While flipping through my music library last week, I came across Ace of Base’s “The Sign.” It’s a cheesy track, but at the time was groundbreaking in its fusion of reggae and pop melodies. This is the kind of song that everyone kind of knows, but no one knows anything about it.
Let me give you the lowdown. The album that featured “The Sign” (“Happy Nation”, 1992) sold 23 million copies worldwide. 23 MILLION. It’s one of the 50 or so best selling records of all time, just ahead of Oasis’ seminal “(What’s the Story) Morning Glory?” and Madonna’s “Like a Virgin.” Overall, Ace of Base has sold over 40 million records.
This quartet of Swedes (three siblings and a guy named Buddha) are one of the most random musical successes ever. You never hear about them in the media, and rarely hear any song other than “The Sign” on the radio. And yet a laundry list of big name and indie artists site them as a valuable influence: Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Robyn, Yeasayer, Trust.
It’s moments like this when you realize just how big the world is. There are Chinese and Indian artists who have hundreds of millions of fans, yet most Americans have no idea who they are and will never hear their voices. The music industry – the economic profit model of music sales – is crumbling. But the music industry – the unending production of new music across the globe – is larger and more successful than ever. How wonderful!
I recently had a very random job filming a high school wrestling tournament for Fox Sports. Fox put me up in a hotel overnight, and as I arrived back after a long day behind the camera, I ran into a very masculine looking guy walking a tiny Chihuahua with its nails painted pink. I legitimately thought I was hallucinating, even more so once we got to talking and he busted into one of the best freestyle raps I’ve ever heard.
Every moment, someone around the world is making music. From the Chihuahua freestyler to the grandmother singing the children to sleep to Ace of Base, our lives are played out to a soundtrack created by those around us. Whether their songs stay locked behind closed doors or sell 40 million records without attracting notice, we owe all music makers our gratitude.