When it comes to Roxette, what people really want to know has nothing to do with the Swedish duo's hit album, "Look Sharp," or its string of Top 10 singles.
Most of those inquiring minds want to know the juicy details about the relationship between lead singer Marie Fredriksson, 32, and her partner, Per Gessle, 31, who writes the music and plays guitar.
When the question came up, Fredriksson glared at Gessle across the table in a hotel cocktail lounge, and said icily, "Well, it's been awkward working together since we got the divorce." Gessle snapped: "The divorce has been really rough on the kids."
Suddenly both burst out laughing.
"Just kidding, just kidding," she said between spurts of laughter. "People ask us all the time if we're married or romantically involved. They insist we are but we're not. Some people probably don't believe us when we say we're not involved. So we joke about it sometimes. We're just friends who have a musical and a business relationship."
The business relationship certainly has been a big success. Their second EMI album, "Look Sharp," is a million-seller, featuring the Top 10 singles "The Look," "Dangerous" and "Listen To Your Heart." Their current hit is the Top 20 pop single "It Must Have Been Love" from the best-selling "Pretty Woman" sound-track album.
Critically, though, Roxette's slick pop-rock--which often has a dramatic, Heart-like sound--is frequently condemned. In their haste to condemn the duo's "plastic pop-rock," some reviewers have overlooked Fredriksson's strong, soaring voice.
"We don't care what they say," Gessle insisted. "We're used to people saying our music sounds like crap."
Friends since 1978, both were popular in Sweden in the first half of the '80s, she as a folky solo artist and he with a band called Gyllene Tider. But after his band broke up, Fredriksson and Gessle decided to team up, making the first Roxette album in 1986. But it was "Look Sharp" that turned the duo into an international favorite.
"We've recorded separately in Swedish for the Swedish market but we wanted Roxette to do something outside Sweden," she explained. "So we recorded in English. Swedish critics said we'd never make it but they were wrong."
At first, the critics' prediction seemed accurate. Roxette might still be playing exclusively for Swedish audiences if, through a fluke, their album hadn't been introduced into the American market. An exchange student who had been in Sweden flipped over "Look Sharp" and took it to a Minneapolis radio station, which started playing "The Look," turning it into a local hit. The irony is that EMI had previously rejected Roxette as unsuitable for the American market.
There's a fairy-tale ending, of course. Roxette eventually signed an American contract with EMI and "The Look" became a No. 1 pop single.
Commenting on another bit of gossip, Fredriksson, grinning, noted: "If you hear that we paid that exchange student to take our record to that radio station, don't believe it."