I lost a friend

The last few years have been filled with deaths of famous artists. I’m only going to list three – Bowie, Prince, George Michael. All three shocked me, because those artists have always been around and I somehow assumed it would never change. Bowie, in particular, had more lives than a cat, how could he just go and…run out? I stayed online for way too long, refreshing forums and news, trying to make some sense out of it. When yesterday I found out that Marie Fredriksson of Roxette has gone I just started crying, listening to my playlists, the albums, Marie’s solo records. She wasn’t a celebrity to me. She was a friend who’s been around for thirty-one years, even if we didn’t talk much.

I was a bullied kid – fat, bespectacled, introverted – before nerds and geeks were invented. I had three companions: my Atari computer, books, and music. Kylie Minogue, sweet and bubbly (especially in the ‘I Should Be So Lucky’ video) was my first imaginary best friend. Marie was my second. The first Roxette song I have ever heard was ‘Dressed For Success’. I didn’t speak or understand English yet and I didn’t know what she was singing, other than ‘success’. She had the weirdest hair ever and a voice so powerful it just sounded like all I wanted to have – self-confidence, strength, joy. When I listen to it today, I realise that similarly to Gwen Stefani’s ‘What You Waiting For’, ‘Dressed For Success’ is an autobiographical song of someone who might feel the fear, but will do it anyway. Yes, ostentatiously it’s about love, but it’s really about success, and it was coming. I didn’t know that. I just knew I loved the song. I was eleven years old and this music was mine.

A few months later ‘The Look’ arrived and suddenly my personal band wasn’t just mine anymore, because it was the hottest discovery of the year for the entire world – the single charted at #1 in the US and #7 in the UK. They proved themselves right, they dressed for success and the success came. I felt proud. Yes, this proto-hipster muttered to himself, I loved them before they were cool. I didn’t know how soon Roxette would stop being ‘cool’, but I knew that even the kids who bullied me came over, panting in excitement, to ask ‘have you heard about the Rock Set?!’ and they were my best friends for the fifteen minutes it took to copy ‘The Look’ from my cassette tape to theirs. ‘Listen To Your Heart’ duly broke my twelve-year-old heart, but it wasn’t until ‘Dangerous’ that I declared Roxette my new favourite group ever.

Then Joyride came and did a rare thing: sold eleven million copies and, because of that, destroyed Roxette’s career.

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