Ace of Base is a pop band from Gothenburg, Sweden, comprising Ulf Ekberg (Buddha) and siblings Jonas Berggren (Joker) and Jenny Berggren. They released their debut album in 1993 and went on to sell more than 30 million albums worldwide, topping the charts with hits such as "All That She Wants" and "The Sign". Following the formal departure of former member Malin "Linn" Berggren in 2007, the trio have recently been playing gigs in Europe and Asia, and plan to release their fifth studio album in 2009.
The Sign is listed among the Top 100 Bestselling Albums of All Time by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA)
In 1987, following a number of years as part of a new romantic and punk covers band called G Konrad, Jonas Berggren formed a band with two friends, Johnny Lind?n and Niklas Tr?nk for a school project; his sisters Linn and Jenny joined as singers. The new band went through several names: Kalinin Prospect (after a street in Moscow); CAD (Computer-Aided Disco); and Tech-Noir (French for black technology, after a nightclub in the film The Terminator). They toured the clubs of Sweden with their new self-written material, techno inspired by the likes of The KLF and Snap!
Johnny left the group in 1989. Niklas made his departure known by failing to appear at a gig at the B?ltessp?nnarparken on 6 August 1990; he preferred to attend a Rolling Stones concert on the other side of town. Jonas asked his friend Ulf Ekberg to stand in for Niklas. The new quartet sought a new name to make a fresh start; Linn was reported saying: "No one could pronounce the name of the group and nobody could remember it". They settled on Ace of Base, because they were the "masters of their studio", the basement of a car-repair shop.
However the band continued to struggle to gain any recognition, partly due to the preference of heavy metal over techno in their home town, according to singer Jenny. In 1991 they responded to a newspaper ad by producer John Ballard who was looking for new talent. He was somewhat unsure about their potential, but did pass them on to Klas Lunding at Telegram Records who helped them record an early demo for the song "Wheel of Fortune" in their newly renovated studio. But it did not convince Telegram to sign the band, and other labels in Sweden still showed no sign of interest. In the end, the unfinished demo was sold for a small price to the independent Danish label Mega Records in March 1992. "Wheel of Fortune" was re-recorded and released as a single in Denmark in May but failed to hit the charts. A small-budget music video was shot and directed in a small studio by Viking Nielsson and in September, after two failures, the single finally reached the charts.
Happy Nation (1993?1994)
It was another song that was to help Ace of Base's career take off internationally. After hearing Swedish top 20 hit "Another Mother" by Kayo, the band decided that was exactly the sound they wanted to create. They contacted the song's producer Denniz PoP and sent him a demo of a song called "Mr Ace". Ironically, the tape got stuck in the cassette tape player in his car, so he was forced to listen to it over and over again which helped him decide to produce the track. The song became "All That She Wants", a dark fusion of dub-reggae with pop which became the band's trademark sound. On release in October 1992, it quickly climbed to #1 on the Danish chart while the previous single was still sitting at #2. Keen to rush out an LP for the Christmas market, Mega Records pressed the band for an album and it was hastily recorded, mixed, and released within a few weeks.
Preceded by a single of the same name, the album, titled Happy Nation was an instant hit in Denmark, and its success prompted interest elsewhere in Europe. A Pan-European license was signed with Metronome/PolyGram (now Universal Music) but they were turned down by the American division. Within a few months, "All That She Wants" had reached number 3 in Sweden and had spent eight weeks at number 1 in Germany.
The band were briefly caught up in controversy when on 27 March 1993 the Swedish newspaper Expressen reported that Ulf had once been a member of a white power band called Commit Suicide who sang songs with racist lyrical content. He was also a member of the controversial far-right political party Sverigedemokraterna. Ulf was quick to admit that most of the details printed were true, but denied that he was racist. In the 1997 documentary "Our Story", Ulf said "I told everyone I really regret what I have done. I closed that book. I don't want to even talk about it, that time does not exist in me any more. I closed it and I threw the book away. I took the experience from it, I learned from it. But that life is not me. It's somebody else."
The revelations did not harm the band's career and in April 1993 the band performed alongside Inner Circle and Dr Alban in Tel Aviv, Israel at what would be their biggest audience ever; 55,000 people.
In May, "All That She Wants" continued to be a hit all around the world and topped the chart for three weeks in the United Kingdom. However, despite Mega Records' hard efforts to secure a distribution deal in the United States the response was always the same: "this band will never work in the States". Eventually, however, Clive Davis, founder of Arista Records, thought otherwise, and by the end of 1993 "All That She Wants" had made its way to #2 on the Billboard Hot 100.
