Catching up with the Cardigans singer on the ’90s hit I obsessed with as a teenager

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Recently I walked into a drugstore and immediately stopped dead when I heard a familiar sound playing over the speakers.

“Doot-doot … doot-doot-doot-doot …”

I felt a wave of excitement, more than usual when I’m in CVS.

“Dear, I’m afraid we have a problem …”

It’s funny how some songs stay with you for years, even decades. “Lovefool” by Swedish pop-rock band The Cardigans is one of those songs for me. It takes me back to a very specific time in my life: about 25 years ago, when I was in high school and obsessed with “Lovefool”. I sang it in the halls of the school, then I would go home and listen to it on tape.

“Lovefool” was also at the heart of one of the scariest moments of my junior year – or any other year of my life, for that matter. This took place at the graduation party, when I sang the song in front of my date and a large group of friends in our high school gymnasium. It was quite a spectacle. A friend had asked for “Lovefool”, and once the DJ started playing it, my ears pricked up. I spoke the words from start to finish, dancing wildly, standing in the middle of a circle of classmates. It was very unusual for me – I was an introvert and had no musical or dancing talent to speak of – and it wasn’t something I would never do again. Such is the power of “Lovefool”.

What can I say ? I was in love with “Lovefool” and maybe I acted stupid because of it.

I was clearly not the only one who got hit, given the song’s role on not one, but two hit albums released in 1996: “First Band on the Moon” by the Cardigans, which debuted in USA in September, and the soundtrack to Leonardo DiCaprio-Claire Danes’ film “Romeo + Juliet”, which was released less than two months later. Both albums went platinum (in the case of “Romeo + Juliet”, multi-platinum), in large part because of the success of “Lovefool”.

Nostalgic for this period of my life, I thought about going back and discussing “Lovefool” with the musician who sang it: Cardigans singer Nina Persson, who co-wrote “Lovefool” with her classmate Peter Svensson. . She explained why the group initially saw her as a “freak” of a song, a particular time when she realized how popular she had become around the world and what she thought about it. century later.

The story behind ‘Lovefool’

While “Lovefool” is, without a doubt, the most recognizable song on “First Band on the Moon” – especially in the US – it didn’t exactly capture the vibe the Cardigans were looking for at the time. . The group was looking to evolve in a different direction, musically.

“We thought ‘Lovefool’ was a bit of a weird song on this record. We wanted to go more into a rock, a tougher kind of identity, ”Persson, 47, explained from Sweden in a conversation on Zoom.

The Cardigans considered “Lovefool” to be an extension of their previous album “Life”, which featured the single “Carnival”. In a way, “Carnival” was “Lovefool” before there was a “Lovefool”, with its refrain of “Come and love me now / Come and love me now”.

Right from the start, “Lovefool” was not what you would consider an edgy rock song.

“I remember we were writing it on tour. Peter actually presented the song to us in an airport lounge, ”Persson recalls. “And then it was like a really sweet bossa nova – that’s before we got the disco beat. So I remember we started playing around with it and finding embryo lyrics and stuff.

These words became desperate calls to “love me, love me”, “cheat me, cheat me” and “leave me, leave me”. “Lovefool” actually carries a pretty depressing message for a song that is otherwise so happy.

“I would say he really has the thing where, just listening to him quickly, you feel really happy. But if you read the lyrics or isolate the lyrics you will get another – it’s a nice Trojan horse that way. It’s like a sad story captured in a wooden horse of an upbeat, dancing, sunny melody, ”said Persson.

Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes in

The title “Lovefool”, as you might have guessed, is a pun inspired by the chorus. Much to my disappointment, “lovefool” is not an actual word in the Merriam-Webster dictionary. Nonetheless, it still makes a great song title.

“That summed up the character, or how a lot of us act when it comes to romantic love. We become fools,” Persson said.

“It’s like a sad story captured in a wooden horse of an upbeat, dancing, sunny melody.”

“Lovefool” took the band to new heights, especially after its inclusion in the “Romeo + Juliet” soundtrack. The Cardigans have gone from a “successful indie level to really mainstream,” Persson said.

“I remember going on vacation to the Philippines and I could hear the children in the water, swimming and singing. And you know, I had just had several examples of realizing that this was kind of something that was a little bit out of our control.

Nina Persson of The Cardigans (Medios y Media / Getty Images)

Nina Persson of The Cardigans (Medios y Media / Getty Images)

“Lovefool” peaked at No. 2 on Billboard’s Radio Song Chart in 1997, and its video was in heavy rotation on MTV. The Cardigans even played it on an episode of “Beverly Hills, 90210” around the same time, I played it at my graduation party.

The legacy of “Lovefool”

“Lovefool” has returned to the pop culture landscape from time to time over the past two decades, with Jim Halpert and Andy Bernard singing it on “The Office,” Justin Bieber sampling him for his song “Love Me”, or Kelly Clarkson Covering him for the “Kellyoke” segment of his daytime talk show.

As the Cardigans’ music continued to evolve with the albums that followed “First Band on the Moon,” the band members themselves had reservations about playing “Lovefool” in concert, according to Persson.

“We felt it was not representative of how we wanted to sound as a band,” she explained. “And also, we would make new records that sounded different. And then if we had played this song in that set, we felt like the atmosphere of the set would be completely compromised.”

But the band has come to appreciate what the song means to fans like me.

“I also think that over time we get more and more generous in accepting that it’s also really useful to play what people want to hear,” she said.

Persson also discovered that a new generation has grown up to love the song.

“I have an 11 year old son, and his friends will be really into it and they can’t believe it’s Nils’ mom singing it because they probably heard it performed by people from TikTok as well or Justin Bieber’s version or something, “she said.

She’s grateful for the song’s success – “and, of course, she still brings butter in so many ways,” she noted with a laugh.

Persson at a Cardigans concert.  She and her comrades will celebrate the group's 30th anniversary in 2022. (Courtesy Nina Persson)

Persson at a Cardigans concert. She and her comrades will celebrate the group’s 30th anniversary in 2022. (Nina Persson)

One of the things still on my life’s to-do list is seeing the Cardigans and hopefully hearing “Lovefool” in concert. It has been years since they did a concert in the United States. There are currently no plans for the group to come here, although Persson, who has been work on collaborations with other artists and teaches at the Conservatory of Rhythmic Music in Copenhagen, left the door open to this possibility when I asked her about it.

Oh, and if you’re wondering what my junior date thought about my song “Lovefool”: I don’t know. My attempts to reach her on Facebook for this story failed, as did my attempt to sing at the junior prom. Hopefully, she didn’t mind.

I should practice just in case I get the chance to sing it again at a Cardigans concert. Or in a pharmacy.

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About Eileen W. Sudduth

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