Good Karma: the TDR track-by-track album review
Roxette make a triumphant return of epic proportions – their brand new album Good Karma has just been released and it’s time for the traditional Daily Roxette album review.
Listening to Good Karma is like a cataclysmic, out of control freight train hurtling at break neck speeds smashing you in the throat and pulverizing your brain into a thousand technicolor pieces. It’s an album that spits in your face and doesn’t even ask your name – it pushes you to the floor, kicks you in the nuts, smashes a bottle of wine across your head, rips your clothes off, makes crazy love to you, spins you around the room by the hair til the sun comes up before one final sleazy hug, a cheap cigarette and the promise that it’ll do it to you all over again the next time you press play. That my friends, is Roxette’s Good Karma. Now go take a cold shower.
This album is not just “good” – it’s jaw-droppingly good, if Look Sharp! had a baby, it would be this record born in June 2016 – this is easily Roxette’s best album since Have A Nice Day and holistically, it could even be argued that it’s stronger than Crash! Boom! Bang! from start to finish. It’s short, it’s tight, it’s meticulously produced and the sound is simply dynamic.
The first and most important thing to note is that the “Spring of 65” is definitely over! The Jew harp of “Way Out”, the Beatles-ish “After All” and the Traveling Wilburys-esque “Lover Lover Lover” has finally been put to rest! We all know that Roxette are products of their record collection but as they say, the only thing you get from looking back is a sore neck. And finally, Good Karma is a confident and aggressive attack towards the future!
The other major talking point is that we have new blood on this record too. The producing duo of “Addeboy vs Cliff” join the long standing production team of Clarence Öfwerman and Christoffer Lundquist and by the sound of the end result – this has given Team Rox a much needed energy kick!
Good Karma is Roxette completely re-constructed and it’s what their sound has needed for a long time. This is Roxette going back to the drawing board, starting from scratch, with a blank piece of paper, a pen in hand and from the sounds of it, a helluva lot of alcohol. And this is exactly what we all needed – both Terry and Julie can take a long vacation if you ask me – we got our beloved “produced pop” back on this record and it’s an aural delight! This nonsense argument that “pop music doesn’t need to be perfect” is pure garbage. John Mayer doesn’t need to be perfect, Tom Petty doesn’t need to be perfect, John Mellencamp doesn’t need to be perfect, but Roxette needs to be. “Classic Roxette” is military precision production, meticulous European efficiency, detailed layering all wrapped up to sound so deceptively simple – yet with enough heart from Marie’s vocals and a touch of the cheeky Gessle charm to stand out from the generic, heartless, over-produced filler crowd! And Good Karma is Roxette at their “perfectly produced” best!
Good Karma raises the standards of what a new Roxette studio album actually means – this record takes you to places, places you never thought possible; this is Roxette re-invented, congratulations to all involved. Per has written his ass off, Marie has blown our minds and made us cry with her phenomenal vocals and as for the production team? Hats off! Good Karma is the record we should’ve received back in 2011. This is a triumph of majestic proportions, an innovative and dramatic step forward – an impressive artistic achievement. We knew you had it in you. Bravo!
Now. Let’s get the TDR guys in on the action and let’s go track by track and review Roxette’s tenth studio album Good Karma.
GOOD KARMA – Roxette (2016)
Thomas: Well, what can I add after that eloquent (albeit longwinded) intro from Sir Stevo? I agree with it all really. And while I happen to like “Lover Lover Lover” this is truly the best album we’ve gotten since 1994. How do you reinvent the wheel again? I sure don’t know, but apparently Per et. al do. Marie is the best she’s been in ages, Per as well. Overall I think Per’s lyrics are tighter than ever, as a whole I mean. And I’m still not a lyrics person. The sleeve says “All instruments performed by C&C&P” and “Produced by C&C&P” except for a few (four?) backing tracks produced by AvsC. It’s not Joyride but honestly, what is? It took us more than two years to get this album, and I’m bound to think that it was time well spent. To conclude: 5/5. Easy.