In order to freshen up the album for US release, Davis insisted that some new tracks were recorded, including "The Sign" which became the new title for the album and the second American single. It was even more successful than the first, spending six weeks at #1 becoming the best-selling single of 1994. It was also a major hit in Europe, peaking at #2 in the UK and Sweden and doing one better in Germany. PolyGram re-released the album under the name Happy Nation (US Version).
Two more singles were released; "Living in Danger" and "Don't Turn Around", by Diane Warren. The latter was originally recorded by Tina Turner on the b-side of a single she released which went on to become a UK #1 hit for the reggae band Aswad. Davis suggested that the band record the song and it was yet another worldwide hit. By the end of 1994, they were an international commercial success.
The Bridge (1995?1996)
The band, who by now were not only tired of being compared to fellow Swedish group ABBA, but exhausted from two long years of international promotion, could hardly believe how successful they had become. In April 1994, a crazed German fan Manuela Behrendt broke into the Berggren family's home brandishing a knife. After managing to restrain her, the band decided that from then on they needed bodyguards. However, they were not allowed to take time to reflect before starting work on a second album because their record companies all over the world were demanding a swift follow-up. To speed up the process, instead of Jonas and Ulf writing the bulk of the album, each member was encouraged to submit his or her own tracks for consideration.
In the end, 17 tracks made the cut of the second album entitled The Bridge. It marked a considerable change of direction in sound; out were the reggae and club sounds that made the group so popular in favour of a more experimental sound and several ballads. The lead single "Lucky Love" however was a mainstream pop record and on release in October 1995 became the band's first number 1 single in Sweden, which came as a pleasant surprise as they had found that their fellow Swedes had been their harshest critics. It charted at a more modest number 13 in Germany and number 20 in the United Kingdom, but Arista Records decided that it wasn't appropriate for US release so they opted for the pulsating dance beat of "Beautiful Life" which peaked at number 15 both in the US and UK. The album was still certified platinum but the phenomenal success of the band's first album proved difficult to follow. In February 1996, the band performed at the Vi?a del Mar Festival de la Cancion in Chile, topping the bill alongside 2 Unlimited.
After this, Ace of Base disappeared from the limelight for a while, only emerging in July 1997 to perform at a concert to celebrate the 20th birthday of Princess Victoria of Sweden. They were given as much time as they wanted to produce their third album, much of it being recorded in Jonas' own studio "The Barn". When it was finally released in June 1998, the band declared it their best album yet. It was titled Flowers because they believed that the songs, wildly different in style including Motown and gospel influences, resembled a varied bouquet of flowers. Fans were surprised to see that blonde singer Linn had relinquished lead vocal duties to sister Jenny, and on many promotional photos Linn's face was blurred. They were reassured that Linn was happy with her new backing role in the group, and many reasons were given for her decision including her having damaged her voice, fear of flying putting her off from travelling round the world, and her dislike of fame.
The radio-friendly single "Life Is a Flower" was certified the most-played track on European radio for 1998 and sold more than 250,000 copies in the UK, peaking at number 5; the colorful video of the same name was Produced and Directed by Andreas Neumann. British label London Records had requested the band record the 1984 hit "Cruel Summer" by Bananarama and it was selected as the second European single. Deciding that "Life Is a Flower" was "too European in nature", Clive Davis pushed "Cruel Summer" as the lead-off single for the United States and it took Ace of Base back into the US Top 10 for the first time in four years, being certified gold. The album was also re-named Cruel Summer and featured a different tracklist to the European release. Davis persuaded a reluctant Linn to record a Billy Steinberg ballad "Everytime It Rains" and "Life Is a Flower" was re-recorded as "Whenever You're Near Me" and was the second single, but it could only peak at number 76. "Always Have, Always Will" and "Travel to Romantis" were further hits in Europe while "Everytime It Rains" was issued as a single in the UK along with a re-packaged edition of Flowers released only in the UK.
Singles of the 90s and Greatest Hits (1999?2000)
Singles of the 90s, a compilation of sixteen hit singles was released in November 1999. Its first single, "C'est La Vie (Always 21)," went on to become a surprise number 1 hit in Spain. Attempting to capitalize on the success of the previous single, "Hallo Hallo" was released with special remixes just for the Spanish market. The album's marketing push closed with the limited radio-only single release of "Love in December". "Everytime It Rains", previously included on the Cruel Summer album was released as a radio single in the US the following year in remixed-form (pushed by Clive Davis) in order to promote a new Greatest Hits album for the American market, which failed to chart, selling fewer than 5,000 copies in its first week. It completed the band's four-album contract with Arista Records and was not renewed. "Hallo Hallo" was planned initially to be the first single from this American compilation, but in the end it was not included on the album at all. "C'est La Vie (Always 21)" was the only new recording included on the U.S. release. Two old remixes of both "Lucky Love" and "Beautiful Life" were also included.
