Ghost tracks

Ghost Tracks: WHAT’S SHE LIKE?

FEATURE – Ghost Tracks is BACK! Series 2 of our 10-part special returns where we take a fun look back at some of the forgotten and rarely ever mentioned Roxette songs from their incredible 30 year history.


Song: What’s She Like?
Album: Crash! Boom! Bang!
Year: 1994
Track: #10

Where to begin? What an awesome song. Such power. Such drama. Such a cool melody. It’s one of those songs that could be covered today and it would sound like a hit. Seriously, with a 2015 production and some new, rocking blood pumped into it, this could easily be a big hit. I always imagined a modern emo-rock sound, or someone like P!nk covering a track like this.

The bare bones of this song are so strong and this is evident by Per’s acoustic version made available on The Per Gessle Archives. Without all the fancy production, the song still sounds so cool with just Per and a guitar – and that’s testament to the strength of this beautiful melody.

Let’s talk about this song’s particular strength: the lyrics!  The lyrics are quite confronting for a Roxette ballad. Traditionally in Roxette ballads, the themes of heartbreak and lost romance are wrapped up in neat phrases that more or less intimate pain in a palatable fashion moreso than ripping your soul out. Such lines are found in plenty of Roxette classics “I see the sky it’s so beautiful and blue” – “and it’s a hard winter’s day”  – “when I reach out there’s nothing to find” – they all smell of despair but they’re not exactly hard hitting, painful lyrics. Now, let’s compare it with the lyrics from this current Ghost Track. “What’s She Like… when she whispers in your ear that she’s in love… do you feel the same way you did when it was me… when you’re making love and stars are in her eyes…” – think back to your last break up and imagine for one moment confronting your ex-partner and asking these questions? These are the questions you want to ask in that jealous-driven, heat of the moment, but you don’t really want to know. It’s unhealthy to know what your ex’s new lover is actually like – best not think about it, best not to imagine it and certainly best not to ask! But that’s the whole essence of this song as stated in the title “What’s She Like?”. It’s utterly sad to hear that the character is so heartbroken that she’s wanting to find out these uncomfortable details. The character is at her lowest ebb – if her friends were around her, they’d advise her not to ask these questions for fear of hearing an uncomfortable truth – in fact, her friends would probably advise her that “hey, life will go on, time will make sure I get over you”.

Again, just imagine looking your ex in the eye and being so bold with these questions? That’s what makes this ballad so damn harrowing. “Oh, I’ve been holding on for far too long” –  a self admission that the character is wallowing in pain and needs to try to move on.

Yes, Roxette have recorded dozens of “heartbreak” songs, in fact their biggest commercial hit is titled “It Must Have Been Love” – but the difference with “What’s She Like?” and what exactly is it that makes it so poignant compared to a “standard” ballad is just how blunt the whole tone is. There is no mystery. No subtlety. It’s just a dagger through the heart seeking out a cold, heartbreaking truth – jealousy, self pity wrapped in a desperate curiosity. Pretty intense for a traditional sounding Roxette ballad.

The Crash! era was an interesting phase for Roxette, unfortunately support from the USA tumbled. The traditional Top 40 scene went through a dramatic shift as grunge took over and Roxette’s position started to slip. There’s no doubt that following up Joyride with insane sales was always going to be a tough ask but I wonder whether the right singles were picked? Both this track and “I’m Sorry” sounded far more commercial than say, “Vulnerable”, for instance and I do wonder whether “What’s She Like?” was ever in contention as one of the five singles off the album?

Strangely enough, the song was never played live as part of the Crash! Boom! Bang! Tour – hearing it live today would be a thrill, especially now that Marie sings in a slightly lower key, it could really add some more atmosphere to this moody ballad. But of course, after hearing Per’s solo version, even if they performed this on the XXX Tour and gave it a “Things Will Never Be The Same” treatment, it would be a dream come true.

