as other famous Swede-Pop band ABBA). It might not have been as popular, but I would venture to say that any of those three songs is at least as good as “Blurred Lines.” Instead of waxing poetic about them though, let’s look at three of Roxette’s music videos that really tell the story for me.
The best part about almost all of these (and can’t we say this about most early 90’s pop?) is the music video. They’re nonsensical, they’re bright and they’re silly. Joyride is no exception. The song is great, first of all, because the construction of the hook is something only a non-native English speaker would think of. Can you think of any scenario where you would say “Hello, you fool, I love you”? I can’t, that’s just something that doesn’t sound as though it’s in the American lexicon. But after listening to this song (same with the others on the list) I dare this hook not to be stuck in your head.
The video is fantastic. It mainly consists of Marie and Per playing some crazy air guitar on top of a Porsche with a green screen behind them. There are also giant kid’s toys that make up their backing band. I counted a cymbal monkey and at least 4 rockin’ tin soldiers. What is the Joyride? Who knows? But it seems to involve Porsches, carousels, giant toys, bad haircuts and flyin’ Vs so count me in.
Who knows what ‘the Look’ is, but this girl seems to have it. This video seems to consist of more air guitar, some dilapidated housing projects, and some near raunchy, voyeuristic naughtiness. Or near naughtiness. As the video builds to its climax, with synth guitars rocking and some electrical fires starting, the woman in red throws her beleathered man onto the bed and… is yanked back in order to dance by the crowd that was watching them about to copulate. So strange… and what does she have to say to this. Only ‘na na na na na.’
This is a prime example of nonsensical 90s music videos. The color palette is somewhere between Easter and dive bar. They look like they’re playing guitars (I mean, not really) but the music behind them is 100% synthesizer. The video narrative makes about as much sense as Finnegan’s Wake. But the song is so catchy! Try listening to this and not backing Per up every time he sings, “She’s got the Look!!!” Also, it’s a valid question, “What in the world could make a brown eyed girl turn blue?” I’m not sure, so I’ll just say, “na na na na na.”
If guilty pleasures are 80% about nostalgia, that would explain why this is my favorite. The back story as to why I love this song has almost nothing to do with Roxette. It has to do with a mall movie theater in Victoria, TX in 1993. It was a day that my grandmother took me and my two brothers to see the movie “Super Mario Bros.” You remember that movie right? The epic disaster starring Bob Hoskins as Mario, John Leguizamo as Luigi and Dennis Hopper as King Koopa? Not only was that a logical beginning to my undying love for terrible movies, it was also the one and only movie I’ve ever been to where there was no one else in the theater. It was like the movie was made just for us (which, given the box office receipts, it might as well have been).
The great part is, Roxette contributed the two big songs to the movie. ‘Cinnamon Street‘ and this one. The lyrics read like someone who very much does not want to watch this movie, but can’t help themselves. The love is almost unreal. Even better is when you discover the context of the song within the movie. Apparently Roxette wrote this song for a different movie, but it wasn’t used. I’ll let you guess which movie when you hear the line, “I love when you do that Hocus Pocus to me.” I mean, how spectacular is it that the song was written for a terrible hammy movie and then was saved for one that was, somehow, impossibly worse! Yet it still manages to be a catchy and sing-a-long-able! This might not be their best song, but given the circumstances it was release under, it’s the most fun and the most nostalgic.
So there it is, friends. My deepest darkest pop music secret. Guilty pleasures are those things that you can’t reasonably explain to anyone. I know, I think, that Roxette is not the best pop band of the late 80s, early 90s but try telling my heart that. They may not have had the best lyrics or have been very influential, but I’ll bet that if you listen to these three songs more than once, there will come a point where you’re going to find yourself singing them to yourself. You just can’t help it.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this little taste of Roxette, I’m now going to lock them away, deep within my brain and never ever talk about this again to anyone. So do me a favor, internet, don’t tell anyone else, yeah?