Guilty Pleasures, Round One: Ace of Base (4) vs. Stone Temple Pilots (13)
Ace of Base
EW’s Music Mix is searching for the Greatest Guilty Pleasure Musical Act of All Time. With 32 seeded contestants (see all the matchups), this tournament is sure to change hearts, minds, and lives for weeks to come. Read/listen to the following, and then cast your vote in the poll after the jump; reader comments will be used in subsequent rounds, so we encourage you to also explain to the group why you chose the way you did. Note: In case of a tie, please select the artist you feel more ashamed to adore. Thank you.
Today, there are all kinds of Swedish musicians — Dungen, Jens Lekman, the Knife, Robyn — whose work is prominently, unashamedly displayed my CD shelves, a happy little jewel-case monument to Nordic pride. But no matter what indie-schmindie bona fides the country boasts today, I cannot tell a lie: The Ikea-meatball pop trifecta of ABBA, Roxette and Ace of Base are the source from which my love affair with all things musi-swede-ical is truly sprung.
The charms of the ‘Base, as I like to call them, were not at all lost on young Leah. When the foursome — siblings Malin, Jonas, and Jenny Berggren, plus Ulf Ekberg — was imported to America in the early-to-mid-’90s, I saw the sign, and it did open up my eyes. I secretly thought “Don’t Turn Around” was a really beautiful expression of love and loss, told in the international language of five-dollar-Casio beats and “oh-oh-whoa-whoa” choruses. I am still unclear to this day whether “All That She Wants” is about actual babies or babies as in grown-man conquests (“she’s going to get you!”), but I can still do nearly all the interpretive dance moves required to convey the gamut of human emotions contained in “The Sign,” and I thoroughly admire them for taking Bananarama’s “Cruel Summer” and somehow magically making it sound more ‘80s in the ‘90s than it did in the actual ‘80s ‘80s. If you don’t think that is a singular skill, you are grossly mistaken.
I have to admit that AofB and I have been on a strictly need-to-know basis for the past fifteen years or so — in fact, it was only the news of the departure of Malin, aka Linn (oh, those blonde pigtails! With coordinated finger pointing! And ankhs in flames!) in 2007 that brought me back. But you know what, those little wonder-nuggets of philosophy — “life is demanding / without understanding” — aren’t any less true. And I think it’s time to, in their own words, drag them up back into the light where they belong. Don’t you? — Leah Greenblatt
Right around the time I started to know enough to hide my love of Ace of Base from the world, I was also getting into bands whose patch logos I could proudly put on my backpack: the Violent Femmes, Mudhoney, the Pixies. But one group who would have slapped a metaphorical poseur fannypack all over my freshman-year ass was Stone Temple Pilots. They weren’t pop, but amongst “real” music fans in the Northwest, they were considered something worse: shiny, showbizzy L.A. opportunists, jumping on the grunge bandwagon with their mall-bought Doc Martens feet-first.
Except, you know, the songs were so ridiculously, unbearably catchy. The lyrics were opaque to the point of being random rock Mad Libs (“and I feel and I feel when the dog begins to smell her”? What are they smelling?? “Take time with a wounded hand/Cuz it likes to heal, I like to steal”? OK!). But still — while a photo of Chris Cornell from Badmotorfinger hung on my wall, Scott Weiland’s Manic Panic poetry hung in my heart.
Full disclosure: As a grown woman, I wrote a feature about STP for this very magazine, which involved attending a show to announce their 2008 reunion tour, at the haute-goth home of a long-deceased magician in L.A.’s Lauren Canyon. As I stood by with the safe shield of my reporter’s notebook, I realized that everyone around me was totally freaking out.
The twenty-, thirty-, and even fortysomethings in the crowd were swaying back and forth in ecstasy, singing along to every word of “Interstate Love Song,” “Sex Type Thing” and “Vasoline.” And I had a revelation: Stone Temple Pilots might be kind of corny, and they’ll never really have the stamp of legitimacy bestowed on so many of their more critically admired ’90s counterparts. But their songs make people happy. And I don’t know why anyone should feel guilty about that. — LG
Photo Credits: Ace of Base: Andre Csillag/Rex USA/Everett Collection; STP: Joe Giron/Corbis
Ace of Base