I’m worried about the state of my Spotify Wrapped…
I have a friend that does not understand any of the music references I make, that doesn’t know what’s on the charts currently and never seems to fit into any music-related conversation. Her favourite band is Aqua and she listens to them regularly enough that it swamps her Spotify Wrapped.
In an effort to understand what world she lives in I’ve decided to dive into Aqua’s full discography and ask the question: Did Aqua deserve to be more than one-hit wonders?
It’s horribly kitschy and painfully sweet. René’s voice seems to always sound like the overly masculine grazing tone it had on ‘Barbie Girl’. He always seems so abrasive compared to the sweet backing, and if it wasn’t for the constant suggestion of Lene and René fucking each other one would be worried about the leery tone.
The rap in ‘Good Morning Sunshine‘ fit into the song the same way ‘Sex Over The Phone‘ and (hot take incoming) Blondie’s ‘Rapture‘ feels. It happened, but should I be happy it did? Hearing the opening notes of ‘Barbie Girl’ genuinely caused me physical damage. Why did they write that song? (After a shocking turn of events the song is a feminist commentary on women’s perception in media, which is cool, but the execution of it wasn’t great… Well, they got sued).
The drums pounding their trebly synthetic beats as hard as they can as Lene tries her hardest to bring merit, and is the most redeeming part of this album. Her vocals are fun and some melodies are catchy, but it’s hard to take any of it seriously. It was 1997, everyone had a Spanish themed song, right? Aqua seems to cover every 97-2003 cliché, but maybe they popularised and originated those tropes. Regardless, this album is the most ridiculous hellscape that only 1997 Europop could produce.
However… ‘My Oh My‘ is now on my go-to playlist because it is a really fun tune. I always knew I needed more songs with harpsichord in them. It’s just the lead-in from ‘My Oh My’ to ‘Barbie Girl’ that physically pains me. The kitschy energy and horseshoes clip-clopping pushes beyond cheap and into charming.
Regardless, Aquarium was over an hour long. I have been worn down. I feel like they’ve run circles around me, like trolls, and ripped me apart. I had to emotionally engage with the music and it was a shockingly poor choice to engage in a complete listen of Aqua’s discography.
What the Christmas child hellscape is ‘Cartoon Heros’? A themed musical number for a kid’s show? Whatever it is, Aqua is back here proving you can really just slap a drum machine on any song and no one can stop you. (After talking to Lib, my friend who is very much a fan of Aqua I have to take this comment back and say “Cartoon Heros good”). After hearing “my life is a country song” in ‘Freaky Friday‘ I was thrown into a pit of disbelief even though I was 6 feet under rationality, the “yee-haw”ing and cowboy reference giving me whiplash. As the album progresses there are more and more references to water, like I’m slowly being inducted into an Aqua themed cult, and with the names of their albums, why am I surprised? All of their songs have a cheesy scene setter, like the spoken start of ‘Halloween’ where Lene pretends she is going to be kidnapped, but then the bubblegum pop intro begins and that damn drum machine… Aqua is a bunch of overly keen drama kids forced into a Eurodance band that sings incredibly specific and simple songs.
After a 3 day pause from Aqua I returned to say ‘Freaky Friday’ has a catchy chorus, and if you consider the cheesy parts charming then the song is a little bit of a banger. On top of that, as previously mentioned, ‘Cartoon Heros’ reads more like a kitschy classic for the band but it’s hard to respect Aqua as a serious band at all.
Maybe Aqua never wanted to be a serious band. Maybe they’re just vibing and doing stupid stuff, hoping for us to brainlessly jam along. My Aqua obsessed friend reminded me of Barbie Young (of Cardio Dance for Seniors fame), the “hero” who invented the speedy mix of Cartoon Heros and honestly it’s the closest I will ever feel to doing cocaine without actually doing cocaine.
I regret doing this. Aquarius was again, an hour long… My reserves are low. I don’t think I can take it.
I open the album to see what I have to deal with. First song title? ‘Playmate with Jesus’. What’s that? ‘Kill Myself‘. That’s not what I want to do, that’s a song title. Every song title gets more and more bizarre. I couldn’t work out how to digest this album, so I just clicked play.
The first four songs are the craziest collection of music I have ever come across. It’s unabashedly wired and lyrically absurd.
Well to start, Aqua seems to think that Jesus resides in space, expressed in-depth in ‘Playmate With Jesus’. On top of that, Dirty Little Pop Song starts with “dj dj on the floor who’s your slutty little whore”, a bold but also alarming phrase to introduce a listener into their album. In the chorus of ‘Like A Robot‘ Lene sings “then why do you still fuck me like a robot” to her ex René whilst her husband is standing right there, playing backing in the band. Like A Robot is just another song about super hot and raunchy sex in the long list of songs where Lene and her ex René just sing about wanting to get it on in front of Lene’s husband. I can’t take it. I live in an absurdist reality where this music is my friends go-to.
Nothing is as boldly irrational as the first five tracks, so the rest, which are also impressively irrational almost make sense. An American pop diva could’ve sung ‘Come and Get It‘ and made it a hit, but maybe just the context of the album and the context of Aqua singing made that song lurid. If Flo Rida and Katy Perry sang it I wouldn’t bat an eyelid… possibly. ‘Sucker For A Superstar‘ feels like if a certain American electronic group from Candyland (you know the one, they shall not be named) were not horrible people and had a little bit of fun sometimes.
It took three albums to come to terms with the unadulterated horniness emanating from Aqua, masked by their bubblegum synths, but I think this album helped me finally emotionally come to terms with it.
Danish magazine Gaffa gave it a 4/6 star rating and before I can even contest that score, what the fuck kind of scoring is out of SIX?!?!
Maybe trying to review the discography of a Eurodance act was a stupid idea? Maybe trying to take Aqua seriously was a bad idea? Maybe thinking that a band that’s sickeningly sweet couldn’t produce the horniest material of the 2000s was wrong?
Regardless, Aqua’s discography isn’t full of songs that the charts would enjoy, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have fun songs that people clearly enjoy.
Songs that deserved better: My Oh My, Freaky Friday, Cartoon Heros
Overall rating: 5/10
Miss our first looking back? Head over here to find out what happened when we took a big ol’ deep dive into Village Peoples discography.