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Music / Aqua

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If only I could turn back time,
If only I had said what I still hide,
If only I could turn back time,
I would stay for the night.
For the night...

Aqua is a Danish dance-pop group, best known for their 1997 breakthrough single "Barbie Girl".

The group formed in 1994, between the two childhood friends musicians, Søren Rasted and Claus Norreen, who were joined by Club DJ René Dif and the Norweigan singer Lene Nystrøm, and they joined forces first, at temporarily under the name "Joyspeed".

One label change later though, Aqua came the proper name of the group and it achieved huge success across the globe in the late 1990s and early 2000s. The group managed to top the UK Singles Chart with their first three singles. The group released two albums: Aquarium in 1997 and Aquarius in 2000, before splitting up in July 2001. The group sold an estimated 33 million albums and singles, making them the most successful Danish band ever.

In their prime, Aqua's singles managed to chart top ten in a number of countries where European pop acts would not normally succeed, including the United States, Australia, and Japan. The group also caused controversy with the double entendres in their "Barbie Girl" single, with the Barbie doll makers Mattel filing a lawsuit against the group (or rather their American record label, EMI). The lawsuit was finally dismissed in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in 2002; the opinion, written by Judge Alex Kozinski, ruled "The parties are advised to chill." In an ironic twist, Mattel later used reworked versions of "Barbie Girl" to promote the line, likely given the song's popularity.

During their split, Nystrøm, Dif and Rasted have all achieved solo chart success, and Norreen has continued in the music industry remixing other artists' material. Norreen would eventually split off from the band again in 2016, though on amicable terms, citing a desire to pursue other musical outlets. Rasted has meanwhile also participated in some other notable musical projects, such as Lazyboy in 2004 and Hej Matematik from 2005 with his nephew, Nicolaj Rasted.

At a press event on Friday, October 26, 2007, the group announced a reunion tour, as well as the release of a compilation album featuring new material. In December 2008, it was announced Aqua would have three concerts in 2009.

And in 2011 they recorded Megalomania with a change in sound and in attitude.

This band provides examples of:

