Aqua, Vengaboys, Blue to tour Australia for '90s retro-fest So Pop in 2019
IF you want a tale of love, divorce, secret affairs, lawsuits and Eurovision ... just add water.
Eurodance megastars Aqua packed all that and more into their career, which peaked in ridiculous fashion with the massive Aussie No.1 hits Barbie Girl and Doctor Jones in 1997.
Twenty-one years on, the colourful Danish-Norwegian outfit are still touring, playing to record-breaking crowds this summer in Scandinavia and currently on a nostalgia tour of Canada alongside Whigfield and Prozzak.
Early next year, Aqua spearhead ’90s retro-fest So Pop, which also features Vengaboys, Blue, Lou Bega and other acts boasting one or two cheesy hits from 20-odd years ago.
“It’s been an amazing summer,” singer Lene Nystrom says from outside Copenhagen, nursing a hangover from too many sakes the night before.
The 44-year-old Norwegian reckons So Pop, which hits Kings Park on January 30, is “going to be a blast” and particularly looks forward to reconnecting with Aussie fans during Aqua’s third visit since 2012.
“You know, we share the same humour and irony, your people are amazing and open and warm,” Nystrom says, before adding without any irony, “and, the men are extremely handsome”.
While their record label restricted Aqua to promotional visits during their heyday, the singer says “it feels so good to come back and do full concerts and focus on what we love to do”.
Guitarist Claus Norreen left shortly after their first comeback tour of Australia in 2012, leaving Nystrom in Aqua with founding members, singer Rene Dif and keyboardist Soren Rasted.
Both Danes are her former beaus, lending an ABBA or Fleetwood Mac vibe to the Scandi-pop veterans.
After meeting him on a ferry in 1994, Nystrom fell in love with Dif — the bald singer with the comically gruff vocal style (“I am the candy man!”). He was a charismatic DJ, and she was a shy girl from the Norwegian countryside.
“We were together for three years after that,” Nystrom says.
“I wanted to get away from Norwegian society and see the world. He took me to Denmark and I thought he was exotic; he was older than me, so he’d seen the world. I did find him very exciting and interesting.”
Nystrom’s love affair with Rasted flowered in 2001, about the time they performed Barbie Girl as the interval act at Eurovision in Copenhagen.
“That was a lot of fun,” she says. “It was actually when Soren and I were so in love, and no one knew, so I remember that so well. It was a super exciting time.”
They got married later that year, honeymooning on Lizard Island in Queensland.
The couple, who got divorced last year, now have two teenage children. Nystrom says that while her son Billy has always “got” what his parents do for a living, it took until two recent concerts in Copenhagen for daughter India to think she was “pretty cool”.
“India came running on stage at both concerts, sitting beside Soren on his piano and I was dying — ‘Who are you?’
“Now she understands and is super proud of what we are doing.”
While touring the world with your ex-husband sounds extremely awkward, Nystrom says that on the road is where it is easiest to co-exist.
“We’ve been together for so many years and we were friends for seven years before we got married,” she says.
“We have the deepest love and respect for each other, we share a family, and it’s always going to be like that.
“Touring, that is probably the easiest part because it’s like a school class coming back together after 20 years.
“We know our places and we are 15 people travelling, so we don’t have to stand on each other’s toes all the time. But it doesn’t feel much different from before at all. I think it’s quite healthy, actually.”
As for her relationship with Aqua’s defining song, Nystrom says she has her ups and downs with Barbie Girl — a sonic send-up of the “ideal woman” personified at the time by Pamela Anderson and Baywatch.
We became world famous overnight, basically because of that song. I’m so proud of the song and love performing it.
When Mattel sued MCA Records over the song, and the record label countersued, she says the band got thoroughly fed up with discussing the legal stoush.
Nystrom also reckons the litigious toy makers did it for attention and subsequently tried to release a doll resembling her: “They squeezed it for everything they could.”
And Nystrom is totally relieved that she refused to wear a blonde wig in the video for the mega-smash but is still considered “that Barbie Girl” by a lot of people despite wearing black clothes and Gothic make-up in concerts.
“We became world famous overnight, basically because of that song,” she adds. “Now, I’m embracing it ... I’m so proud of the song and love performing it.
“The demand for us at the moment to come out and play is really huge.
“It’s a retro feel, it’s more kitsch, so it’s quite amazing to perform and see new kids are standing there, who have never seen us before, and they know the songs.”
Nystrom says Aqua plan to slip new song Rookie in among the ARIA Top 20 hits, which also include Lollipop (Candyman), Turn Back Time and Cartoon Heroes, on the So Pop tour.
“I’ve never had so much fun on stage as I do now,” she says. “I love performing and I feel so comfortable and we have the best live band, and we are a family on and off stage.”
Aqua play So Pop at Kings Park on January 30 with Vengaboys, Blue, B*Witched, Eiffel 65, Lou Bega and more. Tickets go on sale on October 16 from the usual outlets.