Stimulus: Ace of Base – The Golden Ratio
I try to avoid having guilty pleasures, but it wouldn’t be far off to describe Ace of Base as my one musical pleasure which is most surprising. Though I tend to loathe much of the band’s best known work – “The Sign” in particular makes me grate my teeth – Ace of Base was really my first serious introduction to electronic music. The clubbed-up B-sides of the band’s debut album drew me in, and its follow-up, The Bridge, is a mature stripe of Europop that stands as my favorite example of the style. Of course, most people only know the singles, and as such I get a villainous glee when busting out Ace of Base upon the unexpected.
It’s been eight years since Ace of Base released their last album, and for some time it seemed as though the band had packed it in. The gradual departures of the band’s two female singers, Jenny and Linn Berggren, seemed to be the final straw, but instead of calling it a day, the two remaining members decided to crew up, recruiting two new girls to sing their songs. The result is The Golden Ratio, and while there are some good tracks to be found, this version of Ace of Base doesn’t match the original. There are two big reasons why this is the case, and both have to do with Ace of Base trading in what made it unique for more conventional pop fodder.
First, the new vocalists sound like every other female pop vocalist on the scene. Their voices crack with girly vulnerability at all the right moments, their lyrics profess all the expected heartbreak and whimsy. They’re props, and serve their purpose.
But the more pressing problem with The Golden Ratio lies squarely on the shoulders of the band’s tenured members. The band doesn’t completely abandon its reggae-tinged pop roots, and the strongest example of the old style, “Mr. Replay,” is one of the album’s best tracks. Yet there is a strong sense that the band is trying to keep pace with everyone else instead of being itself. “Southern California” is the worst offender, a lifeless grab at moody American girlpop.
But what’s worse, the opening track, “All for You,” sounds like every other electropop group from Ace of Base’s mid-90s heyday, and it’s only the most glaring evidence. Trading in Ace of Base’s electropop for the La Bouche/Snap!/Culture Beat conglomerate is not a good move.
Still, there is one very bright moment on the album, a flamenco guitar led dirge titled “Who Am I” in which every aspect of the new group comes together perfectly. If every song on The Golden Ratio was as well-orchestrated as this, it would have been brilliant.
Yet as it stands, I’d have recommended that this new group have started with a clean slate and a new name. The Golden Ratio is no Bridge.
(As a bonus, one of the worst music videos ever!)
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