This duo achieved worldwide success in the late 1980s and early 1990s with their singles reaching the upper regions of the charts around the world. Roxette had four US No. 1 singles (The Look, Listen To Your Heart, It Must Have Been Love and Joyride) and has been certified by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) with two platinum albums - 1988's Look Sharp! (released in the U.S. in 1989) and 1991's Joyride, as well as two gold singles - "The Look" and "It Must Have Been Love".
While working on her first solo album, Fredriksson performed more background vocals for Gyllene Tider's only album with English lyrics, The Heartland Café. According to Gessle, the group's first English-language release was in response to interest expressed by Capitol Records, an American label affiliated with Gyllene Tider's parent EMI Group. Gessle had previously written one English-language song that appeared on a 1982 album by ex-ABBA singer Frida. It was, in fact, music set to a Dorothy Parker poem. Writing songs in English for Gyllene Tider was an attempt to reach into the lucrative American market.
The 11-track Heartland Café was released in February 1984. Capitol took six of the tracks and released an extended-play (EP) record in the United States with an abridged title, Heartland, but the company insisted on a different name for the band. Gessle and the other members of Gyllene Tider (Swedish for "Golden Times" or "Golden Age") chose the title of a 1975 Dr. Feelgood song, "Roxette".
The Heartland Café sold 45,000 copies in Sweden, which is considered a minor success. The newly-named Roxette issued one near-invisible hit in the United States, "Teaser Japanese", whose video reached MTV's studio but received no rotation to speak of. It, and subsequent singles, fared better in Sweden, and Gyllene Tider briefly toured the country to support the album. However, "the album died soon enough and the international career died before it even started", Gessle wrote. "We decided to put Gyllene Tider to rest... until further notice."
Gessle recorded a second Swedish-language solo album, released in 1985 and again featuring Fredriksson on background vocals, and Fredriksson recorded a second solo album and received the 1986 Rockbjörnen award as Best Swedish Female Artist. Upon the advice of their mutual record company, Gessle and Fredriksson joined to record an English-language single. "Neverending Love" was released in late 1986 under the name "Roxette" and reached the Swedish Top 10.
In 1987 Fredriksson released and publicised her third solo album and won the 1988 Swedish Grammis Award as Best Female Pop/Rock Artist and two Rockbjörnen awards for Best Swedish Album and Best Swedish Female Artist. Meanwhile Roxette released the single 'I Want You' in collaboration with Eva Dahlgren and Ratata. Later in the year they released 'It Must Have Been Love (Christmas For the Broken Hearted)', a holiday themed song that received some attention and kept Roxette's name alive on European radio as Gessle and Fredriksson prepared their next album. Gessle has said the single was Roxette's first earnest endeavor to reach beyond Sweden towards European markets such as Germany, though EMI Germany decided against releasing the single.
After "Success's" run on Swedish radio emerged "The Look". Fredriksson can be heard in the recording mirroring the chorus' main line, "she's got the look", and singing harmony.
Roxette lore has it that, while studying in Sweden, an American exchange student from Minneapolis, Dean Cushman, heard "The Look", then one of the most played songs on radio, and brought a copy of Look Sharp! home for the 1988 holiday break. According to Gessle, Cushman "badgered" a Minneapolis radio station, KDWB 101.3 FM, to play the song. Based on positive caller feedback, the station's program director copied the song and distributed it to other stations, and within weeks the song became very popular .
Eventually third and fourth generation copies were made and distributed across the US. This was how other American stations were able to pick up and play the single before any Roxette product had been commercially released or promoted in the US market. After the popularity of “The Look” EMI officials made the decision to release and market the single in the US. The "Dean Cushman story", as some longtime Roxette fans call it, was covered by radio, newspapers and TV in the US and in Sweden. For many years, Gessle and Fredriksson told this as the story highlighting the beginning of their international success.
In early 1989, EMI issued "The Look" to American record stores and radio stations and pressed copies of Look Sharp!. "The Look" reached No. 1 on the April 8, 1989, Billboard Hot 100, where it remained for one week. At the end of the year, Billboard named "The Look" one of the 20 biggest Hot 100 singles of the year. The breakthrough of Roxette was international when "The Look" also successfully topped the charts in further big markets such as Germany, Australia and Japan. In May it also entered the Top 10 in the UK.
