Aqua’s “Cartoon Heroes”

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Better known for their 1997 breakthrough single “Barbie Girl,” Aqua is a Danish eurodance group that formed in 1989 and achieved huge success around the globe in the late 1990s and early 2000s. The group released three albums: Aquarium in 1997, Aquarius in 2000, and Megalomania in 2011, and it is from their second album that we find our latest offering of Outer Space Music with the song “Cartoon Heroes.”

Aqua Cartoon Heroes 5

“Cartoon Heroes” was Aqua’s first release anywhere for over 14 months, due to the time spent touring the world, resting and recording the second album. Although still a commercial success, it failed to follow the success of earlier songs such as “Barbie Girl” (1997), reaching top ten positions in ten countries. In Denmark, the song debuted at number one and went on to become the best-selling single of 2000, with sales of 32,765 copies.

The music video begins with as a campy 1950’s style monster b-movie with an unstoppable one-eyed octopus wrecking havoc upon various international landmarks. All hope is lost, until a desperate transmission into space is intercepted by a rather Dieselpunk looking spaceship in which the band Aqua have been in suspended animation since their hit single “Barbie Girl.” The crew awaken from their slumber, something akin to the opening of the 1979 film Alien, and lead singer Lene Nystrøm emerges from her pod looking VERY reminiscent of Leeloo when she first appears in the 1997 film The Fifth Element

Aqua Cartoon Heroes 3The team ready their way to return to Earth and save the day, stopping at an alien gas station on the way for increased comic relief, while singing bright and poppy lyrics about the cultural need for larger than life heroes. Upon arriving in New York Harbor, their spaceship goes underwater and the pop culture homage shifts to 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea as they dress in diving suits that resemble those of the 1954 movie. Our heroes then fight the creature in an underwater battle, tensions rise, and the music becomes even more “bubblegum” in its brightness.

While not employing Anime imagery, “Cartoon Heroes” invokes the spirit of the genre; the song itself could EASILY be the theme tune to some Japanese cartoon show from the 1980’s or early 90’s. The song is fun, but easily forgettable, however, it is the set design of the spaceship/submarine that brings a lot of the visual delight to the screen. The dirtied industrial machinery of the ship, drawing a lot from Steampunk and Dieselpunk tropes, acts as a perfect contrast for the bright colors and clean enthusiasm of its pop star crew. One is left, however, with the disappointing sense that those who appreciate the band would not appreciate the set, and those who appreciate the set would not appreciate the band.

Cartoon_HeroesIn their prime, Aqua’s singles managed to chart top ten in a number of countries where European pop acts would not normally succeed, including the United States, Canada, Brazil, Australia, and Japan. The group managed to top the UK Singles Chart with three of their singles. The group also caused controversy with the double entendres in their “Barbie Girl” single, with the Barbie doll makers Mattel filing a lawsuit against the group. The lawsuit was finally dismissed by a judge in 2002, who ruled “The parties are advised to chill.”

Listen to more Outer Space Music HERE and see what happens when you get stuck between rock and a dork place.


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