Saturday Flashback: Aqua – Cartoon Heroes

“And then the Spider-Man news happened.”

Tim: Most news right now is distinctly downbeat. Up until about 4 o’clock yesterday afternoon, in fact, I couldn’t really remember the last piece of news that made me absolutely, entirely, 100% unequivocally happy. And then the Spider-Man news happened, and I felt joy like I’d not felt in quite some time. So let’s listen to this great song, and watch the brilliant video, and be happy.

Tim: Love that video, I really do.

Aqua – Rookie

“You probably have several questions about Aqua releasing a new track.”

Tim: You probably have several questions about Aqua releasing a new track. The answer to every single one of those is, “YES, so listen to it.”

Tim: Most people think of Aqua, they think of the Aquarium album – Cartton Heores, Barbie Girl, Doctor Jones, that era. They don’t think of the early 2010s Megalomania era, and while it’s a shame, it’s unsurprising – Aqua were never fashionable as a standard pop group, only as purveyors of somewhat novelty singles, so no-one wanted to hear standard pop. Nonetheless, those standard songs were good, very much like this is.

Tom: It’s good, isn’t it? Better than it has any right to be.

Tim: We’ve a decent la-la-la-la-la hook, a nice combination of René’s and Lene’s vocals, which sound much better together than they really ought to, and a bit of rudeness thrown in for the grown-ups.

Tom: I’m not convinced by that la-la-la-la-la: opening a chorus with that always makes me think they’ve run out of ideas. And I’ll admit that first grunt from René surprised me: both vocalists have voices that it takes a while to get used to. But by the end of the track, yep, I was on board with this.

Tim: All in all, this is a great track, and a lot better a one than many groups come back with after a five-year break. No idea if there’s a new album coming out, but here’s hoping.

Saturday Flashback: Aqua – Cartoon Heroes

“It’s a shame we didn’t use this video to be more prepared.”

Tim: Why? Oh, no particular reason, except that Apple Music suggested a Hits of 2000 playlist to me this week and this was at the top, and I thought we could do a retrospective, and see how the various heroes are doing these days. (Quick note: in case you’ve still not got round to seeing them but want to, this will have spoilers for both Captain America: Civil War and Batman v Superman.)

Tom: Can you believe that I’ve never seen that video? Because I’ve never seen that video. That is a brilliant video.

Tim: You really haven’t? Well, yes it is brilliant, and in fact the first thing we need to do is note how weirdly prescient that video intro is – less than a decade later, humanity was indeed attacked by a giant octopus, and we did have to resort to somewhat unusual means to survive. Admittedly we needed Mega Shark to save us in the end, as Aqua were on hiatus at the time, but in hindsight it’s a shame we didn’t use this video to be more prepared.

Tom: It looks like they predicted the steampunk craze by about five or ten years, too. And yes, Aqua’s shtick was a bit ridiculous, but let’s not forget just how good this is as a pop song. I don’t think there’s anything actually wrong with this song. At all. This still stands up today.

Tim: As for the heroes mentioned in the song, well, Spider-Man’s in very good health, ably working with Iron Man to hold his own against the likes of Captain America and Ant-Man. Assuming the one running at the speed of light is The Flash, he’s doing alright as well, though slightly hidden away right now. Superman, on the other hand is ever so slightly dead, but hopefully that’ll change soon – we’ll check back in another sixteen years.

Saturday Flashback: Aqua – Spin Me A Christmas

Proper old-school.

Tim: One more Christmas song for you. And since it’s Christmas Eve, how about we make it a good one?

Tom: Wait, hang on – an Aqua single I haven’t heard of? Blimey. This should be… interesting.

Tom: Ah, “Presented in AquaScope” with a drum roll! Proper old-school.

Tim: Ahem, I think you mean ‘old-skool’. It was a sort of toe-dipping in the waters of a reunion, and it seemed to do the trick. The regurgitating of the Coca-Cola/red Santa always annoys me, but René’s portrayal of a drunken Santa stumbling into his igloo does somewhat make up for that…

Tom: When the other three arrived in the first scenes of the video, I thought “where’s René?”, and then immediately thought “wait, he’ll be playing Santa, of course”.

Tim: …as do the other lyrics such as ‘all the dreams of white Christmas are getting you wet’.

Tom: “Are you ready to get stuffed like a turkey” is in there somewhere too, as well.

Tim: And “this is the season where the Wham! song damages your head” – somewhat unfair, but also somewhat true.

Tom: And this isn’t a bad track, actually – if it wasn’t a novelty Christmas song, this’d be a fairly solid Aqua single on its own.

Aqua – Like A Robot

“Oh my. Well, that’s very… 2010s.”

