After Abba, Ace of Base, Roxette and Army of Lovers, Alcazar is Sweden's newest hit sensation. The group is already a platinum hitmaker in Europe and Australia, and is now ready to conquer North America with the U.S. release of their debut album, "Casino."
Formed in 1999, Alcazar is Tess Merkel, Annikafiorem Johansson and 30-year-old lead singer Andreas Lundstedt, who is openly gay.
Alcazar's music is an infectious blend of pumping, old-school disco and sweet vocal harmonies combined with a stylish, campy stage presentation. In a landscape where dance music is ruled by long-stretched DJ-produced techno anthems, the peppy "Casino" is arguably one of the most original and refreshing dance albums of the year.
The record features the group's European breakthrough hit "Crying At The Discothéque," which was earlier released in the U.S. on the first "Queer as Folk" soundtrack. The track will be the first single of "Casino" and is accompanied by a Gucci-styled video including over-the-top, glittery male hot pants and freaky dancing forest animals. If you ever thought disco was predictable, Alcazar might surprise you.
"Casino" was a solid six months in production, and its strength is clearly built around super hit "Discothéque" and similar, well-produced disco tunes like "Sexual Guarantee," "Shine On" and "Paradise."
The uninspiring, Latin-infused "Ritmo Del Amor" and the rather dull "Breaking Free" provide rare moments of monotony, but things rebound quickly with a catchy cover of Human League's "Don't You Want Me" and the interesting, Broadway-esque "Tears of a Clone."
It comes as no surprise that even though Alcazar has a wide demographic appeal, the band is a huge smash with gay audiences throughout the world. The group headlined Sydney's gay Mardi Gras in March, and also performed at several pride events in Europe this year. The combination of Alcazar's colorful, kitschy pop with their stylish and high-energy live act has proven 100 percent rainbow-proof.
Andreas Lundstedt, Alcazar's gay front man, talked with arjanwrites.com about being gay in pop land.
"I am not making a secret of the fact that I'm gay, but I don't want to make it a big deal either," the singer said in a telephone interview.
"In Europe, people are so cool about it that it really doesn't matter," he says. "I am primarily an entertainer, and that is important to me and the audience. I get a lot of fan mail from teenage girls, though. They send me teddy bears and letters. I have no idea if they know I am gay."
Lundstedt acknowledged the importance of a gay base in creating mainstream success for Alcazar.
"Gays love our music," he says. "We went to Sydney, Amsterdam, Berlin, Stockholm and many other cities to perform at pride events, and the support from gays has been amazing. They have this thing to wear disco balls on their heads, every time we play. I guess they understand what Alcazar is all about: kitsch, camp and fun. It is Studio 54 all over again!"
Asked if he thinks that Alcazar might be a labeled a gay band for its cheeky music and sassy stage act, Lundstedt says, "Gays have a good taste, don't they? It is a big compliment."
He adds that the group is looking forward to coming to America and conquering the new world.
"It is hard work, but I enjoy every minute of it. I hope that all my American friends come to see the shows," says Lundstedt, who lived in New York City for two years in the mid-'90s.
Some critics will inevitably dismiss Alcazar as a trendy, record company fabrication with little to offer musically. But most hit acts like Alcazar have never claimed to be more than fun entertainment that is easy on the ear and sparkling to the eye.
Alcazar just happens to do both very, very well.