Colin: This album really is something different, it manages to draw you in and create a special kind of feeling, it almost feels like a concept album. The opener sets the pace and in my opinion, the first three tracks are the strongest ones. After “20 BPM”’s climax the album comes to a beautiful, sad close. A fresh, innovative album for Roxette, beautifully made. Well done and most of all: thank you for making this.
Kai: To be honest, after Charm School and Travelling I didn’t expect much. Yes, these were good albums but I really never listened to them too often. Maybe I should have, who knows. Maybe that’s what makes Good Karma a real zinger? It is still Roxette but suddenly totally different. It’s like the whole team decided to try something new and it totally worked. Why is this new album so short? I could really use some more songs like these. Once you started, it’s already over. It’s fresh, finally crisp and still you get all the goodies that usually come along with Per and Marie: fine melodies and voices that take you along. More, please. 5/5
Paul: This is a band that have been together for 30 years. After all that has happened, they have come up with something so fresh, modern, different and at the same time so Roxette. Working with new producers has breathed life into the duo. This album is just fantastic. Certainly kicks Charm School and Travelling into the ground! If there is more to come in the future, then work with these guys again! Although I have a bittersweet feeling when listening to the album – this could very possibly be the last ever Roxette album and that makes me sad. If this is the end, then what a way to say goodbye! Per & Marie – you’ve made one of your best albums ever, certainly up there with Look Sharp! and Joyride. Congratulations! 5/5
- #01. Why Dontcha?
Thomas: They keep using that old proven formula with a fast opening track sung by Per (yes I know it’s not 100 % all you nitpicks out there). I love this! Cute, airy, fast, fun. Great intro track. And how about that sax solo?!
Colin: Fresh! And yeah, I agree with you on that intro. Well, it’s a formula that kinda works! I like the track. It keeps you waiting for a climax that never comes but maybe that’s the point? Just as with the previous album openers sung by Per I think it should be a single but probably won’t be one.
Thomas: Oh for sure, I want the albums to start with a fast Per-track.
Stevo: OK Thomas, I admit it, I underestimated this song the first time I heard it. I wasn’t convinced at first – but after a few spins, yes, I got it wrong. I wrote it off as a standard “Real Sugar” we’ve heard before – but I’m an idiot. The nuances in the crisp production, the subtlety of the groove, the scrupulous detail, awesome! Super cool song but… the album opener? Hmm, more about that topic from me once we get to track #03.
Thomas: But of course you did. And how about that McCartney-esque bass??
Paul: Not an obvious opener for me, I would have preferred a more “Crush On You”/”Real Sugar” type of opener with both Per & Marie on lead vocals. Took a few listens for me to get it, but I’ve got it now.
Kai: Au contraire, Paul. Great opener for me. On the same level as “How Do You Do!”. Catchy, fresh, unusual, airy. Meant to tune you into the right mood for the other songs to come. After that you can be sure you won’t be bored. Also, it has similar vibes as “CBB”. Which is good! And (if I’m allowed to bring even more comparisons) I hear something I last heard on SOAP: This background voice accompanied by a stumping drum line. Yes, I’m in if you need my vote to make this a single. But as we all know, the experts at Warner will choose just another ballad that will be forgotten sooooon.
- #02. It Just Happens
Kai: This heavily produced piece of power pop comes a little surprisingly after the rather down to earth opener. When I heard it for the first few times, I was a little disappointed. Great melody and all but I thought it really deserved more power, more guitar riffs, a more present drum line, maybe even some strings. To me it was a wasted opportunity to surprise the radio audience with a fresh sound. With an arrangement á la Coldplay, it could go right up to the top of the charts. Now in the context of the album it suddenly makes sense. It fits in and it is a great song. Love that bassy “Zoom” thump. Got to hear it loud. Whoever came up with this, I thank thee!
Thomas: Yes, when I first heard this I also thought “oh no…” but then I played it again, and again and it grew on me. I can’t say this is the best song Roxette ever put out and definitely not the best single, but it’s a good song and with the superb, feel good video I really like it.
Colin: That video is the best they’ve ever done, hands down. Classic Roxette power ballad, up there with “Listen To Your Heart” and “It Must Have Been Love.” Marie still has it!