Also, can we talk about the man in the glasses with the funny hats? Clarence, that is. Roxette’s pop gems have always been about those little touches, those little elements – so how about when Clarence hits those keys at 1:22 “when you’re making love and stars are in her eyes” and Mr Öfwerman makes the keyboard twinkle like stars in the night sky! Stars in her eyes and Clarence makes you feel and visualize those stars with those lovely, delicate little touches that make Roxette songs oh so special.

Now, do we like the middle eight? “I never knew, I could love somebody…”? Is it too loud for the song? Does it come out of nowhere? Did the song need it? I don’t know? Sometimes I love that climax and then sometimes I think it’s too much? All of a sudden this pounding piano and blaring guitars kick in, it’s definitely a wake up call – what are your thoughts? Does it disrupt the flow? Or does it perfectly capture the swell in emotion that the song evokes?

Here’s what Per Gessle had to say about “What’s She Like?” in his book Songs, Sketches and Reflections: “One of my favorite Roxette tracks. Written for Marie to sing, in December 1992, with the Crash! Boom! Bang! album in sight. It’s always a challenge to try and write lyrics from a girl’s perspective

Never played live. Never released as a B-side. Never a single. Didn’t even make the RoxBox… go figure! Definitely one of Roxette’s overlooked tracks, is it time to shine a light on this beautiful ballad again?

Agree? Disagree?

“…The yellow moon or the deep blue of the sea?”

Thoughts from The Daily Roxette crew:

Thomas: This is scary good. The lyrics even hurt me! So sad and so powerful. The demo, however, the not-released-but-available-out-there, is horrible.

Paul: This is one of my favorite Roxette songs. Ever.  Have always thought of it as a sort of sibling to (Do You Get) Excited?  Think about it – both songs build up to a big ending, both songs are track 10 on an album, (DYG)E ?is like the start of the relationship and WSL? is very much the end of a relationship.  And Stevo, that middle 8 is most definitely needed – the ‘nothing hurts you like the truth’ line is heartbreaking!

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  ★ Publishing date:

October 7th, 2015

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  • James Crompton

    Love this track. And yes I love the middle 8. Its the part of what makes it such a great song! That rise in temperature. I do also love “Im Sorry’ but I have to say I have a thing for Vulnerable too. IN fact Crash is full of some great moody songs. The First Girl On The Moon, Place Your Love, Love Is All, Go To Sleep is a lyrical masterpiece. One of my favourite albums, it took a while to grow on me. It was a change in style initially but as all Roxette albums it matured like a fine wine and is now a real favourite this album.

    • Stevo Petkovic

      Took a while for the album to grow on me too, but yes, it’s a rockin’ album for sure! Love this track!

    • ChrisGa

      LOVE First Girl on the Moon.

  • Rixsob

    Everybody loves “What’s she like?” for sure. You’re right: “Vulnerable” was a bad choice for a single. WSL had so much more potential Billboard-wise.

    • Stevo Petkovic

      Good points, thanks for reading and sharing! 🙂

  • Tavo

    I love this song. I liked it the first minute I heard back in 1994. Such a big contrast to “I Love the Sound of Crashing Guitars”. The lyrics are all they could ever be. This is Roxette’s version of Alanis Morissette’s “You Oughta Know” to me (although this one came first, hehe). A broken-hearted woman reflecting on her last relationship. I can even feel what she describes. The music creates such a great atmosphere. This is what I call art.

    • Chris

      Yes you’re right! The same thought came to my mind. Strong lyrics and the music matches perfect in both songs.

    • Stevo Petkovic

      Ha! Nice comparison to You Oughta Know. Never thought of it that way!

    • Rixsob

      Except for the fellatio part in You Oughta Know. Lol.

  • Chris

    This is one of my all-time favorite roxette tracks. The production and sound of the song is awesome. Especially when the drums kick in and the guitar part starts. This is what the song makes so special in my opinion. The acoustic version from Per on the other hand is boring. I love his voice and the lyrics to this song are great but this track is nothing without Marie on vocals.

