AQUAAqua is a Scandinavian pop group, perhaps best known for their 1997 breakthrough single Barbie Girl. The group formed in 1989 and achieved huge success across the
globe in the late 1990s and early 2000s. The group managed to top the UK Singles Chart with their first three singles. The group released two albums: Aquarium in 1997 and Aquarius in 2000, before splitting up in July 2001.
The group sold an estimated 33 million albums and singles, making them the most successful Danish band ever.
In their prime, Aqua's singles managed to chart top ten in a number of countries where European Pop acts would not normally succeed, including the United States, Australia, and Japan. The group also caused controversy with the double entendres in their Barbie Girl single, with the Barbie doll makers Mattel filing a lawsuit against the group. The lawsuit was finally dismissed by a judge in 2002, who ruled "The parties are advised to chill.
Since their 2001 split, Nystrøm, Dif and Rasted have all achieved solo chart success, and Norreen has continued in the music industry remixing other artists' material.
The group has announced the upcoming release of a compilation album featuring new material, and the four original members have confirmed Aqua will reunite for a tour in 2008. This was confirmed at a press event Friday on October 26, 2007. In December 2008 was announced three Aqua concerts in 2009.
Table Of Contents
|1989–1996: Early years|
|1997–1998: The "Aquarium Age"|
|1999–2000: The "Aquarius Age"|
|2001: Plans for third album and sudden split|
|2002: Greatest Hits and New Compilation|
|2003–2006: Following the split|
1989-1996: Early YearsAlthough Aqua formed as a group called Joyspeed in 1994, their history together dates back to 1989, and the recording of the soundtrack for a little-known film calledAt the time René was working in Holland as a club DJ, and Søren and Claus were both starting out as producers. The three were brought in to make part of the soundtrack for the film, and after getting along well, decided that they wanted to work together again on a future project.
In addition, Beck Luween was part of the initial Joyspeed lineup, playing the triangle, but left early on due to the excessive demand for her talents.
The formation of Joyspeed was on the basis that both Claus and Søren would do the production for the group, with René Dif rapping and Lene performing the main vocals. A small Swedish record label signed them in 1994, and their dancy first single Itsy Bitsy Spider released in Sweden. The single failed to become popular, despite its being based around a popular nursery rhyme, and after one week at the lower end of the Swedish charts it disappeared completely. The four were disappointed and cancelled their contract with the record label (although the label wanted to keep the group on for further releases).
With a new manager and no record deal, the group started over, and began to develop their famous bubblegum pop sound. The four began to produce and write melodic, catchy European pop songs, attracting the attention of the major record company Universal Records. They renamed themselves Aqua, choosing the name seen on a poster for an aquarium in their dressing room, and eventually accepted Universal Denmark's offer of a recording contract in 1996.
The group's first release under their new name was Roses Are Red, a dance song with a distinct pop sound. It was released in Denmark in September of 1996, and was expected to break into the Danish top ten. The single far surpassed all expectations set by the label, though, and stayed in the charts for over two months, eventually selling enough copies to be certified platinum. The success of the single was further proven when Aqua received a nomination for "Best Danish Dance Act", although the group did not win.
1997-1998: The "Aquarium Age"The instant success of "Roses Are Red" proved to Aqua that their new sound was popular with the public, and as a result their follow-up single followed the same formula. Titled My Oh My, the single again featured catchy lyrics paired with a soft, melodic beat. Upon it's release in February 1997, My Oh My broke all Danish sales records by being certified gold within six days. The single went straight to number one in Denmark, and made Aqua a household name in the country. The first two singles proved to Universal that Aqua was a very marketable group, and as a result the label looked to start marketing their music across the continent.
Aqua's follow-up to Barbie Girl in Canada and the United Kingdom was Doctor Jones, although another single, Lollipop (Candyman), was released in the United States . Doctor Jones entered at number one in several countries, including the United Kingdom, where it stayed at the top spot for two weeks, and Australia, where it spent seven weeks at #1. Lollipop (Candyman) did not fare as well in the USA, performing poorly in comparison to Barbie Girl. However the song peaked at #3 in Australia. In Japan both songs were released as a double-A side, and achieved reasonable success in the singles chart.
