’90s No. 1s Revisited: “Joyride”
The thirty-eighth No. 1 song of the 1990s was “Joyride” by Roxette. This was Marie and Per’s most globally expansive hit, reaching the top of the charts in 10 countries. It would be their final No. 1 in the U.S., and in all 10 of those countries except their native Sweden and neighboring Norway, where Roxette would go on to have one more No. 1 in each country (the fantastic “Sleeping In My Car” in Sweden and the less fantastic “How Do You Do!” in Norway).
“Joyride” is an upbeat song that features Per Gessle primarily on vocals. In general, Gessle tended to sing on the faster, more rock-influenced tracks, while Fredriksson handled the ballads, such as on their previous No. 1, “It Must Have Been Love.” Having both members take on singing responsibilities added variety and interest to the group’s work. To the extent Roxette is known by those who didn’t live during this time, they are probably best remembered for their ’80s hits, and not as much for “Joyride” or the subsequent releases off the album of the same name, including the follow-up, “Fading Like A Flower (Every Time You Leave),” which peaked at No. 2.
Let’s listen to “Joyride”:
This song and its video are trying very hard to convey energy and joy, and they do so pretty successfully. The lyrics are a bit silly and sometimes confusing (“She says, ‘Hello, you fool, I love you.’ Come on, join the joyride!” Sorry, what?), and the video is, well, also a bit silly and sometimes confusing. But it’s all in the spirit of fun, and on that level it succeeds.
As mentioned in our “It Must Have Been Love” post, Roxette had a white-hot streak of success for about 3-4 years. “Joyride” marked the end of that streak, as this type of music was among that which was rendered unwanted by the forthcoming infiltration of Grunge and Gangasta Rap. As the ’90s grew more cynical, hardened and Gen X-ish, nobody was interested in joining the joyride with someone who calls them a fool. But, in 1991, people were game.
Does it hold up? This song is pop and rock, and on both dimensions has some trouble holding up. Let’s start by calling this rock music. From an instrumental perspective, the arrangement of this song is decently sustainable, but the mood being captured here isn’t one that’s been embraced much by rock in the past 25 years. Rock music in the ’90s went from happy (e.g., Nelson, Def Leppard), to dour (e.g., Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden) to deep/pained (e.g., Dave Matthews Band, Third Eye Blind, Matchbox Twenty) to sniveling (Green Day, Fall Out Boy, Panic! At The Disco). And now the genre is dead. So, Roxette’s brand of fun-loving rock has never really had a significant resurgence, although of course one will find exceptions if one looks for them. So that’s why this doesn’t hold up from a rock perspective. Now let’s call this pop instead of rock. If that’s the case, the problem with this song’s sustainability is its lack of urban and electronic influences, which were the most heavy forces at work in this genre in the ’90s and beyond. The only pop music trend even remotely resembling “Joyride” might be the pop-rock of the ’00s, helmed by Kelly Clarkson, Avril Lavigne and P!nk, but even that was somewhat snarky, sassy and/or forlorn. So all this is to say that there just hasn’t been space for songs like “Joyride” in pop or rock since 1991. And that makes this music sound all the more dated. It was pretty good stuff, although Roxette had at least 10 songs that were better, including — as mentioned previously — “Wish I Could Fly,” one of the best songs of the ’90s.
Dopeness: 3 out of 5 Birkenstocks
’90s No. 1s Revisited is a regular feature on “Was It Dope?” where we walk through every No. 1 song of the 1990s on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in order, give it another listen, and answer two critical questions: Was it dope? And does it hold up?