  • Affectionate Parody: "Barbie Girl", of the titular doll.
  • Album Closure: The last two tracks of the greatest hits album are "Turn Back Time" and "Goodbye to the Circus."
  • Artistic License – Animal Care: Lene frees René (who is depicted as a goldfish) in the sea in the We Belong to the Sea music video. Goldfish are freshwater fish and cannot survive in the sea.
  • Bald Head of Toughness: René is bald and tends to play the tough guy in the music videos, and has a deep gruff voice to sing along with it.
  • Big Damn Heroes: René as Dr. Jones in "Dr. Jones", the robot C.A.N.D.Y. in "Lollipop (Candyman)" video, the whole band in "Cartoon Heroes".
  • Break-Up Song: "Turn Back Time" is one of the regretful kind.
  • Cannibal Tribe: Doctor Jones video.
  • Christmas Songs: "Spin Me A Christmas".
  • Cluster F-Bomb: Quite a few tracks from Megalomania.
  • Concept Video: A few, including the videos for "Cartoon Heroes", "Lollipop (Candyman)", "Doctor Jones" and "We Belong to the Sea".
  • Damsel in Distress: Lene in the "My Oh My" video (before turning the table on her captors). In "Doctor Jones", she ends up in a cannibal's pot and in "Lollipop (Candyman)" she is captured by aliens; in the latter two, she shares her distress with her male companions.
  • Darker and Edgier: Megalomania mostly loses Aqua's humorous, cartoony image and sound in favor of darker, more mature-sounding modern pop and electronic music. The lyrics are also much more explicit, with several instances of "fuck" in many songs.
  • Drives Like Crazy: The video for "How R U Doin". Okay, they are miniature cars, but toppling mini electrical poles and back-flipping midair is still pretty crazy.
  • Face–Heel Turn: In "Lollipop (Candyman)", the Candyman from Bountyland is portrayed as a love/sexual interest for Lene. In "Halloween", the Candyman returns, but this time he's a sinister stalker who threatens Lene.
  • Genre Throwback:
  • Gratuitous French: The subtitles put on the speech of the cannibal tribe in the "Doctor Jones" video. (They translate as "Guys, we eat at 8 pm... And you are the dinner! As for appetizers, we have VOODOO!")
  • Gratuitous Japanese: The opening of the "Barbie Girl" video contains a few Japanese subtitles.
  • Hotter and Sexier: Any subtext from their previous songs has pretty much become, well, text as of Megalomania, which features very sexually explicit lyrics in many songs, including frequent usage of "fuck" to make sure there's absolutely no ambiguity.
  • Incredibly Long Note: Final bridge on "Calling You": Op-er-ayat-UUUUUUUR.
  • Insect Gender-Bender: "Bumble Bees" uses bees and pollination as a metaphor for sex and faithfulness. It has Lene, the female singer, singing about being a flower, while René, the male singer, plays the part of the bee. In reality, it is the female bees who go out and pollinate flowers.
  • Intercourse with You: "Barbie Girl" has some very suggestive lyrics ("You can brush my hair, undress me everywhere", "Kiss me here, touch me there, hanky panky", "You can touch, you can play", etc.), but "Bumble Bees" is even worse, an extensive "flower and bees" metaphor riding what the English world calls "birds and bees".
  • Just Like Robin Hood: René's lines in "My Oh My". "Gotta steal from the rich ... Gotta give to the poor."
  • Kaleidoscope Hair: Lene wore no fewer than four wigs for "Lollipop (Candyman)".
  • Lampshaded Double Entendre: From the album Megalomania we have this verse of "Sucker For A Superstar":
    Loves to ride in a limousine,
    Goes downtown if you know what I mean
  • Lyrics/Video Mismatch: Most prominent on "My Oh My", whose lyrics are about Robin Hood-esque fantasy but whose video has a pirate theme. The song even begins with a horse sound (implying a chivalry theme), but the video just pairs it with a mechanical toy horse on the pirate ship.
  • Lyrical Dissonance: "My Mamma Said", despite its fast pace and its unassuming title, talks about death. Plus, in the song itself, there is a Mood Whiplash between the emotional, grieving female narrator and the oddly-scientific male narrator.
  • Monumental Damage: In the "Cartoon Heroes" music video, the giant monster is shown destroying various famous monuments, including the Eiffel Tower and Statue of Liberty.
  • Mood Whiplash: In an inversion of Surprisingly Gentle Song, each of their albums contains at least one song which is more serious than the rest, such as "Turn Back Time" (from Aquarium) and the Title Track off Aquarius.
  • Ms. Fanservice: From her sexy Adventurer Outfit in the "Doctor Jones" music video to the extreme close up of her behind putting on jeans in the "We Belong To The Sea" music video, Lene fits this trope pretty well. So adorable when she whacks that spider.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • "Back to the 80's" mentions Barbie.
    • "Halloween" mentions the Candyman from "Lollipop (Candyman)".
  • Pirate: The video to "My Oh My" has a pirate theme. A group of pirates abduct Lene, who plays a noblewoman/princess, but after being mistreated and humiliated, she defeats the captain in a swashbuckling swordfight, forces him to surrender, and takes over the ship, becoming a full-fledged Pirate Girl in the process.
  • Pointy Ears: Candyman (René) in the "Lollipop (Candyman)" music video.
  • Raygun Gothic: The "Lollipop (Candyman)" music video.
  • Ruder and Cruder: After a ten-year Sequel Gap, the band released Megalomania, their first album to have an explicit language warning. However, there isn't much on the album that wasn't presented as subtext in their earlier albums; it just says it much more directly.
  • Screaming Woman:
    • Lene lets out a bloodcurdling scream at the end of "Halloween", an example that is especially effective and chilling.
    • In the "Dr. Jones" video, she freaks out upon seeing a Giant Spider before punching it away.
  • She Cleans Up Nicely: Male example in "My Oh My", after Lene takes over the leadership of the ship, she forces the pirates to wash up and wear clean clothes, and they look more attractive.
  • Self-Parody: The "Bumble Bees" video, where they discuss their own image as they shoot a music video but run out of funds to make a A Bug's Life-like 3D-animated work, so they have to resort to dress up in cheap costumes on a stage.
  • Shout-Out: Plenty. "Barbie Girl" is half Shout-Out, half Take That! to Barbie, "Doctor Jones" is a Shout-Out to Indiana Jones, "Cartoon Heroes" references Superhero comics among other things, and "Back to the 80's" is full of Shout Outs to pop culture from The '80s, such as Michael Jackson, Mr. T, and MTV.
  • Soprano and Gravel: Lene singing is rather high-pitched (ridiculously so in the first two albums), while René has a deep, rough voice.
  • Steampunk: The spaceship/submarine in the "Cartoon Heroes" music video has a Steampunk aesthetic, being made of brass and apparently running on steam power.
  • Video Full of Film Clips: "Turn Back Time" with Sliding Doors - though it also toys with that movie's gimmick of Split Timelines Plot by having Lene replicate some scenes of the film.
  • A Wild Rapper Appears!: René does a rap verse in Good Morning Sunshine.