Doctor Jones was followed up by Turn Back Time, a song which proved to be accepted well by both Aqua fans and critics. The song, unlike all other previous releases, dropped the bubblegum pop sound in favour of a slow, mainstream rhythm. The song was featured on the soundtrack to the film Sliding Doors, and unlike many other Aqua releases achieved a large amount of radio and video airplay. The song became their third single to make it to number one in the United Kingdom. As of 2005, only a handful of other artists have managed to achieve that kind of initial success in the UK (acts that have included Westlife and the Spice Girls). Elsewhere, the song also performed well, including reaching #10 in Australia, however it would not be a huge success in the US and thus marked the end of Aqua's involvement Stateside.
My Oh My, Aqua's second Danish singlewas resurrected in August 1998. The single was also released in several other European countries where it had not been released initially. Following the release of Good Morning Sunshine, Aqua decided to concentrate on their second album, and on touring around in Australia, to very moderate success, and marked the end of a period Aqua's fans dubbed the "Aquarium age". The group also released a documentary on December 1, 1998 containing several live performances of songs from the Aquarium album and interviews with the members.
1999-2000: The "Aquarius Age"Aqua was relatively quiet during 1999, deciding to concentrate on recording Aquarius. According to promotional interviews with the group, over 30 songs were recorded for the album,although eventually only twelve made it onto the final version. The group released their second album Aquarius in February 2000. The album instantly proved popular with their fan base, despite some changes to their sound. Unlike Aquarium, the Aquarius album didn't just follow one formula, and instead contained several different musical styles. Tracks such as Cartoon Heroes and Bumble Bees preserved the pop sound of their debut album.
The single Cartoon Heroes was released along with the album. The song featured some "anthemic" tones, but kept most of the features that had made Aquarium so successful. The single made #7 in the United Kingdom, a minor disappointment, and sold well across Europe and Australia, peaking at #16 on the Australian charts. The song is often best remembered for its music video. The album charted in the United Kingdom at #10. Aqua released their UK follow-up single Around the World in June 2000, although would be disappointed when it only managed to chart at #26. #62 in Australia. Although it was not expected to be at the time, Around the World would be Aqua's final UK single release.
Aqua released Bumble Bees and We Belong To The Sea as singles in Scandinavia, mainland Europe and Australia, achieving reasonable success with both. The group planned to release Freaky Friday as a third UK single in early 2001. Freaky Friday was scheduled for release but was cancelled, however, for undisclosed reasons. Aqua then decided that they would concentrate on starting work on their third album, as opposed to releasing further singles from Aquarius.
2001: Plans for Third Album and Sudden SplitAqua spent the first few months of 2001 touring around the world, and working on material for their third album. The group also performed at the Eurovision Song Contest 2001,collaborating with the Safri Duo and providing the music during the voting stages of the competition. This performance also caused controversy, as a number of offensive phrases and gestures were added during the performance of Barbie Girl. During a couple of low-key events in Denmark the group performed live versions of songs intended for inclusion on the third album, including Couch Potato and Shakin' Stevens (Is A Superstar), the latter a tribute to the 1980s performer Shakin' Stevens. The songs were said to have incorporated a rock sound into their music. By the summer of 2001, however, problems between the members of Aqua were becoming apparent. René had, when the group first started releasing material under the Aqua name, been dating Lene. Lene had by now begun dating Søren, however, and reports of a rift between the three had been reported in the Danish press. Other reports had included that René was annoyed at his having a lesser role on the Aquarius album, and that the group was beginning to have other creative differences. Lene had also had some health problems, having collapsed on stage during their 2001 tour due to the exhaustion of the group's busy schedule. The group's split proved to be quite a major event across Europe, and many media sources speculated as to why the four had decided to call it a day. René, in an interview after their split, had denied any rift between the members of the group, and stated that the four had split on good terms. The four had allegedly agreed to split when having dinner together, deciding that it was the "best thing to do". Regardless, many fans of the group still believe a rift between the band members was at least a partial cause for the breakup, especially given the past sexual relations between Lene and Søren, even when she was still with Rene. Rene didn't find out until Lene gave an interview in the 2004: Top 100 best brokenup bands ever. She exclaimed that she felt very bad about it. Rene said he could never forgive her. The band ranked 24 on the top 100.
2002: Greatest Hits and New CompilationThe greatest hits album, Cartoon Heroes: The Best of Aqua, was released on May 22nd 2002 in Japan and re-released in the US in 2006. The album does not include the singlesGood Morning Sunshine and We Belong to the Sea. It does, however, include 10 other singles as well as non-singles such as Back From Mars, Happy Boys And Girls, Halloween, Calling You and An Apple A Day. Furthermore there is a Hampenberg Remix of their hit single Cartoon Heroes and music videos for Cartoon Heroes and Around the World .
