The Ace of Base song “The Sign” might be about a neo-nazi seeking redemption. I know I risk sounding like Quentin Tarantino explaining what Madonna’s “Like a Virgin” is about, when saying that. And I’m not saying it’s true, it’s just a theory that’s been playing in my head for a while. But why?
The Sign is one of those nineties pop songs that seems simple enough. A girl sings that she she “saw the sign and it opened up her eyes” and she leaves the person who is suggested to be a bad influence on the main character. A lot of people assume “the sign” is just a metaphor for a red flag and that the main character in the song is getting out of a bad romantic relationship. The video for the song seems to support this with romantic imagery. But is it a romantic song?
It’s well documented that Ace of Base member Ulf Ekberg made some unfortunate choices in his youth, by sympathising with anti-immigration groups and even playing in a neo-nazi band. He has stated publicly he had regrets that and closed that book of his past. And I believe him, because I think The Sign is actually about him, realizing he had hung out with the wrong friends and saying goodbye to them. Just look at the lyrics:
- “I got a new life, you would hardly recognize me, I’m so glad” could be about closing that book on the dark past.
- “How can a person like me care for you? I, why do I bother, when you’re not the one for me?” Apparently a friend or some one he looked up to drew him into this, but now he realises that that person never really cared for him.
- “Is enough enough?” “Full is Full” is often a term used by anti-immigration groups to imply the country is full. Is enough enough could be a play on words, by throwing the racist words back at the racist.
- “I saw the sign and it opened up my eyes” He got a hint and he realised what he was doing.
- “Life is demanding without understanding“. Instead of understanding for the main character, this could be understanding for immigrants/other people and that it’s too demanding to hate on people all the time.
- “No one’s gonna drag you up to get into the light where you belong. But where do you belong?” Note that this is aimed at “you”, not “I”. No one is going to put you in the spotlight where you (think you) belong. But does this other person belong there. The question mark seems to say: No, I doubt you do.
If you re-listen to the song with that in mind, you’re listening to a completely and much more sinister song, albeit with a very happy ending still. There is however a really strong argument to be made that this is totally not about Ekberg’s bad youth: he didn’t write these lyrics (let alone sing them). His band mate Jonas ‘Joker’ Berggren wrote it. Of course it could still be he wrote it about Ekberg, but there’s also this line in the song (and this is where the theories get really crazy):
- “I, under the pale moon, for so many years I wondered who you are“. Could be simply about wondering what makes his friend tick. But this could also be a very direct reference to a quote of The Joker in the first Batman film : “Ever dance with the devil in the pale moonlight?” The Joker from the film asks this before he shoots some ‘his prey’. As a joke. And the guy who wrote The Sign has ‘Joker’ as a nick name.
Errr … what? Obviously, this is where I must stop making theories. So what do you think? Is the song just a silly pop song about happy departure from a bad ex-lover and is this just digging to deep into a simple song?Like this? Buy me a drink!