Roxette – Dressed For Success
On June 28, 1988, a surely pleasant song was released, but only in one country, by a group that will be loved forever, and this song however had the singular destiny of generating some controversy, even though it may seem impossible today.
We’re talking about Dressed for Success, the Roxette song that came out (in Sweden) as the first single from their outstanding album Look Sharp! In the rest of the world it actually came out a year later, still in the 80s, and therefore managed to benefit from the success that in the meantime other songs had, and therefore entered history such as Listen to Your Heart and The Look.
Dressed for Success had a somewhat controversial history right from the time of registration. The unforgettable Marie Fredriksson, who unfortunately passed away in 2019 after a struggle of almost twenty years against an illness, once remembered that during the recording of the song everything went wrong, differently from how it had been planned, which generated tensions and discussions between the various collaborators. The song was made with a good amount of improvisation and there was not much confidence in the final result, but when at the end Marie listened to the recording she was convinced that this was the right version, and that the result was much better than expected.
The title of the song has an important reference, and comes from a 1970 book, Dress for Success, in which for the first time the dress to wear to be successful at work was theorized in writing, in the contexts of enterprises and multinationals. A suit don’t make the man, but the author John Malloy invited men and women to dress professionally to be considered and be successful at work.
In reality, Marie in the text does not refer to the world of work, but rather to success in life, to the satisfaction of proudly living one’s independence and aspirations: the song certainly had no corporate career aspirations! Yet when Dressed for Success landed in the United States, for some strange reason it generated discussion and controversy.
One of the funniest controversies concerns the fact that Marie intentionally used her Swedish accent to give a flirting tone to the song, in a sort of attempt to seduce American listeners. I find this consideration very funny, because for Europeans the Swedes and the Dutch speak a very good English, almost standard, with no accent, if compared with other European peoples. But I understand that for an American native speaker there may be a difference in pronunciation between American English and Standard European English. But I wouldn’t say Marie’s voice in this song is sensual or appealing, honestly.
Indeed, a controversy broke out about the fact that the song could have a second meaning, namely that Marie invited everyone to get dressed up in preparation for an intimate meeting, and it seems (but I hope it’s just an urban legend) that someone in defense of Roxette called a radio to make it clear that the lyrics said “dressed for success”, and not “dressed for some sex”.
The video is also simple but pleasant, in the cheerful and playful style of Roxette, and I would say that it represents very well that moment of transition between the pop of the 80s and that slightly more modern and elaborate style of the 90s.
Eventually, Dressed for Success was quite successful in several European countries and, for some reason that I can’t tell, in Australia. However, it remains one of the great songs of a group that became famous at the end of the decade, but managed to win the hearts of all the dinosaurs of the 80s.
Roxette on Wikipedia