If only I could turn back time, Doctor Jones…c’mon Aqua, let’s go party!
They are responsible for some of the biggest, cheesiest songs ever committed to vinyl or disc, and thirty, yes 30 years since their formation, we ask…”where are you Aqua?”
René Dif (b.1967), Søren Rasted (b.1969) and Claus Norreen (b.1970) formed the band Joyspeed in 1989 and played for some years in clubs across Norway and Denmark. It was on the ferry that links the two countries that they met Lene Nystrøm (b.1973) in 1993, while she was busking and soon after she joined the group. They were signed to a small, independent Swedish label and released the single “Itzy Bitzy Spider”, which failed to chart. Disappointed, the group left the label and began writing a large number of tunes which came to the attention of a manager at Universal Music in Denmark. They were signed and it was at this stage, they changed their name to Aqua, having seen a poster for an aquarium on a stage door.
Once signed, Universal were keen to begin releasing songs, the first of which, “Roses Are Red”, was issued in September 1996. The song topped the Danish singles chart, made No.2 in Norway and No.5 in Sweden. Flushed with success at last, Aqua followed this with “My, Oh My” in early 1997 and again they topped the chart in Denmark, but more importantly, the song broke out in other territories, most notably in the UK, where it peaked at No.6. By now production had finished on what would become their debut album, but just to ensure it was not a flop, the group released one further single that they hoped would guarantee them global stature. “Barbie Girl”!
“Barbie Girl” was nothing less than a phenomenon in the Summer of 1997, topping the singles chart in over twenty countries worldwide and breaking into the US top ten and selling, to date, over five million copies globally. Aqua were now hot property and released their album, by the unsurprising title of “Aquarium”, in September. The album followed “Barbie Girl” to the top of the chart the world over, receiving multiple Platinum discs in every continent on earth and shifting over fourteen million copies in the process! Whilst the single “Lollipop (Candyman)” charted briefly in the US and in Australia, their fifth single “Doctor Jones” made 1997 the year of Aqua. “Doctor Jones” gave them their fourth Danish number one, second UK and Australian number one and a top ten hit in a further fifteen countries worldwide.
Aqua began 1998 in fine style with their next single “Turn Back Time”, which was used in the hit film ‘Sliding Doors’ and won them a third UK chart topper, while “Good Morning Sunshine”, the seventh to be lifted from the album, gave them a chart hit in Denmark and Germany. The group spent most of 1999 writing and recording the follow up to “Aquarium” and in February 2000, returned with the single “Cartoon Heroes”, which returned them to the top of the chart in Denmark and Norway. The song was a top ten hit in New Zealand, Sweden and the UK, but failed to chart in America.
Two weeks later Aqua released the album “Aquarius” which made No.1 in Denmark and Norway, although its appeal was less so than their debut. Despite that, the album has sold over four million copies globally, hardly a flop! “Around The World” gave them a sixth chart topping single in Denmark, while “Bumble Bees” and “We Belong To The Sea” were minor hits in central Europe. It was at this time that Aqua appeared in the news for all the wrong reasons. Mattel, who produced the Barbie doll, filed a lawsuit claiming that “Barbie Girl” had damaged the reputation of the long successful brand. In the event, the judge upheld the claim stating that “Barbie Girl” fell within the non-commercial use exemption to the Federal Trademark Dilution Act. He additionally advised both parties to “chill”!
Aqua had, at the time, began writing for a third album, but disbanded while the trial ensued. That ‘hiatus’ would last eight years. The group finally reformed in 2008 and the following year, released a brand new song “Back To The 80’s”, which made No.1 in Denmark and No.3 in Norway. It was taken from a greatest hits album that topped the Danish album chart and included the top ten single “My Mamma Said”. Following its release, the group began writing and recording for a new studio album, their third and first since “Aquarium” ten years earlier. That album, “Megalomania”, was released in 2011 and included the singles “How R U Doin?” and “Playmate To Jesus”.
Aqua’s success was now limited to Denmark, where “Megalomanic” charted at No.2 and received a Gold certification for sales of 15,000 copies. Aqua are the most successful music act in Denmark. After a tour in 2012, they split again but reunited in 2016, this time without Claus Norreen and have continued as a trio, touring in their ‘home’ country as well as guest starring in a number of 90’s festivals in Australia and Canada. They released a brand new track “Rookie” in 2018, but to date, there have been no plans to record a full album of new material. But remember, if you wrap Aqua in plastic, they’re fantastic!