"Dressed For Success", featuring Fredriksson on lead and Gessle singing short parts for accentuating, was the second single in the United States, and Roxette went on its first world tour. The single peaked at No. 14 on the Hot 100 as well as No. 3 in Australia and No. 2 in Japan. "Listen to Your Heart" was released thereafter. A power-ballad, the song managed to garner listener interest even though it differed from the synth pop of "The Look" and the pluckiness of "Success", instead resembling the guitar-heavy ballads of Heart. The single, the first ever to be released in cassette-only format without a 45 RPM 7" vinyl alternative , spent a single week at No. 1 on the US Billboard Hot 100 for the week ending November 4, 1989 and reached the Top 10 in most territories including Germany, the UK, Australia and Japan.
A fourth single, "Dangerous", was released at the end of the year, entering into the Hot 100 at the end of December. A full-on duet between Gessle singing the first half of each verse ("you pack your bag/you take control...") and Fredriksson singing the second half ("hey, what's your work/what's your game..."), the single ultimately spent two weeks at No. 2 on the Hot 100 in February 1990, and again becoming a worldwide success by reaching the Top 10 in important music markets wordwide such as Germany and Australia. "Dangerous" was released as a double A-sided single in the UK with "Listen To Your Heart".
Look Sharp! won Gessle his first Swedish Grammis award in the category Best Composer. Roxette received two Rockbjörnen Awards: for Best Swedish Album and Best Swedish Group while Fredriksson won her third consecutive Rockbjörnen for Best Swedish Female Artist.
It was around this time that Touchstone Pictures approached EMI and Roxette about contributing a song to the soundtrack of the upcoming film Pretty Woman starring Richard Gere and Julia Roberts. Gessle has claimed that "It Must Have Been Love", by then a 2-year-old recording, was chosen because Roxette didn't have time to compose and record a new song while touring through Australia and New Zealand.
Gessle and producer Clarence Öfwerman took the old recording, had Fredriksson replace a single Christmas-referenced line in the song, added some instrumentation and background vocal overlays, and gave the song to the soundtrack producers who (according to Gessle) turned it down. Gessle also claimed that, after re-editing the film before release, the producers re-requested the song which was then added to the soundtrack.
Pretty Woman was released in March 1990 and went on to make more than $178 million at U.S. box offices and more than $460 million worldwide, becoming the third most successful film of the year. The soundtrack went on to be certified three times platinum by the RIAA. Though not the first single released from the soundtrack, "It Must Have Been Love" would prove to be the most successful, spending two weeks at No. 1 on the Hot 100 beginning in the June 16, 1990, edition, while topping the charts in more than 20 other countries (including Australia and Japan) around the world.
The song had staying power on the chart, spending two additional weeks at No. 2 after falling from the perch, a total of nine weeks in the Top 10, and seventeen weeks in the Top 40. Billboard named "It Must Have Been Love" the No. 2 Hot 100 single of the year behind Wilson Phillips' "Hold On." In Germany the single spent 9 months in the Top 75. The song would prove to be Roxette's most successful single release, peaking at the top of the singles charts in many countries and No. 3 in the United Kingdom, the group's highest singles chart position there.
In Sweden, Roxette collected their second Rockbjörnen as Best Swedish Group and Fredriksson won her fourth award as Best Swedish Female Artist.
J.D. Considine of Rolling Stone magazine reviewed Joyride: "By emphasizing its sense of personality, Roxette delivers more than just well-constructed hooks; this music has heart, something that makes even the catchiest melody more appealing."
"Joyride" the single reached No. 4 in the U.K. and spent a week at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the May 11 issue, also topping the charts in more than 20 countries around the world, including Germany, Sweden and Australia. The single also achieved a huge success in Canada which resulted in Roxette being nominated in 1992 for Juno Award in a category Best Selling Single by a Foreign Artist.
Its follow-up, "Fading Like a Flower (Every Time You Leave)", a power-rock song similar to "Listen to Your Heart" but uptempo with Fredriksson on lead, spent a week at No. 2 on the US Hot 100 in July and was a major hit in other big markets as well, also peaking at #7 in Australia and at #5 in Germany and Sweden. It was then that Roxette embarked on an even more ambitious tour, eventually reaching more than 1,7 million fans in 108 concerts, including a few dates in the United States.
Reviewing the Roxette's New York debut concert at Beacon Theater, Jon Pareles wrote in The New York Times: "Roxette seems to have learned staging through careful mimicry of MTV. On a set painted in a Piet Mondrian primary colors, Miss Fredriksson struts, leans on the other band members, makes symmetrical arm motions, pouts and straps on a guitar to take a few chords; she took off her leather jacket and later her long sleeves, like a G-rated stripper".
