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If ever there was a group that seemed destined for one-hit wonder status it was Aqua. Their huge 1997/1998 hit "Barbie Girl" was a cleverly designed piece of trifle, fueled by delirious Euro-disco beats and the helium-voiced Lene Grawford Nystrom, along with her comically gruff counterpart, Rene Dif. The song was giddy, silly fun, but it was hard to see how they could top it. Indeed, their debut, while entertaining, didn't show a lot of variety. So, it was easy to assume that their second album, Aquarius, would disappear upon its release in the spring of 2000. Well, that isn't really the case. Although they may never quite have a hit as large as "Barbie Girl" -- particularly in America, where Europop acts are always seen as one-hit wonders (with the notable exception of ABBA) -- Aquarius is superior to its predecessor in every way. Aqua never strays from their danceable Europop foundation, but they find remarkable variety within that framework. The hooks aren't always the same, the pace is varied and, most importantly, the production is bubbling with details. Each song is an individual creation, from the anthemic ballad "We Belong to the Sea" to the goofy country music parody "Freaky Friday." Every cut is blessed with its own vivid details -- banjos, layered vocals, and the cinematic, sweeping strings of "Back From Mars" -- thanks to chief producers and songwriters Søren Rasted and Claus Norreen. This is anything but a one-note album, even if Aqua's sonic signatures -- the pounding disco beats, the high spirits, the big hooks, and the seemingly mismatched pair of Nystrom and Dif -- remain the same. Certainly, Aquarius will not change anybody's mind about Aqua or Europop, but it stands as a high-water mark for the genre.

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