Tom: Right, let’s have a look at the other half of the double A-side then. This is the out-of-character one, right?

Tom: Oh my. Well, that’s very… 2010s.

Tim: Yeah – less of the universal love thing, more of a, well, Taio Cruz, In The Club, let’s get drunk and have sex thing. Disappointing – I could cope with the style, but Aqua always used to be happy and family-friendly, with a fair helping of cheeky innuendo; here, that’s all gone out of the window and it’s a bit of a shame.

Tom: Wait, hang on! Did she just swear? I didn’t see that coming.

Tim: Exactly. Similar in one very noticeable way to another song we recently covered – this may just be coincidence, or it may be that unexpected obscenity is the new trend in Scandinavia. As a musical style it’s somewhat fun, but in an Aqua track it just seems so wrong.

Tom: I was in France recently, and found that some of their radio stations play English-language tracks entirely uncensored, including some properly obscene rap lyrics. It was a surprising journey, that one.

Tim: In my sister’s car, with my granddad, with a compilation CD she’d made on in the background. Moment of silence in the conversation, out comes a Cee Lo Green track. Yes, that Cee Lo Green track.

Aqua – Playmate to Jesus

“I do hope they tour, because I will be there.”

Tim: Released last Monday, a double A-side single, preceding their new album due out in Denmark two weeks today. One – Playmate to Jesus – is close to know-and-love-them Aqua, the other – Like A Robot – is less so, but still interesting. Let’s start with the first one.

Tom: A third album! The legendary third Aqua album. I don’t mind saying I’m rather looking forward to it, even after the disappointment of their last single.

Tim: It’s not quite Barbie Girl territory, but this will certainly please older fans, I reckon. Calmer melody, family-friendly stuff.

Tom: Well, it’s pleased me. Apollo-mission beeps as part of the intro melody, and a proper full-on chorus. I do hope they tour, because I will be there.

Tim: It seems that Réné’s definitely decided to become a proper singer, though, and I’m not sure if that spoils it a bit. If I have one criticism, I reckon this song could be made about 20% faster and it would sound (a) more Aqua-y, (b) better and (c) less almost-five-minutes-long.

Tom: Not sure about the actual “Playmate to Jesus” lyric, though. Seems a bit needlessly, well, Jesus-y. He wasn’t really one for space exploration, was he?

Tim: No, but he did preach the whole universal love thing (and is perhaps the most notable person to have done so, if you don’t count Cliff Richard), and that’s what the song really comes down in the end. A nice, happy song.

Aqua – How R U Doin?

It’s certainly not the Aqua we know.

Tim: Two years ago, they released a comeback track that didn’t really lead to anything. This morning, they unveiled their new single, which is out worldwide on Monday, and it’s here.

Tom: Oh dear.

Tim: My thoughts after the first few notes? OH MY GOD WHAT HAVE THEY DONE IT’S AWFUL. Later on? More sort of ‘ehh’. It’s…well, it’s certainly not the Aqua we know, which I suppose is understandable as times have changed. They’ve changed their sound, because they need to fit in with modern music. That’s understandable. But there’s a flaw in their logic: they’re Aqua.

Tom: I always liked Aqua, and there was a bit more variety to their sound than most people think (remember ‘Turn Back Time‘)?

Tim: Actually, I’d completely forgotten that one, and I’m not alone. For the vast majority of people, Aqua will always be the group that made several great but very much not mainstream tracks, and they will never be mainstream.

Tom: Ooh, now I disagree there. Barbie Girl and Cartoon Heroes were definitely mainstream – a weird kind of mainstream, to be sure, but still definitely in the public consciousness.

Tim: Alright, replace ‘not mainstream’ with ‘novelty’ – definitely not what big self-respecting dance clubs play. My point is, whatever it sounds like, this will be the same, just by association. “It’s Aqua? Hell no, I’m not playing that.” This will only appeal to Aqua fans, and sounding like it does it might not now do that; a few quotes from the Facebook page: “not really satisfied – sound of today – but not Aqua worthy!” “What is that?? Where is the great Aqua-Sound?? It’s okay, but… ;(” “It’s not bad, quite like it but if it wasn’t written Aqua on top of it, I couldn’t tell it’s from you.

Tom: To me, the Aqua-sound is mostly made up of Lene’s sqeaky bubblegum singing, and René’s growling vocals. Those are here, at least, even if the rest of their style has been pulled grudgingly into the 21st century.

Tim: The singing, yes, but what about the squeaky bubblegum backing track? It sounds to me more like a genre-shifting remix than an Aqua original. As far as I’m concerned, it’s okay, but it sure as hell isn’t Aqua.

Tom: But the good news: a new album means they might go on tour again – and that’ll be a show worth seeing.