    • Stevo Petkovic

      Of course if Marie was available, just her vocals on Per’s guitar would be amazing!

  • BVerfG

    Definitely an overlooked track and I liked it too. Again the lyrics are outstanding (“I’ve been holding on, I’ve been holding on, much too long”) and of course it would have made a better single than “Vulnerable”, but you can’t fault anyone for that seeing that Crash! Boom! Bang! had no less than five singles and the first four were all pretty amazing. I don’t like the album that much, but it still has at least 8 outstanding songs and a couple of decent ones. And the title track only grew on me when they made that new arrangement during the last tour, where Per takes on a bigger part, singing the first verse. I think that version blows the original out of the water, making it more of a real duet.

    • Stevo Petkovic

      Thanks for reading! CBB was definitely a different sound for the band! More guitar and more mature?

      • BVerfG

        I don’t know if it was more mature, I think it still had that mixture of playfulness and maturity that most Roxette albums have. But definitely more guitar^^ I always thought CBB was a little disjointed, I dunno. Joyride, Tourism, Look Sharp! and even PoP felt more organic. It still had a lot of great songs but I never felt the need to listen to the whole album again. Completely different from my Tourism or Look Sharp! experience. I think you could easily spent the perfect lazy afternoon (ha!) just lying around and listening to Tourism. I’d never consider that with CBB.

        • ChrisGa

          Great analogy regarding CBB; disjointed is a good descriptive.

      • ChrisGa

        Definitely more guitar-driven. As with any Rox album definitely some top-notch songs on there but as a whole it’s still probably my least favorite studio record of theirs.

  • RobS

    Great song, agree with everything in the article. My guess Vulnerable was released so there’s a little more Per, otherwise it was all Marie apart from Fireworks for CBB singles. Would have been a great choice as the 5th single. Quite unfortunate that so many people only know Roxette for their big 5 or so songs, when there are gems like this on every album.

    There was a time I was listening to this song on repeat about 4times in row, and I hate doing that normally. Something just drew me to it and I couldn’t stop. Damn good song!

  • Coolbluez

    Totally fell in love with it the very first time I heard it. I love the starting music that gives a mysetrious feel. I once made a fan video for it using scenes from Beautiful Mind but never uploaded it on Youtube. They lyrics are awesome and especially ‘Yellow moon on the deep blue of the sea’ and ‘Nothing hurts you like the truth’. So does the title ‘Whats she like’ mean that what’s your new lover like?

  • Krischan76

    Strong one. Always loved it.

    Besides, nice work on this series, you guys from TDR!

  • PaulK

    I do love What’s She Like so much. A song which is in every self-made Rox-playlist on iTunes. The balance between soft and quiet sounds and powerful tunes got me. And the lyrics make sense. And … I do love Marie-only Roxette songs the most – so this is of course one of my tops. WSL is as perfect as WICF and WICF is one of their best ballads. Still timeless after 15 years. And WSL is as timeless. I hope the production of the new album goes in this CBB-era-direction.

  • Daniela

    What’s she like has always been one of my all-time favourite tracks not only on the Crash Boom Bang album. I really love this kind of ballads and I would be so glad if Marie and Per would include such great songs on their new album. I remember me coming back from a three-week holiday in Mallorca / Spain in July 1994 spending my time at the airport in Palma listening to Crash Boom Bang, What’s she like and I’m sorry on and on and on. I really enjoyed the extremely long waiting time caused by delays due to some people somewhere being on strike. Haha, and the only reason why I haven’t written my comment earlier is that I have only come back from another Mallorca vacation today. Unfortunately the great cd shop there seems to be gone in the meantime…

  • Berdeita

    Amazing article. Perfectly describes this Huge, Great snd unique song. My personal favorite Roxette song

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