Photo credit: Philippe Caron / Contributor
Ace Of Base
Photo credit: Philippe Caron / Contributor
The Recording Academy takes a look back at the inescapable pop single's influence and legacy
Only nine musical acts topped the Billboard Hot 100 in 1994, and the publication declared one the bestseller of the year: "The Sign" by Swedish-pop torchbearers Ace Of Base. The song by the now-defunct quartet (siblings Jenny, Jonas and Linn Berggren and Ulf Ekberg) spent four weeks at number one starting the week of March 12, 1994, and returned to reign for two more weeks beginning May 7 after being displaced by R. Kelly’s "Bump n’ Grind" for four weeks in April.
"I got a new life, you’d hardly recognize me, I'm so glad," the Berggren sisters sang with sass on this withering, grooving breakup song. "How can a person like me care for you? Why do I bother, when you're not the one for me? Is enough enough?"
While Swedish duo Roxette hit the American pop charts in the late '80s, Ace of Base’s Stateside arrival coincided with an ABBA revival that brought Swedish music back into the international consciousness.
"I think the comparisons are quite obvious, we are four — two guys, two girls — and we make pop music and are from Sweden, but we have nothing to do with ABBA," Ulf Ekberg said in a French television interview in 1999. "We weren’t listening to them in the '90s — maybe in the '70s, when we were small kids like this, but we were never really inspired by ABBA. And when we started Ace of Base, ABBA was really out, out out. No one talked about ABBA; especially not in Sweden. But we were really lucky that a revival of ABBA came in ‘92, ‘93 with [greatest hits record] ABBA Gold. And we were out with the first single, second single and the album and then suddenly the wave of Swedish music from ABBA came out together with us and we were riding a little bit on the wave for sure."
"The Sign" is the title track to the group’s 1993 album release in America. The full-length was released sans the single as Happy Nation in Europe the year before and renamed The Sign once Clive Davis, the head of their U.S. label Arista, heard the newer song. When Davis got the demo tape for "The Sign," he passed it on to Swedish producers Douglass Carr and the late Denniz PoP to polish.
"They wanted something different from the European album, to make it more special," Jonas Berggren told Idolator in 2014. "I had 'The Sign' only just in my head. The first time anyone heard it was Denniz PoP, who got a rough demo. It was just instrumental and I remember that he thought the verse was the chorus. Arista loved the song!"
"The demo we got was very basic; it sounded like one of those preprogrammed tracks on a cheap family keyboard where you press a button and the band starts playing," Carr told Slate in 2015. "Denniz’s skills for making and mixing fat beats is here in full blast. He knew what the dancefloor needed, and we had the speakers and the volume to know what was going to happen in the clubs.”
What the dancefloor needed was a propulsive bassline, which Carr revealed was a little bit tricky.
“The bass took some figuring out,” Carr remembered. “I remember us talking a lot about the space that the reggae bass players always make in their music, and how important that is—that sense of air.”
The finished version was airy — and loud as hell.
“An interesting part is that the song was so loud that we had to reduce the volume by three decibels compared to the other tracks when we mastered the album,” Jonas revealed to Idolator.
25 years on since "The Sign" became a number one hit in America and the song is still instantly memorable.
“For us, the melody and the hookline come first,” Ulf told EuroMenTravel in 2016. "Lyrics come last. What we do when we write a song is something we call ‘cowboy lyrics.’. Meaning, we simply ad-lib to the music and later form this into actual lyrics. It’s the melody that counts the most. And the hookline has to be there, engaging, drawing you in. Everything else comes at a later time. You see, that really is key to making good music, you have to be passionate about what you do. In the end, making good music is not about making money. It’s about passion."
The Nigerian-American singer and actor sat down with the Recording Academy to talk about what inspired his latest album, 'Walk With Me'
In 2015, Rotimi stepped into the New Orleans Superdome for the first time to experience the magic of ESSENCE Fest. Four years later, in 2019, the "Love Riddim" singer returned to the celebration as a performer, something he said was spoken into existence.
"Last year me and my manager had a conversation and I said, 'Listen, I'm going to be on the [ESSENCE] mainstage this year. 365 days later, we did it," Rotimi told the Recording Academy at the 25th annual ESSENCE Fest.
Rotimi, also an actor on Starz' "Power," has evolved since his last album, 2017's Jeep Music, Vol.1. The singer said he really hit home with its follow-up, the recently released Walk With Me, a project he worked hard for, putting in hours in the studio after filming on set.
"Walk With Me is the first time I actually felt like I was giving myself as an artist, and personally I feel like with everything else I have going on I wanted to show people that this is really what I do," he said. "I wanted people to understand who Rotimi is, who Rotimi was before, who I want to be and just understand my growth and the journey and my passion for what I do."
Part of why the album felt like such a representation of him is because it embodies beats of his African roots, something he said was very present growing up Nigerian-American.
"I grew up with a lot of Fela Kuti and I grew up with Bob Marley," he said of his musical roots. "But I also grew up with Carl Thomas and Genuine and Usher, so there was a genuine mixture of who I am and what I've grown up to listen to. The actual Walk With Me project was a mixture of influences of Akon and Craig David."
Photo: Kevin Mazur/WireImage.com
Pearl Jam's Mike McCready says "if you love music," record stores are the place to find it
Record Store Day 2019 will arrive on April 13 and this year's RSD Ambassadors are Pearl Jam. Past ambassadors include Dave Grohl, Metallica, Run The Jewels (Killer Mike and El-P), and 61st GRAMMY Awards winner for Best Rock Song St. Vincent.