Stevo: Big call about the video Colin – it’s very good but their best? Regardless, when you listen to the whole album, it’s almost like this is the most traditional sounding Roxette song, which is why I question it being the “lead” single. It’s nice but is it reflective of just how innovative this record is? That pre-chorus is heartwarming and classic Roxette though; nicely done.
Paul: Yes that is very high praise for the video Colin! When I first heard this song, I thought it was a brilliant first single. On hearing the full album, “Good Karma” would have been a better choice. I do still love “It Just Happens” though – Marie sounds amazing on this!
- #03. Good Karma
Stevo: This is the best hit song recorded since “Joyride”. This is phenomenal super league stuff. “The Look”? “Joyride”? “It Must Have Been Love”? And now we have “Good Karma”. This song belongs in that small elite class and it should be their 5th US #1. Without doubt, “Good Karma” should have opened the album and should have been the first single! This song is a perfect ten out of ten – a fist pumping stadium rocker with Marie making you feel like a giddy twelve-year-old fan again. Tibetan incense candles meets ’80s anthemic pop/rock song – gob smacked, speechless, humbled.
Paul: ’80s? Sounding more ’90s to me! But, WOW! The production of this song is so strong, there is so much going on in the background that you notice on repeat listens. Love the piano start and middle section. Per’s middle 8 really compliments the song, and I gotta mention Marie’s vocals again – that voice is sounding so good.
Thomas: Now we’re talking! Marie is stepping up! What a spit-in-your-face-kick-in-your-crotch song. I would also have loved seeing this one live at some point. This song also has a special meaning to me that I can’t talk about at this point, no jinxing. I enjoy Per’s smart lyrics here. (Yes, it’s “sense”…)
Kai: Hey what’s this?? It’s Roxette and then again it’s so much not. And I like that. Would also have loved to see it being performed live. Forget about the “no click tracks” and “all live” rules for a couple of minutes… just imagine this one with a proper stage production and a good long sing-along part for the audience! Too bad we will never see this. Or will we?
Colin: This is the first time on the album Rox goes dance, it takes about five seconds of getting used to and it’ll blow you away – this might be one of the best songs Roxette has put out in a decade!! C’mon guys, we need remixes of this, take the bpm up a bit and it’s disco ready.
Stevo: The ball was dropped in 1999 when “Crush On You” wasn’t released as a single, do NOT make the same mistake twice – get the storyboards out now and start working on a high end, big budget video right now – this is your album’s centerpiece.
Thomas: The ball was indeed dropped in 1999. DO NOT let that happen again, please.
- #04. This One
Thomas: EDM to the max. Normally not my cuppa, but I do like these keyboards and Per’s verses. Not too keen on the chorus. This is actually not one of the Avicii tracks… I mean Addeboy vs. Cliff, but it feels like it! I definitely don’t hate it. The bass is phat, even my measly car stereo system bounces pretty hard. I miss my Dodge…
Colin: Earworm! One play and the chorus will be stuck in your head forever…
Stevo: Not your cuppa, Thomas? You old fart; go back to your rocking chair, Grandpa! This would blow the roof off any nightclub with it’s bass and soaring chorus – get in the spirit! I reckon if Look Sharp! was recorded in 2016, songs like “Chances” would have sound something like this – good fun, pump it up and drown out Thomas’ whining!
Thomas: Pffft, I like it fine, it’s just not at the top of my top 11!
Paul: Bass? Check! Synth? Check! Top production (again!)? Check! What a stomper! The electronica sound is so in right now. I think this album would surprise a lot of people, if only they would hear it! I’ve mentioned Marie’s vocals a lot, but got to say that Per is also sounding so good. The vocals filters all over this album do not bother me, I can see why it would for some people, but this is a different Roxette now and these filters really do work with this style of production.
Kai: Party Pleaser part II, anyone? Once you hear the chorus, you can’t get it out of your head anymore. Which is a bit stupid because hearing “This one’s for you” in a loop even when the speakers are off is really annoying. Great fun song! Have to agree with Paul this time, the filters support the song, nothing wrong about it.