2003-2006: Following the Split
After the group's split, all four members of Aqua continued within the music industry, with three former members all having successful solo careers. René Dif was the first to release a single, releasing Let It All Out (Push It) in early 2003 in his native Denmark. The single performed well, and an album was planned, but the comparative failure of his next solo singles The Uhh Uhh Song and Uhh La La La made him decide to not continue working on the album. René, in 2004, began to pursue a career as a Rugby player for Wellingborough rugby club, and appeared in the Danish films Den Gode Strømer, Inkasso and Pistoleros. He was also awarded the Zulu Achievement Award in the same year. In February 2007, René announced plans to resume work on his very new solo album, which was released in 2007. The first single, Way To Go is currently playing on his Myspace page.René Dif has also enjoyed fame posing as Mr. Breakfast on www.mrbreakfast.com.
Lene released her debut album Play With Me in mid-2003. The album's first single, It's Your Duty, showed a clear change in her musical direction, dropping the bubblegum pop vocal in favour of a rock and R&B influenced sound. The single performed well, making #3 in the Danish charts, but the album performed disappointingly, only making #74 in her native Norway. Although further singles like Pretty Young Thing and Here We Go were released from the album, none made much of an impact. Lene has not indicated any intention to release a second album in the near future, but did perform on a Danish charity single to benefit victims of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami that primaily hits Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, and Thailand.
Søren continued producing material for other artists up until 2004, before starting the Lazyboy Project. The project's first album Lazyboy TV was released in late 2004 to good reviews, and the first single Underwear Goes Inside The Pants made the top five of the Australian charts, also achieving airplay across Europe, Canada and the United States.
Claus Norreen has been the quietest of the former members, although he has also remained in the industry, remixing material for other artists under the alias Danny Red.
The lawsuit filed by Mattel over the song "Barbie Girl" was thrown out in 2002, with the judge refusing Mattel's claims that the song harmed the doll's reputation. The judge claimed that, as the song is a parody of the doll, it is legally acceptable. He also advised the parties involved "to chill."
In 2005, a Danish director got the band together for an Aqua-documentary called Turn Back Time. Filmed in a summerhouse, the band stayed together inside for twelve hours, talking about subjects randomly picked by a computer, including Lene and Søren's marriage and René's book. In between the band talking about the subject, there were clips of music videos and live performances.
On October 26, 2007, Aqua reunited and promised a 25 concert tour that will commence in the summer of 2008. Offers have been received by the record company from locations in Denmark, Canada, United States & U.K.
The group have announced that the third album will not be released, but have not ruled out a new Greatest Hits package being released with videos, new arrangements of older songs in the band's new style, a DVD feature of videos of past and present and some of the scrapped material from the third album towards the end of 2008. This package finally wasn't relased in 2008, but in December was annouced three Aqua concerts in 2009.
Aqua is well-known for their music videos, most of which followed a storyline of some sort. Due to their being one of Universal's biggest-selling pop groups, their budget for making videos has always been quite high. This has been reflected in their videos, which often appear to be cheesy but tend to be accepted as fitting in well with their musical style. The music videos for Barbie Girl, Doctor Jones, My Oh My, Around the World and Bumble Bees were directed by Peder Pedersen.
The video for Barbie Girl is undoubtedly their most famous, considering all of the paradioes. The video features Lene as Barbie, and René as Ken. René asks Lene to "go party", and Lene informs René that he can "touch" and "play", and calls herself a "blonde bimbo". The music video caused a lot of the controversy surrounding the song, as it made the double meanings in the lyrics clear. "Doctor Jones" also followed a storyline featuring René and Lene as persons in love, with René (as Indiana Jones) saving the rest of the group from a cannibal tribe. The My Oh My video also featured a plotline where the two become lovers.
Aqua's early videos had several distinguishing features, and events which would be repeated in each video. One of these features is the way the video starts: a tympani beat and a screen informing the viewer that the video is brought to you in "Aquascope". Also, their first videos, with the exception of Roses Are Red and Lollipop (Candyman), all featured a Lene and René kiss at the end. In videos from the Aquarius album this kiss wasn't present. Later videos also tended to gradually show the group in a more serious light, with their last video for We Belong To The Sea being presented in a serious manner, unlike other videos which always appeared to be put across in a light-hearted way.