Da Capo (2002?2003)
Ace of Base released their fourth studio album Da Capo in September 2002 in Europe, and in Japan through Toshiba EMI with a different cover and three bonus tracks. The album contained twelve original tracks and had originally been planned for release in mid-2000, but was repeatedly postponed due to record company complications. The album is named after the musical term da capo, meaning "back to the beginning". It was intended to be a return to the band's earliest sound.
Although the album entered the album charts in many European countries, it was not as successful as previous releases. Only Jenny and Ulf went on a promotional tour of Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland, Germany, Poland and Austria; Jonas wanted to stay at home with his two children and Linn attended only one performance in Germany. The album was not released in the Americas or Australasia, and received only a 'soft release' in the United Kingdom, as their new British label Polydor thought that their sound was no longer relevant to the UK music scene.
The first single release from the Da Capo album was "Beautiful Morning", which peaked at number 14 in Sweden and number 38 in Germany, where it was followed by "The Juvenile", which was used for a Christmas campaign by German TV channel RTL. "The Juvenile" was a "lost track"; Ace of Base had previously written it for the Goldeneye James Bond movie in 1995. However, Arista, the band's American record label at the time, shelved the idea. The band was no longer involved in the soundtrack for the movie, and Bono Vox's composition of the same name was substituted, sung instead by Tina Turner.
In Scandinavia, Edel-Mega released the album's opening track, "Unspeakable", as the second single. But its poor chart performance ended the promotion of the album prematurely.
The band remained out of the spotlight throughout 2003 and 2004, although Jenny kept busy by performing solo live performances in several Christian shows with her husband Jakob P?tren, and joined the Swedish group Arose.
The band returned at the end of 2005 for several live performances at the Night of the Proms in Belgium alongside other artists such as Donna Summer and performs some of their hits such as "All That She Wants" and "The Sign". Since then, the band went back to Sweden and started working in the studio for the 5th studio album.
Next studio album and world tour (2007?present)
The band performed their first full-length concert since 1996 in Yekaterinburg, Russia on November 15 2007. Several other concerts followed mainly in east Europe and Denmark. The setlist included various songs from their past albums and notably, a brand new remix of their very first single "Wheel of Fortune".
Ulf Ekberg confirmed in an interview on November 28 that Malin Berggren had officially left the band and that she would not be involved with any future projects. The group had already been performing mostly without Linn as a trio for a decade before her departure. Jenny confirmed Linn's departure to the Danish press: "She hasn't been part of Ace of Base for several years," she stated in Se & Hor magazine. She reportedly left the band to dedicate more time for studies and family. The loss has been significant for the band, as her powerful lead voice, which most fans agree is stronger than Jenny's, was a distinctive feature of the songs from the 1990's that put Ace of Base on the map.
The band was on world tour and performed at several summer music festivals in 2008 and most of 2009. The tour reached Scandinavia, some eastern european Countries and some places far away like Singapore and the Dominican Republic. At their show at Rock Under Broen (Middelfart, Denmark) on June 14, 2008, the group performed a new song called "Sparks from a Fire". It is unknown whether this song will appear on their upcoming new album.
Ace of Base released their Greatest Hits CD/DVD, Greatest Hits, Classic Remixes and Music Videos on November 12, 2008. The 3-disc set includes one CD with the hits, a second CD containing remixes, and the third disc, a DVD containing all the music videos. The package is three gold-Digipak and comes in a slip case. Along with the set are new liner notes and photographs. Four re-recorded songs were produced: "Wheel Of Fortune 2009", "Lucky Love 2009", and "Don't Turn Around 2009" plus a Japanese only bonus track; "The Sign - Freedom Bunch Mix". "Wheel of Fortune 2009" was released worldwide on October 24 as the lead single of the Greatest Hits album.
The band is currently working in studio with Swedish producer Peer ?str?m for their new album. On December 14, 2007 Jonas Berggren announced in a meeting with fans after a concert in Lithuania that they are currently working with very famous American producers, but he couldn't reveal yet who they are. However, they currently remain an unsigned band. It is now unknown when the new album will be released. There seem to be differences in the band about some important issues like introducing a new member or releasing the music under a different band name. The official Ace of Base website has now been offline since late June 2009 due to their hosting provider, MUBITO, going bankrupt.
Meanwhile Jenny Berggren recently released her first autobiography "Vinna hela v?rlden" translated "Gaining The Whole World" in late September 2009. It is currently only available in Swedish, but will be translated. She is also currently working on her Christian solo album.
A 2009 remix of their 1998 top-10 hit "Cruel Summer" recently entered and peaked the German sales charts at #69.