When "The Look" debuted on the Billboard Hot 100 at No. 50 the week of Feb. 11, 1989, Roxette's Per Gessle was aware of what it meant for a brand-new act to enter the chart in such a lofty position. "I'd been a subscriber to Billboard since '81, so I knew that going in at 50 was quite high."
Now the song that kicked off the career of the Swedish duo in the U.S. has a chance to return to the Hot 100. Gessle and the other half of Roxette, Marie Fredriksson, have recorded "The Look (2015 Remake)," to be released as a single on all digital platforms worldwide by Stockholm-based Cosmos Music on July 17. A physical 7-inch vinyl single will follow on Aug. 26.
"Like many of Cosmos Music's international priority releases, we handle the global rollout ourselves together with our distribution partners the Orchard and Membran," Cosmos founding partner Fredrik Ekander tells Billboard. "We have our own in-house team of 15 people in Scandinavia and they are coordinating the international campaigns with the Orchard's great teams around the world. On top of that, we hire the best indie PR and marketing teams in key territories where we feel we need extra resources when it comes to radio, press or online. This is how we very successfully just rolled out Say Lou Lou's debut album worldwide -- and we are now extremely excited to use the same approach for this very special Roxette single."
Gessle, on the road with Fredriksson for Roxette's XXX Tour (celebrating the 30th anniversary of the duo), spoke to Billboard from Cologne, Germany, about how the new version of "The Look" came to be and about the involvement of popular Swedish fashion brand KappAhl, which approached him about working on an upcoming campaign. "We went through my catalog of songs and found a few that had a beautiful link between fashion and pop -- for instance, 'Dressed for Success,' which sounds like a great slogan on any catwalk and, of course, 'The Look.'"
Gessle came up with the idea of making a brand-new recording of the latter song with Fredriksson. "I had started working with [Swedish producers] Addeboy vs Cliff on some other projects a couple of months earlier so I thought they could be great collaborators. We got the backing track from them, which was the groove, drums and bass, and it sounded really cool and fresh, like the skeleton to something really interesting. I went into the studio with our regular producers, Clarence Öfwerman and Christoffer Lundquist, and added guitars, the solo parts and, of course, new vocals together with Marie. It took us two days."
Elaborating on his choice of Addeboy vs Cliff, who recently produced another Cosmos act, Say Lou Lou, Gessle tells Billboard, "With every album/project, I try to change one 'important' person, just to make everyone, myself included, stand on our toes. I always welcome change if it's the right reason. In this particular case, new blood definitely needed to be injected everywhere. As always, we wanted to produce it ourselves so as to not lose control, but we needed a fresh start and a different angle."
When discussing singing "The Look" live with Billboard a few months ago, Gessle said that over the years, the onstage performance had become "even more guitar-oriented and rawer." Asked this week if that transformation was reflected in the 2015 remake, Gessle explained, "Only in the vocals. The updated melodies are the ones we sing live nowadays. The production is not very guitar-driven. I told Addeboy vs Cliff we wanted it to sound like a hit record in 2015 and to pretend that the original Roxette version from 1988 is the demo."
"The Look (2015 Remake)" will serve as a bridge to a new album that is almost complete, though that set will not include the fashion campaign single. "All the material is written and we have a few backing tracks left to do," says Gessle. "It's 75 percent done. We will release a single later this year and the album will come out before or just after Christmas. We're producing ourselves, but Addeboy vs Cliff are involved on a few songs, as well as other producers. I'm extremely happy with it so far, and I guess it will surprise a few people."
The new album will have little effect on Roxette's current worldwide tour. "We're doing a greatest-hits set, live. Hopefully the tour will continue into 2016 so we can celebrate our XXX 30th anniversary in style."