Look Sharp! was Roxette's international breakthrough album and, as band researcher Sven Lindström says, it was the album through which they "found a sound of their own".
Despite the four smash hits the album spawned, the rest of the tracks don't display near the amount of power or enthusiasm.
The album's headline single, The Look, was somewhat ridiculous. The incredibly addictive sound of this song appeared to blind listeners to the fact that the lyrics didn't really make much sense. By Per's own admission, the lyrics were simply guides and he couldn't think of anything better. Still, the song proved to be "tasty like a raindrop" and the Roxette personality and attitude was established.
Dressed for Success was along the same lines, with brilliant vocals from Marie provided in one take fuelled by her intense anger at Per and Clarence for their overbearing direction. "How to turn anger into hit singles", remarked Per.
The rest of the album, while nice enough, is nothing overly special. It can be best described as "lightly catchy". The least successful single from the album, Chances is one of the songs that draws the fine line between pop and ballad. The instrumentation and the brilliant chorus of "No shadow will haunt you, no heart will desert you, no one will hurt you, no space or no time" is rewarding but it just seems to be lacking something. Look Sharp! is an album littered with catchy choruses, but with too much understatement in the instrumentation. Another problem is the lack of any real ballads. Fortunately, the one true ballad on this album defines the idea of a "Roxette power ballad".
Dangerous is a song that Per described as a "nice piece of bubblegum". Marie only ever liked the chorus. Despite the advice from Per on fade out "Due to the exceptional weakness of this song, play loud" (listen to it - it's there), it's a song that stays with you. Inspired by a seventies action movie, it's about nothing more than a dangerous woman. Simple lyrics, but effective. This woman may be potentially poisonous, but she's fun. Another plus is that it is not mired in the eighties. It's an easily accessible song, with a particularly nice guitar solo from Jonas Isacsson.
And two Per driven pop hits on one album - unprecedented! As the years progressed, however, it became increasingly clear that the pop belonged chiefly to Per and the ballads to Marie.
The US single released of this song seemed to bear no resemblance to the actual song, but that's nothing out of the ordinary for Roxette's track record with the country.
Listen to your Heart: "the big bad ballad". Per explained that this incarnation of the song was Roxette aiming for the stars to "recreate that overblown American FM-rock sound to the point where it almost becomes absurd." While many of the other songs featured on Look Sharp! suffer from underproduction, Listen to your heart is produced almost to the hilt.
Oddly enough, this is a song in the third person, advising some one in matters of the heart. Per was inspired by many late night talks with a friend torn between an old relationship and a new love. It is actually a cautionary tale. The fear of the unknown and the security of the established come into consideration. The lesson is that the heart has to make the ultimate decision, but choices must not be taken lightly. It's a beautiful song, and it just grows and grows. Marie's vocal performance in the final verse - "The scent of magic, the beauty that's been, when love was wilder, than the wind ..." - truly is wonderful. The bizarre synthesiser at the end of the track was dropped for all later versions.
Look Sharp! does not hold up extremely well to the harsh light of modern times, but its hits are deserved, almost timeless, classics. Through it, Per gained even more confidence and the way was paved for the most successful album of Roxette's entire career: Joyride.
Next week: Joyride, Roxette's almost perfect album - the guitar and harmonica era.
Download this week's highlighted songs! (8.4mb)
Buy Look Sharp! from Amazon! (You can actually get Look Sharp! and Joyride in a bundle for $23 US! What have you got to lose?!)