- #05. You Make It Sound So Simple
Kai: What an intro! Have we had one like this before? Don’t think so. Then the SOAP style of song in combination with Marie’s voice, Per’s lines, the heavy bass, all this electronic … something. It’s great! I like how they developed the song idea into this symphony of sounds and vibes. To be played loud, for sure!
Thomas: Same here, EDM. This is a weird song, every other listen I really like it and every other I don’t. And yet again, I love Per’s verses and the very nice, fat keyboard bass. I have to say this one drills itself into your brain. Love it love it love it.
Colin: It’s weird alright, it doesn’t sound like ‘now’, it doesn’t sound like the ’90s, but it does draw you into something, it feels like movie soundtrack material and really fits into the feeling of the album.
Stevo: They’re breaking convention and really pushing the envelope with this one as they enter uncharted territory – they should be very proud. That’s what I love about this album – it’s unapologetic and it’s not derivative. This song might not be a choice for a single and not my overall favorite – but that’s not a bad thing, kudos to Team Rox – they’ve got some balls for going down this path. Bravo!
Paul: The intro is a mixture of electronica and piano, which seem to work so well together. Kudos to Per here: love his vocals. I can’t think of another two voices that just work so well together. The song itself is a grower, wasn’t keen at first, but I’ve warmed to it.
- #06. From a Distance
Stevo: OK. Everyone shut up now. Here we go. This is it! “From a Distance” is the single greatest listening experience of my entire life – the single most incredible thing I have heard in over 30 years. Not since the first time I heard the words “…hello, you fool, I love you…” have I felt something this powerful. This is the best thing Roxette have done since forever! The first time I heard this I was hysterical, delirious, screaming, no… literally screaming and clapping my hands like a maniac who belonged in a straight jacket, surprised the neighbors didn’t call the police – it was a reaction like I’d won the lottery! If Roxette don’t record any more songs ever again, then “From a Distance” is enough to suffice for the next 100 years – this song is undeniable proof that heaven exists and Marie and Addeboy vs Cliff have given you a three and a half minute version of it. To try and use words to analyze this song would be a crime – because no words can encapsulate the magic that Roxette have created here… but of course, I’ll try – modern, fresh, timeless, perfection, indescribable beauty – Marie Fredriksson – I don’t know how the hell you do it, but you are from another planet! Best.Song.Ever!
Thomas: Umm, OK, can we speak now? Has that lunatic stopped his rant yet? Anyway, I can’t put my finger on it, but this may be The. Best. Roxette song. I’ve heard in… 20 years? The haunting keyboards, the melody, the lyrics… yikes! And yes, it’s true that Stevo squealed like a little girl. He videoed it and I have the proof right here. It’s all about the money, people!
Colin: Where I associate “You Make It Sound So Simple” with a dark place, this one really opens up the sky and Marie’s voice is like the break of day. Beautifully produced.
Paul: Are we listening to Pearls of Passion? The intro is so ’80s! I feel kinda the opposite to Stevo really – the song is nice, but probably the one I listen to the least on this album. Marie sounds heavenly though.
Thomas: You’re on very thin ice now Paul…
Stevo: Can we arrange to have Paul fired now? Or his legs broken? Either/or.
Thomas: Consider it done.
Paul: Each to their own!
Kai: Ey, leave Paul alone. He’s good at Twitter. Stevo isn’t. So guess who I’m going to support now. Ha! … Oh ja, this is basically the one song on this album that could have been on almost any other Roxette album. It shows what we like about their music. It’s a great typical production with Marie on the lead vocals and such but that’s it for me. Afraid it will be picked as a single again by someone who thinks that it was a good choice because “it sounds so Roxettish” (is that even a word?). When I want “Roxettish sound” I listen to “It Must Have Been Love”, which I never do. I prefer these little surprises we get to hear once in a while from Per and Marie. But what I really enjoyed is the outro, it’s one of these surprises I’m talking about. Okay guys, move along, nothing to see here anymore. What’s the next song?
Thomas: So we’re firing Kai as well then?
Stevo: Whatever, he’s dead to me.
#07. Some Other Summer
Thomas: Sounds a lot like the old Pet Shop Boys to me. I really like this. It could have used some dry Jonas-guitars in the background, but apart from that – great song! I hear rumors that this might be single #2. My vote is on “Good Karma” though. On a side note: that French DJ totally killed this song. Massacre. Dead. My Google Play says “117 plays”?!