It was at this time, as Per Gessle has contended, that EMI's American subsidiary made personnel changes that resulted in a downturn in the publicity for Roxette. Though Gessle has never fully explained, Roxette fans and close watchers could easily see that the momentum in America was slowing down dramatically. Though Joyride was certified platinum and made impressive worldwide sales, surpassing Look Sharp!, subsequent singles from the album - the ballad "Spending My Time" and the bouncy "Church of Your Heart" - failed to reach above the No. 30 position on the Hot 100, whereas on the other side of the Atlantic, Roxette's huge success with singles from the "Joyride" album continued when "Spending my time" became another Top 10 smash in Germany and Australia while the catchy guitar pop tune "The Big L." made the Japanese and Swedish Top 10 as well as the Top 20 in most European countries (including Germany).
Some longtime Roxette and Per Gessle fans have contended as well that Roxette was not able to compete in the American market, with the changing tide of popular music. The Billboard Hot 100 singles and Billboard 200 album charts were showing an increasing dominance toward the end of 1991 by new or emerging genres such as new jack soul and grunge. Groups like Boyz II Men, Color Me Badd and Nirvana were sitting at No. 1, and harder-core rap and hip-hop showed signs of their eventual rise to prominence, pushing aside simpler, more commercialized pop with which Roxette's music had seemingly blended perfectly.
The group's European and Australian success was unbreakable and reflected in a 1992 Germany's ECHO Award (the equivalent of the Grammy) nomination for the International Group of the Year. They also won a Swedish Grammis Award as Best Pop Group and two Rockbjörnens: for Best Swedish Album and Best Swedish Group.
The first single off the album was "How Do You Do!" followed by the ballad "Queen of Rain" and an electrified version of the song "Fingertips", originally recorded acoustically for the album and re-titled "Fingertips '93" for single release. Tourism barely dented American radio and record stores but the take off single "How do you do!" gave Roxette a huge Top Five hit all over Europe (#2 in Germany and Sweden) as well as its first Top 15 single in the UK in over a year. The "Tourism" album also became a European bestseller, reaching #1 in Germany and Sweden, #2 in the UK as well as peaking at #5 in Australia.
It was also in 1992 that Marie Fredriksson released her first solo album in Swedish in five years, titled Den Ständiga Resan (The Eternal Journey). It brought her second Swedish Grammis Award, this time as Artist of the Year.
In early 1993, Roxette became the first non-native-English speaking artists to be featured on MTV's Unplugged series, though the songs from the performance were never released on an official Unplugged album. At home, Roxette won a Rockbjörnen Award for Best Swedish Group, the last Rockbjörnen the group would receive, though there have been nominations in the years since.
It was also in 1993 when Roxette recorded and released "Almost Unreal", a song originally slated for the film Hocus Pocus starring Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker and Kathy Najimy. However, the song was moved to the soundtrack to the film based on the Nintendo video game Super Mario Bros. starring Bob Hoskins, John Leguizamo and Dennis Hopper. The film, which cost more than $40 million to make, earned only $20 million at the box office. Supported by an expensive video and ultimately receiving respectable airplay, "Almost Unreal" managed to briefly reach the lower end of the Billboard Hot 100 but reached the Top 10 on the U.K. singles chart, the group's first time there since "Joyride" two years before.
A yet second re-issuing of "It Must Have Been Love" managed to reach the UK and Irish Top 10 singles charts at the end of 1993 as well.
Also in 1993, Roxette received their second ECHO Award nomination for the International Group of the Year.
"Crash! Boom! Bang! was highly successful (#1 in Sweden, #2 in Germany & Australia, #3 in the UK), and broke records in Japan, making the highest debut in the charts of a non Japanese album ever. On the other hand, the full 15-track set of Crash! Boom! Bang! tanked in the United States despite a successful campaign by McDonald's, which advertised and sold a 10-track "favorites" compact disc. The "favorites" CD reportedly sold more than 1 million copies, ranking as one of Roxette's most successful releases in the United States and showed that the group still had lots of fans there.
Moreover, the first single release from Crash! Boom! Bang!, the distortion guitar-heavy pop hit "Sleeping in My Car", managed to grab attention, reaching the Billboard Top 50 and the Top 15 in the UK, Australia and Germany, as well as returning Roxette to No. 1 in Sweden after several years. Subsequent releases, including the title track, "Fireworks", and "Run To You", made chart showings worldwide but not in the United States. They did each make the Top 30 in the U.K.
Roxette embarked on another, albeit scaled-down, worldwide tour, skipping the United States in the process. It was during this tour that Roxette became the first Western band to be allowed to perform in China (Indoor Workers Stadium, Beijing) since Wham! in 1985. The procedure to get permission for this concert had taken years, and included self-censoring the lyrics. The band did re-write some of their lyrics but used the original lyrics after all during the concert.
