'Happy Nation' was the debut album from Swedish pop meteors Ace of Base
and was released in 1993. It sold 20 million copies throughout the world, thanks largely to the fact that - unusually for a Nordic
pop band - Ace of Base 'broke America' (in which country the record was called 'The Sign'). Although they had a comeback of sorts in the UK a couple of years ago, 'Happy Nation' was the kind of debut that defies an artist's attempts to follow it up, and the group are often forgotten nowadays. It, and the singles released at the time, were the sound of 1993
and were gone by 1994
. The eventual follow up, 'The Bridge
', was a notorious flop.
The album showcased the group's blend of contemporary dance-pop with a reggae slant, their wobbly grasp of English, and their habit of appearing deeply miserable in their videos. To contemporary audiences they were faceless and nameless; the two female singers were sisters and looked identical, whilst the men were never seen.
The tracklisting was as follows:
1. Voulez vous danser
2. All that she wants
3. Munchhausen (just chaos)
4. Happy nation
5. Waiting for magic
6. Fashion party
7. Wheel of fortune
8. Dancer in a daydream
9. My mind (mindless mix)
10. Wheel of fortune (original club mix)
11. Dimension of depth
12. Young and proud
13. All that she wants (banghra version)
'All that she wants' was a big hit in the UK and was followed by the singles 'Don't Turn Around', 'The Sign' and 'Happy Nation', the first two of which were also very popular (especially 'The Sign'). These were included on the US release of the album.
'Happy Nation' was the final UK single release during Ace of Base's heyday, and only just cracked the top forty. It was an odd choice for release as the song is essentially a joyless, mid-tempo dirge, with a funereal pop-reggae beat and Enigma-esque plainsong. The lyrics could equally be about the march of science or of fascism, whilst the lines "no man's fit to rule the world alone / a man will die but not his ideas" are unexpectedly profound for a group reviled at the time for being the epitome of disposable europop.
In the respect that the song combines an upbeat dance backing with lyrics which are simultaneously morose and unfathomable, the song resembles in spirit the works of New Order, although not in execution.