AQUA is without a doubt the world's most famous Bubblegum dance act. They were the first to make worldwide recognition, have sold the most albums, and are the most successful band ever in Denmark.
Coming from Denmark, the group is made up of Søren Rasted, Lene Nystrøm Rasted, René Dif, and Claus Norreen. Lene and René are the two vocalists, and Søren and Claus are the main song writers and producers. Aqua is best-known for their 1997 single "Barbie Girl". They formed in 1994, and achieved huge success across the world in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Although often criticised by the media, the group managed to top the United Kingdom singles chart with their first three singles, a feat few artists have achieved. The group released two albums, Aquarium in 1997 and Aquarius in 2000, before finally splitting up in July 2001.
The group sold an estimated 28 million albums and singles (see the discography section for more information), and in their prime, Aqua managed to make the singles chart top ten in a number of countries where European pop acts would not normally succeed, including the United States, Australia and Japan. Aqua is also listed in the Guinness Book of World Records for the huge amount of concerts and interviews they have given (2300 interviews and 220 concerts).
Following their split in July 2001, the members of Aqua went on to pursue solo careers. Søren and Lene were married, Søren started up a new experimental musical project called "Lazyboy", and Lene began her career as a solo artist. Both Rene and Claus also began a solo career, as a solo artist and producer. In October 2007, Aqua reunited , and plan to release more material in the future.
2009 was a special year for Aqua: they release a brand new single "Back To The 80's" and a new Greatest Hits album. In 2011 they released their third studio album with an updated style, "Megalomania."
A Brief History
The members of Aqua first met around 1989, when Søren, Claus and René worked together to produce a soundtrack for the Danish film "Frække Frida og de Frygtløse Spioner (Naughty Frida and the Fearless Spies)." The three were brought in to make the soundtrack and, after getting along well, decided that they would work together again on a future project.
In 1994, René, Claus and Søren met Lene, and together they formed the group "Joyspeed." It was planned that Claus and Søren would be the producers of the new group, René would do the rapping vocals, and Lene the main vocals. A small Swedish record label signed them up 1994, and their first single "Itsy Bitsy Spider" was released in Sweden. The single failed to become popular, despite the fact that it was based on a popular nursery rhyme, and after one week at the lower end of the charts, the single disappeared completely. The single was also released in Denmark and Germany, but failed to chart.
Itsy Bitsy Spider was the only Aqua release under their original manager Michael Brinkenstjärna, who would later successfully sue them for royalties relating to this and later releases.
Disappointed by the failure of their first single, "Joyspeed" cancelled their contract with the record label, even though the label wanted to keep the group on for further releases. The group employed a new manager and began to start from scratch. They began to produce and write melodic and catchy European pop songs, and began to develop their famous bubblegum dance sound. They eventually attracted the attention of major record company Universal.
The four eventually accepted Universal Denmark's proposal, and changed their name to AQUA, having been inspired by a poster of an aquarium that was in their dressing room. The group's first release, Roses Are Red, was expected to scrape into the top 10. However, the single far surpassed all expectations set by the label and stayed in the charts for over two months, eventually selling enough copies to be certified platinum.
The huge success of Roses convinced Aqua that their sound was popular with the public, and so they produced a number of other songs in the same vein. Their second single, My Oh My, would break all sale expectations by being certified gold in six days. The single went straight to number one in Denmark, and made Aqua a household name in the country. The huge success of the two singles made Universal realise that Aqua was a very marketable group, and as a result they began marketing their music all around the world.
Aqua released their debut album Aquarium in Denmark on March 26 1997. The album contained 11 tracks, including their first two singles and the yet-to-be-released third single "Barbie Girl." Universal had already begun marketing the group overseas, including in Japan with the single "Roses Are Red" in 1997, and in various countries across Europe. Since the single proved to be popular everywhere it sold, Universal was convinced that the group should not just focus on the Danish market, but instead on a general European market.
Aqua released their third official single, Barbie Girl, in May 1997. Despite the raised controversy regarding double meanings, the song was a huge success and immediately became one of Aqua's biggest hits to date. Universal, ignoring the complaints, released the single across the world in September and October of 1997. The single reached number one in the United Kingdom for four weeks, in Australia for three weeks, and even managed to make the top ten of Billboard Hot 100, something rarely rarely achieved by European pop acts.
The song and group became a household name overnight, although most of the world immediately wrote them off as a "one-hit-wonder."
Aqua released their album Aquarium across the world in the autumn of 1997. The album sold very well, yet many people still called them a one-hit-wonder. Despite this, and much criticism from the media, Aqua had made their first international breakthrough and were now known across the world.
In most countries, Aqua's follow-up single to Barbie Girl would be "Doctor Jones," although in the USA it would be "Lollipop (Candyman)". Doctor Jones would enter as number one in several countries, including the UK where it stayed at number one for two weeks, and Australia where it stayed at number one position for seven weeks. Lollipop wouldn't do as well as Barbie Girl in the USA, however the song peaked at number 3 in Australia.
The next song to be released by Aqua would be the slow and beautiful ballad, "Turn Back Time." The song, which dropped the fast bubblegum dance style of the first few singles in exchange for a slower mainstream style, was favoured both by Aqua fans and critics. The song was featured on the soundtrack of the film "Sliding Doors" and, unlike the other singles, received a lot of radio and video airplay.