Crash! Boom! Bang! would be the last Roxette release EMI would issue in the United States.
Also that year, Roxette received their third ECHO Award nomination for the International Group of the Year.
In 1996, Roxette took instrumental masters of many of its ballads and recorded translated Spanish lyrics over them, released on the album Baladas En Español, which sold well in Argentina, Chile and other parts of South America, reaching platinum in Spain. Also in 1996, Marie Fredriksson released another solo Swedish-language album, I En Tid Som Vår ("In a Time Like Ours"). Meanwhile, Gessle reunited with Gyllene Tider for what turned out to be a wildly successful tour in Sweden that brought the band two Grammis awards — Best Artist and Best Song ("Gå och Fiska") — and a Rockbjörnen for Best Song.
Gessle and Fredriksson reunited in 1998 to record material for a new Roxette album, Have a Nice Day, which was released in March 1999 and gave Roxette a successful comeback in continental Europe (#1 in Sweden, #2 in Germany) but failed to have huge success in the previous loyal Australia and Britain. Containing elements of techno and house music, Have a Nice Day produced singles that returned Roxette to the upper half of the Swedish singles chart. The first single, "Wish I Could Fly", came as close to the UK Top 10 (no. 11) as any single Roxette had released since 1993. It was named the 7th most played song of 1999 on European radio. NME's review called Have A Nice Day "...another clever-clever bastard of an album which defies Doctor Rock. Damas of Allmusic called Have a Nice Day "an effort to encapsulate Roxette's trademark sound with Brit-pop and electronica, and, by gosh, it works." He called one of the tracks, "You Can't Put Your Arms Around What's Already Gone", "quite possibly the best song (Gessle has) ever written." Sales were brisk in South America as well, but there was no U.S. release of Have a Nice Day.
In 2000, Fredriksson released her own greatest-hits compilation of her Swedish-language material, titled after one of her songs, "Äntligen" ("At Last"). The album went on to be a big seller in Sweden, peaking at No. 1 for three weeks, sold respectably abroad, and resulted in a successful tour. Meanwhile, Roxette signed a U.S. distribution deal with Edel Music, which re-released Don't Bore Us, Get to the Chorus!, replacing some non-U.S. hits with songs from Have a Nice Day. It resulted in the most recent chart action for Roxette in US: the single Wish I Could Fly included in the album reached No. 27 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart and No. 40 on the Adult Top 40 tally.
In 2001, at the Grammis ceremony, Roxette received a Music Export Prize from the Swedish Government, and the group won the World Music Award as the Best Selling Scandinavian Artist of the Year with The Ballad Hits which sold over a million copies within a year.
In June 2003, Gessle released what had originally planned to be a small side project: his first Swedish-language solo album in 18 years. One of the tracks, "På Promenad Genom Staden" ("Strolling Through the Town"), featured Fredriksson singing back-up. Titled Mazarin ("Cupcake"), the album ended up solidifying Gessle's legacy in his home country, reaching No. 1 on the Swedish album chart and eventually going five times platinum (300,000 copies shipped). The album brought Gessle four Grammis awards: Best Artist, Best Male Pop Performer, Best Composer and Best Song ("Här Kommer alla Känslorna (På en och Samma Gång)"). He also won three Rockbjörnen awards— Best Swedish Male Artist, Best Swedish Album and Best Swedish Song — and a Guldälgen (The Golden Moose) Award for Best Song.
In 2004, Gessle and Gyllene Tider reunited for a 25th-anniversary celebration that included the band's first album in 20 years, Finn 5 fel!, and another wildly successful tour in Sweden. By the end of the tour, the band had played to almost half a million (492,252) fans, resulting in the second biggest tour in Europe that year. As a result, the group was honored with two Grammis awards, for Best Pop Group and Best Music DVD, and two Rockbjörnen awards, for Best Swedish Group and Best Swedish Album.
Meanwhile, in September 2002, after a fainting spell, Marie Fredriksson was diagnosed with a brain tumor, which was subsequently removed in surgery. It was during her recovery that she wrote and compiled songs for her first-ever English-language solo album, The Change, which was released internationally but not in the United States in October 2004. Inspired by Fredriksson's brush with mortality and made mostly in partnership with her husband, Mikael Bolyos, The Change was a far bluesier and melancholic set of songs than anything Roxette recorded. The album entered the Swedish chart at No. 1, reportedly selling 30,000 copies in its first week alone. The first single, "2:nd Chance", entered the Swedish singles chart straight in at number 1, and entered in some other charts around Europe, i.e Germany, Finland. Leading to it being critically acclaimed and showed up on a number of import charts pick of the month. The album to date has sold more than 350,000 and has seen several other international radio releases, including "All About You" and "A Table in the Sun."