Colin: Pet Shop Boys? Ah, now you mention it. Please do some proper remixes of this (think “Dangerous” Waste of Vinyl remix) and release it on vinyl for the dance floor. Really radio-friendly, and hey, ‘summer’ is in the chorus and title, guaranteed summer hit single?
Stevo: Yes, the Pet Shop Boys go to Ibiza. This song totally deserves to be on the next Ministry of Sound Chillout Sessions – could do with more Marie on the chorus but this a neat and finely crafted piece of chillaxed Summer pop.
Kai: Whoa! A summer song that actually sounds like summer? Now that’s nice! Can we have this as the next single, please? It’s radio friendly, it brings up great feelings and (have I said it already) it’s a summer song! Although… somehow… don’t ask me why… but well… this song could have been even bigger back then in the ’80s or ’90s. Imagine Modern Talking performing this one. On the other hand, better don’t. Am I fired now?
Thomas: Not for this, but yes, for your other comments…
Paul: Picking up the tempo again – so pleased this isn’t like the Sebestian Drums version. Possibly the most Roxette-ish (for me) on this album. Another example of how well Per & Marie’s voices work so well together. I love this one!
- #08. Why Don’t You Bring Me Flowers?
Thomas: I thought this was MP’s song, and was quite surprised when I realized I had misread it and that it wasn’t. This is also one of my absolute favorites. It is an amazing track, so melancholy and sad. Talk about feeling lonely and lost… I know what she means. The a-a-a-a-aaa gives me goose bumps.
Colin: The intro is a bit too slow for me, the album slows down to a halt and could’ve been a nice closer. Is that Helena on backing vocals in the chorus?
Thomas: It is. Good ear!
Kai: Back in the good old days (say Joyride, Tourism etc.) I always wondered who that SNYKO dude in the song credits was who played all these strings so wonderfully. Found out later that those are members of the “Stockholm Nya Kammarorkester”. Anyway, strings always meant great outros and here we are again! What a wonderful string composition finishing an otherwise marvelously simple song among all these electronic music pieces. Wonder who arranged this? Thank you for bringing this into this song. I could listen to this forever. Loud. Strings. Strings listened loud? Oh yeah!
Paul: The first time I heard this I loved it straight away. That intro! The melody is so beautiful. Only Per can write melodies like this. I would love to hear an instrumental of this… (Per – you’re reading this aren’t you?!). Can’t not mention vocals again – Marie’s delivery is excellent. Just love her voice on this. I remember Marie once said you have to mix computers and real instruments to make the sound warm: a fine example here – the strings at the end just add something so special to this gorgeous song
Stevo: This song has got my favorite lyric of the whole album “I’ll buy you a sweater for the fall” – don’t ask me why, but the way Marie delivers that line, it’s so cute. What an adorable, little thought, it’s just lovely. Makes me gooey – Thomas, where are my flowers by the way?
Thomas: Ask the postman. And about that sweater – “really soft“… melts my heart.
- #09. You Can’t Do This to Me Anymore
Stevo: So this is what happens when you leave Per and MP alone in a room with some illegal substances.
Kai: Nice easy-listening song. A bit psychedelic and that’s why I like it. The rap á la “The Look” along with Marie’s singing. Hm yes. You don’t need to say more. Good song that stands for itself. Just enjoy it.
Thomas: Probably the least excellent track on the album. That doesn’t mean it’s bad, not at all. But I feel it’s very similar to “This One” in how it’s built up and performed. A bit redundant and repetitive, then again, very catchy.
Colin: Flashback to “How Do You Do!” Per’s voice sounds exactly the same and it reminds of Madonna’s Vogue, as well. Yes, too much repetition but the next song makes up for it!
Thomas: I like that Pet Shop Boys “rap” in this though, in fact after another 15 spins this is just as good as the rest. Dammit Per!
