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From the Vault: Roxette – Look Sharp!

Elizabeth Gibson writes about the album that undeniably set the ball rolling for Roxette becoming superstars

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Released October, 1988

EMI

With anthems such as ‘It Must Have Been Love’ and ‘The Look’, Swedish duo Roxette dominated the 90s pop/rock scene. Look Sharp!, their second album, undeniably set the ball rolling for them to become the superstars they became.

Per Gessle and Marie Fredriksson began working together in 1986 and released their first album, Pearls of Passion, that year. It is a masterpiece of 80s synth-pop. They managed the genre beautifully, without ever being kitsch. Had they continued in this direction, I have no doubt they will have had some success. However, as the 80s came to a close, Roxette were probably aware that with the new decade, completely new musical styles would arrive, and synth-pop would be gradually phased out.

So, they took the plunge. It is remarkable to see such a huge, blind leap from one musical style to almost its opposite – and to see it not only work, but be the best decision they could have made. Look Sharp! was released in 1988, and with it came a new era for Roxette. Gone were the polished synth masterpieces, and in their place were rougher, rawer, guitar-based hooks, simple and amazingly effective. The stripped-back nature of the accompaniment allowed the unusual and beautiful voice of Marie Fredriksson to be the star of the show. And how she shone.

The album begins with rugged guitar-jam twins ‘The Look’ and ‘Dressed for Success’ (the latter immortalised by the guarantee of being played at least once in every programme or feature about clothes ever broadcast). They have a similar sound and the videos were shot on the same set and with the same aesthetic. For me, ‘Dressed for Success’ wins, but it was ‘The Look’ that got the duo their first US #1.

The album continues with several softer, quieter songs, before we reach dark, haunting first single ‘Chances’, followed by up-tempo classic ‘Dangerous’, which reached #2.  After two decent album tracks (and two more average) comes the grand finale: ‘Listen to Your Heart’. My first experience of this song was a dire remix, and I was amazed to discover how sophisticated the original is. It gave Roxette their second #1.

Look Sharp! was a crossroads in this band’s career, and it made the world “look sharp” at Roxette: at who they were, and at how they worked. Roxette still tour today, 25 years after the album that changed everything.