McCready was also the 2018 recipient of MusiCares' Stevie Ray Vaughan Award.
The band was formed in 1990 by McCready, Jeff Ament, Stone Gossard, and Eddie Vedder, and they have played with drummer Matt Cameron since 2002. They have had five albums reach No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and four albums reach No. 2.
"Pearl Jam is honored to be Record Store Day's Ambassador for 2019. Independent record stores are hugely important to me," Pearl Jam's Mike McCready said in a statement publicizing the peak-vinyl event. "Support every independent record store that you can. They're really a good part of society. Know if you love music, this is the place to find it."
With a dozen GRAMMY nominations to date, Pearl Jam's sole win so far was at the 38th GRAMMY Awards for "Spin The Black Circle" for Best Hard Rock Performance.
Pearl Jam will be performing on March 3 in Tempe, Ariz. at the Innings festival, on June 15 in Florence, Italy at the Firenze Rocks Festival and at another festival in Barolo, Italy on June 17. On July 6 Pearl Jam will headline London's Wembley Stadium.
Dreamville, Meek Mill, 21 Savage, Tyler, The Creator, and YBN Cordae all earn nominations in the category
The 2020 GRAMMYs are just around the corner, and now the nominations are in for the coveted honor of Best Rap Album. While we'll have to wait until the 62nd GRAMMY Awards air on CBS on Jan. 26 to find out who will win, let's take a look at which albums have been nominated for Best Rap Album.
Dreamers III, the third installment in the label’s Revenge of the Dreamers compilation series, debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart and achieved gold status this past July. In addition to a Best Rap Album nod, Dreamers III is also nominated for Best Rap Performance next year for album track “Down Bad,” featuring J.I.D, Bas, J. Cole, EARTHGANG, and Young Nudy.
In many ways, Championships represents a literal and metaphorical homecoming for Meek Mill. Released in November 2018, Championships is the Philadelphia rapper’s first artist album following a two-year prison sentence he served after violating his parole in 2017. Championships, naturally, sees Meek tackling social justice issues stemming from his prison experience, including criminal justice reform. The album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, his second chart-topper following 2015’s Dreams Worth More Than Money, and reached platinum status in June 2019. Meek Mill's 2020 Best Rap Album nod marks his first-ever GRAMMY nomination.
Breakout rapper and four-time GRAMMY nominee 21 Savage dropped i am > i was, his second solo artist album, at the end of 2018. The guest-heavy album, which features contributions from Post Malone, Childish Gambino, J. Cole, and many others, has since charted around the world, topped the Billboard 200 – a first for the artist – in the beginning of 2019, and achieved gold status in the U.S. As well, nine songs out of the album’s 15 original tracks landed on the Hot 100 chart, including multi-platinum lead single “A Lot,” which is also nominated for Best Rap Song next year. 21 Savage’s 2020 Best Rap Album nomination, which follows Record of the Year and Best Rap/Sung Performance nods for his 2017 Post Malone collaboration, "Rockstar,” marks his first solo recognition in the top rap category.
The eccentric Tyler, The Creator kicked off a massive 2019 with his mid-year album, IGOR. Released this past May, IGOR, Tyler’s fifth solo artist album, is his most commercially successful project to date. The album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, marking his first time topping the coveted chart, while its lead single, "Earfquake,” peaked at No. 13, his highest entry on the Hot 100. Produced in full by Tyler and featuring guest spots from fellow rap and R&B stars Kanye West, Lil Uzi Vert, Solange, and Playboi Carti, among many others, IGOR follows the rapper’s 2017 album, Flower Boy, which received the Best Rap Album nod that same year.
Emerging rapper YBN Cordae, a member of the breakout YBN rap collective, released his debut album, The Lost Boy, to widespread critical acclaim this past July. The 15-track release is stacked with major collaborations with hip-hop heavyweights, including Anderson .Paak, Pusha T, Meek Mill, and others, plus production work from J. Cole and vocals from Quincy Jones. After peaking at No. 13 on the Billboard 200, The Lost Boy now notches two 2020 GRAMMY nominations: Best Rap Album and Best Rap Song for album track “Bad Idea,” featuring Chance the Rapper.
Photo: Carlos Alvarez/Getty Images
El Mal Querer Tour, named after the Spanish pop star's latest album, will come to Los Angeles on April 17 in between her Coachella performances
Rosalía is set to perform at some of the most popular music festivals around the globe, including Primavera Sound in Spain, Lollapalooza (Argentina and Chile) and Coachella, but the Spanish pop star isn't stopping there when she gets to the States. Now, she has announced her first solo North American Tour with a string of dates that will bring her to select cities in the U.S. and Canada.
El Mal Querer Tour, named after her latest album, will come to Los Angeles on April 17 in between her Coachella performances. Then she'll play San Francisco on April 22, New York on April 30 and close out in Toronto on May 2.
"I’m so happy to announce my first solo North American tour dates," the singer tweeted.
Rosalía won Best Alternative Song and Best Fusion/ Urban Interpretation at the 19th Latin GRAMMY Awards in November and has been praised for bringing flamenco to the limelight with her hip-hop and pop beats. During her acceptance speech she gave a special shout-out to female artists who came before her, including Lauryn Hill and Bjork.
Rosalía has been getting some love herself lately, most notably from Alicia Keys, who gave the Spanish star a shout-out during an acceptance speech, and Madonna, who featured her on her Spotify International Women's Day Playlist.
Tickets for the tour go on sale March 22. For more tour dates, visit Rosalía's website.