Stevo: Silver van and rainbow man – this song is mega weird so why do I smile when I hear it? Especially at those silly verses about Mary Anne? I love all the effects over Per’s vocals. Definite earworm – takes a while to work it all out, but when you do, it’s bloody good. Obviously not going to be a single, but in the context of the album, it makes a lot of sense. Awesome production. That haunting but catchy chorus from Marie stays with me for days – can’t get it out of my head.
Paul: The verses remind me of “West End Girls” by Pet Shop Boys – not a bad thing at all! I definitely think that Per has been listening to some PSB recently! Some unfiltered Marie vocals can be heard in this – sounds raw and I love it. A decent song, not a favorite, I think it needs something towards the end of the song to build it up a bit for the final chorus.
- #10. 20 BPM
Paul: ONE OF MY FAVORITE EVER PER SONGS! This doesn’t sound anything like Roxette have ever recorded and I think that’s why I love it! Again, top TOP production on this. So much going on that it demands repeat listens. Per sounding great as well! Turn it up LOUD! In you car! With your windows down!
Thomas: When the snippets leaked I thought “whoa, I like this!!” but then when I heard the full track I wasn’t as convinced. After playing it a few hundred times (yes so?? Paul – only a few hundred times?!) I realize that my initial love was the way to go. The fastest track of the album I think? Maybe “Whydontcha?” is faster, but this is beefier. Chunkier!
Colin: Oh yeah! Don’t let the title fool you, it’s fast. Crunchy. Cow bell. “Baby don’t you know, oh-woh-oh-oh-oh-ow”.
Thomas: More cowbell!
Stevo: Did someone order a Pole Dancer? Isn’t this just a nasty little number, with its horny pulsating rhythm and beat? Just when you think the night is over, the DJ whacks this song on – you down a shot of tequila and then hit the dance floor for one last head thumping dance and then you flash your naughty bits to some stranger! This song is pure sex – it could’ve easily have been recorded by the late Prince himself! And I love the “bossa nova” part – yes that distorted vocal effect has been used a thousand times by nearly everyone but it really works on Per’s quirky vocals.
Thomas: Tequila? My favorite poison. Not sure I want to do it with you though.
Kai: Oh this is one of these precious unusual gems we’re getting when we expect them the least. “Kix Cha Cha”, “Ghost in the House”. Songs like these. Per, with “that” voice! Play it loud in the car? Does the Pope wear a funny hat?!
- #11. April Clouds
Thomas: A rehash of Per’s old “Wish You the Best” from The World According to Gessle you may think? Well you’d be wrong; this was written before “Wish”. It uses basically the same lyrics with a few more lines in this. I think it’s a nice album closer, but it doesn’t do that much for me. Like “Wish You the Best” this song makes me sad though.
Colin: It’s a sad song, alright. Hearing this album end with Marie singing “I wish you the best” just after canceling the tour makes me feel like this is Marie’s goodbye song. However sad that might be, it’s a beautiful goodbye.
Paul: Is this Marie’s swan song? Certainly can be interpreted like that. The most ‘band-like’ song on the album, you can hear real drums and a tambourine for example. Lovely strings as well. Sounds like the vocals are unfiltered on this as well! Marie, everyone wishes you the best as well!
Kai: No album closer without a ballad sung by Marie. As you all said it already, it sounds like a farewell song with a meaning deeper than we want it to be. Is it? Only time will tell. Until then let us enjoy this brillant rendition of an old song, sung with power and emotion.
Stevo: A lovely and gentle way to wind down after what has been an intense album.
And that’s it folks, that wraps up TDR’s Good Karma review. The one final and most sincere thought that is imperative to convey is that after 30 years of making music and for a band that is now trading off their greatest hits, Roxette really did not need to put out a new album and they certainly did not have to go to such extraordinary lengths as they did with Good Karma. But they did – for us – the fans. This is a gift that we are all so eternally grateful for. And despite Marie’s current situation, Roxette still chose to dig deep, they did not rest on their laurels, they did not deliver a “paint by numbers” record. The whole team worked painstakingly hard for us – so that we could enjoy such immaculate work – it is humbling.
It is a privilege to have Good Karma in our collection and if this is to be their swansong album, then what a way to bow out – and to paraphrase Marie as she sums it up at the end, “we wish you the best!”