Ace of Base – The Sign

First Hit #1: March 12, 1994

The Sign is a great song. Lots of people don’t agree with this, lots of people regard it as a bit of a joke in fact. It’s a silly pop song from the mid-90s, the definition of something that doesn’t get respect really. But still, while the song was certainly overplayed, I never got sick of it, which is an incredibly rare trick, and I still quote the chorus regularly – which is an even more difficult trick to pull off.

It’s a pretty simple song, a little bit of light euro dance which feels pre-programmed and a bit cheap, but with the lead vocals carrying it along. I’m not sure what most of the members of Ace of Base even do, to be honest, it’s Linn and Jenny Berggren’s vocals that carry the song and really give it its hit. Allowing for a third member to program the synthesizer, there’s still a fourth member that doesn’t seem to have a purpose, maybe he brought snacks.

But so what if it’s cheap? It’s so fun that it can be. The synth line is great, once you get over the tinny drums, and the vocals themselves are entertaining and really well delivered. The song is plain catchy, it’s all chorus but it’s such a great chorus that it doesn’t matter. It’s hard to quantify, but I know that I’m going to be singing this song for the rest of the week, and I can still say that almost 20 years after the song was released. That’s something most pop music aspires towards, and it’s the reason I’m still a fan of Ace of Base.

It’s nothing to take seriously, but pop music doesn’t have to be.

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One Response to Ace of Base – The Sign

  1. RBerman says:

    The great thing about Ace of Base was that they had the Euro-reggae thing down cold. The bad thing was all three of their Top Five hits (this one, plus “Don’t Turn Around” and “All That She Wants”) were basically the same song, using the same lite reggae beat at the same tempo. “All That She Wants” stood out because of the way it meandered from major key verses to parallel minor choruses. “The Sign” pulls a similar trick and also offers a terrific melody for both verse and chorus.

    The odd one out was Diane Warren’s “Don’t Turn Around,” which had been previously done very differently (compared to Ace of Base) by Tina Turner (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YPJgQlUiZPE), Bonnie Tyler (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qV7I69wH3N0), Luther Ingram (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8-VWcYj2k6E), and even Neil Diamond (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v061s75bayk), among others. Ace of Base’s reinvention (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=INi7srItF6g) should be counted as one of the more brilliant (and successful) re-imaginings of a cover song, so much so that the other previous versions are all forgotten now.

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