There was a time when Roxette was the biggest band in the world.
Masters of infectious pop hooks and soaring power ballads, Per Gessle and Marie Fredriksson, who died yesterday at age 61 after a long battle with cancer, ruled the airwaves from 1988 to 1992, with hit after hit after hit. Their fortunes may have waned slightly after that initial peak, but the Swedish duo continued to make music together, even after Fredriksson was diagnosed with a brain tumour in 2002.
Here are 10 songs that helped define the pop culture phenomenon that was Roxette.
When Roxette was formed in 1986, its record label initially suggested that Fredriksson and Gessle should both share the lead vocals role. This, the band’s first single from 1986 debut album Pearls Of Passion, showcased the contrast between their voices, which later worked well for hits like Dangerous, Joyride.
Most of their hits may have come from 1988’s Look Sharp! and 1991’s Joyride, but their biggest and most recognisable hit ever was actually from the Pretty Woman soundtrack, which spent two weeks at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart in 1990.
The song was actually first released in 1987 as a Christmas single in their native Sweden, as It Must Have Been Love (Christmas for the Broken Hearted) and was retooled for Pretty Woman.
While Roxette enjoyed early commercial success in their native Sweden, 1988’s Look Sharp! made it one of the biggest bands in the world, thanks in part to The Look and its infectious ‘Nana nana nana’ hook.
Surprisingly, this was actually the fourth single off the album, and wouldn't have got a single look into the US market if an American exchange student named Dean Cushman hadn't taken the band's album home and convinced his local radio station to play it. From there, the single just snowballed into a global hit, eventually becoming the first of Roxette’s four Billboard No. 1 hits.
The Look may have been their first international hit, but Dressed For Success and Listen To Your Heart were the ones that were first chosen as the lead singles for the album.
Dressed For Success did relatively well in Sweden at first, but only became a global hit when it was re-released internationally after the success of The Look.
One of the biggest hits of 1989, this heart-wrenching ballad peaked at No. 1 on the US chart and established Fredriksson as THE voice of the band. Gessle later said that the plan all along was to push her forward as the lead vocalist of the band.
The song got a second lease of life in 2005 when Belgian EDM act DHT released a remixed version of the song, which also became a hit.
One of Roxette’s most rocking hits, this song was proof that Fredriksson needn’t be the only one singing, and that Gessle’s lower, gruff vocals were the perfect complement for her higher pitch.
Dangerous peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard singles chart, held off the top spot by Janet Jackson’s Escapade.
The dual vocals on Dangerous served notice to Joyride, the title track of Roxette’s third album in 1991, which also hit No. 1 in the US.
That signature whistle, Gessle’s vocals on the verses, the joyous chorus of “Hello, you fool, I love you!”... it all came together for one hell of a cheesy, well, joyride of a song.
Another of the duo’s most recognisable power ballads, this was arguably one of Fredriksson’s more powerful deliveries, establishing her as one of the foremost female vocalists in pop at the time. The song would have hit No. 1 in the Us if not for yet another insanely huge ballad – Bryan Adams’ (Everything I Do) I Do It For You.
After Joyride, Roxette’s star faded like a flower. They still scored moderate hits over the years like How Do You Do!, Have A Nice Day, Sleeping In My Car, She's Got Nothing On (But the Radio) and Crash! Boom! Bang!, but the band never reached the heights of their two biggest albums again. They still kept recording though, and never lost their knack for infectious pop songs like and power ballads.
“Stay forever, stay a little while... I’m pleased to have seen you, I’m pleased to have seen you smile...” Roxette’s final album, 2016’s Good Karma, closed with this tender, sad ballad, delivered by Fredriksson with heart-wrenching melancholy.
Although it was never released as a single, it serves as a lovely farewell to one of the defining female voices of a generation.
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