Lady Gaga Vs. Ace Of Base

Lady Gaga i

Lady Gaga, from her video for "Alejandro." courtesy the artist hide caption

itoggle caption courtesy the artist
Lady Gaga

Lady Gaga, from her video for "Alejandro."

courtesy the artist

Wednesday's Pick

  • Song: "Don't Turn Around"
  • Artist: Ace of Base
  • CD: The Sign
  • Genre: Pop

Earlier this year, Morning Edition launched a feature that explores popular music and the cultural phenomena surrounding it. After addressing Justin Bieber, Nicki Minaj, Usher and Eminem, the discussion turns to Lady Gaga. Click the "Listen to the Story" link above to hear music writer Maura Johnston and Jay Smooth (of Illdoctrine.com) discuss "Alejandro," Ace of Base's "Don't Turn Around" and what really constitutes stealing in pop music. And be sure to listen to the Culturetopia podcast, in which Johnston and Smooth discuss other examples.

Pop songs are never born in vacuums, but that doesn't mean it isn't worth pointing out the resemblance between Lady Gaga's current Top 10 hit "Alejandro" and Ace of Base's "Don't Turn Around," which the Swedish act took to No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1994. "Don't Turn Around" had actually been kicking around for nearly 10 years before Ace of Base took its turn with it. The song was co-written by Diane Warren — the songwriting workhorse whose repertoire includes Aerosmith's "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing" and Milli Vanilli's "Blame It on the Rain" — in the 1980s for Tina Turner, who gave it a torchy spin. It was later covered by the British reggae group Aswad, whose version hit the top of the U.K. charts in 1988.

Other artists have taken "Don't Turn Around" on as well, including Neil Diamond and Bonnie Tyler. But Ace of Base's version is probably the most well-known in the U.S. The beat is reggae-tinged and similar to that on Aswad's version, but the song slips into a minor key here and there, adding an extra layer of sadness to the lyrical professions of strength. (The mournful "oh, oh"s backing the chorus provide some melancholy, too.) Ace of Base's spin on "Don't Turn Around" was masterminded by Denniz Pop, who died from stomach cancer in 1998. Pop, who passed away in his mid-30s, helped popularize a particular strain of Europop that would later be brought to the U.S. via the work of his colleague Max Martin, who was behind some of the biggest hits by Britney Spears, The Backstreet Boys and Kelly Clarkson. It's a neat trick that "Alejandro" reaches back to a direct antecedent of pop that's just now getting old enough to be considered "retro," although the popularity of that track might also be a testament to how infectious the 1994 track was.

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Hear Ace Of Base's Song

Hear Lady Gaga's Song

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