Look Sharp!, Roxette’s 1988 pop colossus, has a strange story behind its success. The album owed its worldwide breakthrough not to record company promotion, nor the duo of Per Gessle and Marie Fredriksson touring – not even due to rotation on the all-conquering MTV. Instead, it is the near-unbelievable tale of a young exchange student who kickstarted the Swedish duo’s international fame.
Listen to ‘Look Sharp!’ here.
“It was obviously fun and catchy. I loved the vocals”
Gessle and Fredriksson had formed Roxette two years earlier, in 1986. They had known each other since the late 70s, and both were well-known musicians in Sweden (Fredriksson as a solo artist, Gessle as a member of Gyllene Tider). At the suggestion of their then label, EMI, the pair became Roxette and recorded a song together – Neverending Love – which gave them a huge homegrown hit. The new act then put together an album, 1986’s Pearls Of Passion, on the back of that single, to keep the momentum going.
That album’s follow-up, Look Sharp!, was a more considered affair from the start. To begin with, Fredriksson took on a greater share of the vocals. “I always thought we should promote the songs Marie sang,” Gessle said. “Me being a lead singer wasn’t part of the plan, not for me anyway.” Songs were demoed late in 1987, then recorded in March 1988. Surely everyone could tell that this new clutch of tracks – including The Look, Dressed For Success, Dangerous and Listen To Your Heart – had enormous commercial potential? Per Gessle had even written Listen To Your Heart with North American FM rock radio in mind.