"My Oh My" was released worldwide in August 1998. Being Aqua's second Danish single, the song was resurrected for international release. The single received very moderate success, with many fans dubbing it the "end of the Aquarium age.
Aqua was very quiet throughout 1999, deciding to concentrate on the recording of their second album, Aquarius. According to promotional interviews, over 30 songs were recorded for the album, although eventually only twelve made it onto the final version.
Aqua's second album Aquarius was released in February 2000. Gaining instant popularity with fans, Aquarius climbed steadily to the top. The musical style, instead of featuring the same formula as the first album, mixed it up a bit, and included several different styles. However, the same bubblegum dance sound that made Aqua famous was maintained in songs such as "Cartoon Heroes" and "Bumble Bees."
The single "Cartoon Heroes" was released along with the album. Peaking at #7 in the UK, the single sold well across Europe and Australia, even though it did not gain as much success as the band members had hoped. Peaking at #16 on the Australian charts, Cartoon Heroes is best remembered for its music video. The album charted in the UK at number 10. Aqua's follow up single "Around The World" in June 2000 was a disappointment when it only managed to chart at #26 in the UK and #62 in Australia. Although it was not expected 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.
However, all came to an end when Aqua announced, in Summer 2001, that they would be splitting up. Consequently, work on the third album was abandoned.
Barbie Girl Controversy
The group caused controversy with the double entendres in their "Barbie Girl" single, with many people angered at its obvious sexual overtones and double meanings. Universal Music decided to ignore complaints about the double meanings in "Barbie Girl", and released the single across the world in September 1997 and October 1997. The release was highly successful, making number one in the United Kingdom for four weeks, in Australia for three weeks, and even managing to make the top ten of the Billboard Hot 100, something rarely achieved at the time by European pop acts. The double meanings in "Barbie Girl" caused the expected controversy, with many complaints aimed at Universal for releasing the track. The makers of the Barbie doll, Mattel, also filed a lawsuit against the group, claiming that the song had damaged the reputation of the Barbie brand. A court later dismissed the suit on grounds that it was a parody and the allegations were ignored.
Their debut single, Roses Are Red, released in September 1996, was a huge success in Denmark (topping the charts, achieving platinum sales and earning a Danish Grammy nomination as Best Danish dance act). The follow-up, My Oh My, released in February 1997, also went straight to number 1 in Denmark (it received gold after only 6 days). The smash hit Barbie Girl was released next.
By the Summer of 2001 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. Despite the reports, most of their fans were surprised when, in July 2001, the group announced that they were going to be parting their separate ways.
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 both René and Søren.
At the time of Aqua's split, the group was busy working on material for their third album. People at the Eurovision Song Contest 2001, Aqua's final major performance, heard new songs which were supposed to be included in the upcoming album. These songs include: Couch Potato, Shakin' Stevens (Is A Superstar), Didn't I?, Hi-Fi Stereo, and Wow, Wow, Wow.
Here Comes The Birds, another unreleased song was supposed to be released with the album Aquarius, but was never included for reasons unknown. Didn't I? was released as a single in Japan only, and was included as part of the Good Morning Sunshine video single. Although these songs have never been released to the public, those who heard them at the performance said that the songs (particularly Shakin' Stevens) had a more 'rock' sound.
2007 - Aqua Makes A Comeback!
After Aqua's split in 2001, many fans felt it would be the last they hear of the world's most popular bubblegum dance act. However, the band has reunited, and in a press conference on Friday 26th of October 2007, they made the news official.
In a news conference, they told reporters that they plan to tour 2008, with some 30 destinations already planned out. They said the tour will mostly focus on Denmark, though this is likely to change. Members Rene Dif, Claus Norreen and married couple Søren and Lene Nystrøm Rasted told reporters they also plan to release a collection of their greatest hits, which will include some unreleased songs (which were already planned for their 3rd album, but never happened).
There is currently no evidence whether or not Aqua will be going back to the studio to record a new album, so fans shouldn't get their hopes up. However, the success of the new Greatest Hits album may determine this.
2009: New Greatest Hits + Single
Inlate 2008 it was revealed that AQUA plans to release their new Greatest Hits album in 2009. The same thing had been said the previous year about 2008, so fans did not hold their breath. However, things got a lot more serious when Søren Rasted revealed to a fan on his Facebook that Aqua will indeed be releasing their Greatest Hits this year, and there will also be a new single, "Back To The 80s."
The new single from the "album", "Back To The 80s" was released on May 25th 2009. Three weeks later, the Greatest Hits album is released (15th June 2009). Click here for details on the album.
The new Aqua song "Back To The 80's" was well-received by fans, and many are now hoping that a brand new album will follow. The song features an 80's pop/rock beat, with great use of synth and an 'echoy' vocal mix. Fans have described Aqua's new song as something that might have appeared on Aquarius. A music video for the song is currently in production.
Aqua announced in an interview that they would release a brand new studio album in 2010. There will be no tours in 2010 as Aqua will be in the studio working on the new album. They said in the interview that they decided to release a new album because Back To The 80s and the new Greatest Hits (2009) did so well.
In 2011, Aqua released their third studio album "Megalomania." The new album marked a different style for Aqua, moving away from the bubblegum cheesy flavour that made them famous and focusing on a more mainstream dance style. The album sold well internationally, and Aqua began an international tour promoting the album release in 2012.
New material is planned for Aqua, details coming soon.