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Blah, Blah, Blah, Ace of Base...In Name Alone
on January 12, 2011
I want to begin this review by stating that I have been a huge AoB fan since I first heard "All That She Wants" during the fall of my freshman year of college. I've eagerly bought every album and single I could get my hands on since. I stuck by them during their U.S. hey-day, and have endured mocking and criticism for still being an avid fan for the past 15 years since they lost popularity here. Despite my sadness over the departure of Linn over the years, I eagerly anticipated the news of a new album. When the initial news came that Jenny was leaving the band, I was very heartbroken, as she has been the heart of this group to me for the past two releases. However, upon hearing "All for You" I thought I would give the new version of AoB a chance. Upon receiving the CD for Christmas, I quickly realized that this is not a true Ace of Base CD. It is their product in name alone, and it cannot hold a candle to the magic the group created on its original releases. By the time I reached "Blah, Blah, Blah on the Radio" during my initial spin of this disc, that is exactly how I felt, and I was ready to cry out to the band to "give me some music I can listen to."
This album is just weak. While I have never really considered Ace of Base to be exceptionally deep in the song writing department, many of these songs just don't seem to flow or make sense lyrically. I applaud them for their ability to write in English at all, but many of these songs remind me of writing projects I wrote in third year Spanish class. They throw in a big word here or there to make the songs seem more interesting or intelligent, but it doesn't accomplish either. While catchy, "Told My Ma" is a perfect example of a song that just doesn't make sense, and although I understand what the Golden Ratio is supposed to mean, it doesn't lend itself well to the premise of a dance-pop song. These songs remind me of b-sides and throw-away tracks that didn't make the cut on previous projects, kind of like the unreleased songs we got on many of the singles from the "Flowers" album. Musically, the style of these tracks is very reminiscent of the "Da Capo" disc, which is my least favorite of the original members' releases.
Vocally, the magic is gone as well. Cara and Julia may be lovely to look at, and their voices are pleasant enough, but their vocal styles just do not mesh as well to this style of music. One of the young ladies has a very raspy tone, more of a rocker-chick style that doesn't suit this style of music. Additionally, they do not blend well together. One of the things I loved most about the vocals of Jenny and Linn was that their voices blended so well together that it was almost impossible to tell them apart at times, at least after their debut release. That is not the case of these two ladies, as their voices are distinctly different and do not necessarily complement one another. As reviewer Aaron Merkel pointed out in his review, I find myself imagining how the songs would sound with Linn and Jenny doing the singing instead. If they had, perhaps their lovely voices could even make this weak offering more enjoyable.
For all my complaining, that isn't to say that there are not a few bright spots along this rather lackluster release. Aside from the stellar "All for You," the only moments where the band even comes close to their former greatness are "Black Sea" and "Vision in Blue." The groove of these two pieces is infectious enough to make me forget that this is not truly the group I've adored for nearly half of my life. In short, I feel that this is a very weak effort. Unless you are a die-hard fan who feels you must have this release to complete your discography, I recommend saving some money by buying only the "All for You" single.
Everything about this CD screams desperation to me. If what I've described about the CD isn't enough to prove this point, one need only watch the "All for You" music video. Its lingerie shots and allusions toward girl-on-girl love seem much more interested in trying to capitalize upon Julia and Cara's looks than on their talent. Jenny and Linn never had to resort to this to get attention or airplay. And the images of a heavier than ever Jonas and a now middle-aged Ulf rocking the short bleached locks and tight leather pants that made him seem cool ten years ago now make him seem a bit sad. The two of them look like a couple of old pervy pimps, sitting around gawking at their hot, young protégés.
In closing, Jenny had it right when she protested bringing in another female singer, stating that Ace of Base was comprised of Ulf, Jonas, Linn, and herself, and bringing in new members would be creating a new band entirely. I feel they'd have been far better off forming a new band. Then they wouldn't have alienated much of the existing fan base, and they wouldn't have to combat all of the haters they already have. This is not Ace of Base, and the quality of this release is proof-positive of that.