In 2005, Belgian dance group D.H.T.'s trance-cover of "Listen to Your Heart" became a worldwide club hit. Originally released in Belgium in 2003, the various mixes of the song reached U.S. clubs in late 2004. By the mid 2005, the song reached the Top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at No. 8 in August. Throughout 2005, several songs were released as re-mixes and covers. Among them: two prominent versions of "Fading Like a Flower", one a trance cover by German group Mysterio and one a sampling by Dancing DJs that reached the UK's dance chart. Also, there was a"white label" (independent, unauthorized) release, "Joyride 2005" which clubs in the United Kingdom played, and still does seem very popular by white label standards, but Roxette's management has been slow to pick up on the success.
He was in the middle of publicizing for the album when, on November 29, 2005, Gessle and Marie Fredriksson appeared at the Dorchester Hotel in London at a presentation of awards by Broadcast Music Incorporated, better known as BMI. Gessle received an award for "It Must Have Been Love", which, by 2005, had been played on U.S. radio more than 4 million times. He and co-songwriter Mats Persson also received an award for Dance Song of the Year for D.H.T.'s cover of "Listen to Your Heart." The single was certified platinum the previous month by the RIAA.
The ceremony marked the first time Gessle and Fredriksson had appeared in public together since before the onset of Fredriksson's brain tumor and subsequent surgery in 2002. When asked by an Aftonbladet reporter if there would be a Roxette reunion, Gessle replied, "We haven't decided yet. No doors are closed.… We're still young".
Marie returned in 2006 with an album of Swedish cover songs, titled "Min bäste vän" (My Best Friend). The single Sommaräng was released on May 17, 2006. Min bäste vän is a cover album with songs from the 1960s and 1970s from Marie's childhood.
In mid 2006, Roxette released to radio "The Rox Medley" to promote the forthcoming "20th Anniversary package" made up of the new single, "One Wish", a new standard compilation Greatest hits album, "A Collection of Roxette Hits - Their 20 Greatest Songs!", and a 4cd+DVD boxset known as "The Rox Box / Roxette 86-06". The cover of the Rox Box bore the line "It Was Twenty Years Ago Today...", a nod to Gessle's lifelong fandom of the Beatles, coming as it does from the song Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. Shortly afterwards "The Rox Medley" was released as a digital download on iTunes - even reaching no.1 on download charts in Sweden.
The medley includes six Roxette hit singles: "The Look", "Joyride", "Listen to Your Heart", "Dangerous", "It Must Have Been Love" and "Fading Like a Flower (Everytime You Leave)."
This medley was eventually released as the b-side to the single "One Wish".
"One Wish" was released internationally on October 6. It is described as "uptempo" and features both Fredriksson and Gessle singing lead. It was their first new song in 4 years and was recorded to commemorate Roxette's successful 20 years in the music Industry. The cover art for the new single shows Per and Marie in a bowling alley. The new video was made up of new and old images from different music videos by roxette over the years.
A new compilation album, "A Collection of Roxette Hits - Their 20 Greatest Songs!" was released on October 18, 2006 and is expected to be released in the United States on January 16, 2007. It features the single, "One Wish", as well as another newly recorded song, "Reveal". On February 14, 2007 the single "Reveal" was released, not internationally, but "here and there". Following rumours that Per Gessle was somewhat unhappy with the album version of "Reveal" a special "single version" has been created and released to radio. It is slightly altered and features a new middle eight with a guitar and new backing vocals. A new "Attic remake" version has also been created and should be released soon.
In a recent radio interview on Vancouver Island's CKWV-FM "The Wave", Gessle shared information about the Roxette single, "One Wish" and "The Rox Box / Roxette 86-06" "It's four CDs, a DVD, a little bit of this, a little bit of that, outtakes and demos and stuff. It's like a coffee table thing, and it's really, really big [with an] 80-page booklet and stuff."
Gessle also shared his feelings about working with Fredriksson again:
"It was, in fact, wonderful, and emotional of course. But also ... it took about like an hour, and then we're back in the groove. It was the same jokes, the same... everything was like the same. So, even though time has gone by, it feels as if time has stood still for a bit so... It's not like it was before because, you know, Marie is somewhat a changed person because of all that she's gone through. But nevertheless, she still sings very well and, you know, it's just been a pleasure to be able to record these songs. If you had asked me like 2 years ago if this would ever happen, I would definitely would never believed it to have happened. I'm really pleased that we actually could do it."