25 Years Ago Roxette's 'It Must Have Been Love' Hit No. 1 – But Who Knew It Was Originally a Christmas Tune?

The ballad from the Pretty Woman soundtrack achieved peak success 25 years ago


It was 25 years ago this week that Roxette’s “It Must Have Been Love” achieved peak popularity. Propelled by the smash success of Pretty Woman and its soundtrack, the song slowly creeped up the charts to become No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and one of the more memorable hits of 1990.

However, many fans of the song may not know that “It Must Have Been Love” took the long route to success, languishing as one of the Swedish duo’s less popular songs for nearly three years before the summer of 1990. In fact, Per Gessle, the male half of Roxette, wrote the song as a Christmas track.

The band first recorded the ballad in 1987 with a longer title: “It Must Have Been Love (Christmas for the Broken-Hearted).” Check out the original version.

Singer Marie Fredriksson gives a different second verse, but all in all, it’s pretty close to the more popular version. And it’s not all that Christmas-y, either, though knowing its origins does make sense of those repeated references to winter.

So what gives? How did a vaguely Christmas-y Euro-pop track become an international success three summers later?

For starters, “It Must Have Been Love” was initially released only in Roxette’s native Sweden, where it was a hit. It was re-released after the holidays without the reference to Christmas in the title, but it remained more or less forgotten outside Sweden until Roxette’s 1988 album, Look Sharp!, which boasted a string of hits that included "Dressed for Success," "The Look" and "Listen to Your Heart."

That success prompted the band to be asked to contribute a song to the soundtrack of an upcoming little prostitution movie called Pretty Woman, and the modified version of “It Must Have Been Love” was chosen. It plays during a key scene in the movie.

Pretty Woman, of course, went on to become a smash hit, and that in turn made a hit of the soundtrack, which ended up going multiplatinum. The band also recorded a new version of the video, which would intersplice footage of Gessle and Fredriksson with that of Julia Roberts and Richard Gere.

In a post on Gessle’s site, Fredriksson recalled the shoot as being strange. “The director wanted all movements in slow motion,” she said. “So I had to lip sync the vocals in double speed. My first lesson in how to sing an emotional ballad Mickey Mouse-style. A strange way to make a living.” Fredriksson also pointed out that the song was Roxette’s third No. 1 hit in the U.S. – “not bad for a song that was just lying around, gathering dust.”

Upon its re-release, “It Must Have Been Love” became a top 10 hit in Sweden, the U.K., Germany, Australia, Austria, Poland, Switzerland, Norway and Ireland. And in the U.S., it held the No. 1 spot for two weeks, displacing the Wilson Phillips favorite "Hold On" and finally getting knocked out by New Kids on the Block’s "Step by Step." It was only in 1995 that the song finally made its way onto a Roxette album, that year’s greatest hits compilation, Don’t Bore Us, Get to the Chorus.

Julia’s Changing Looks!

For many American fans, “It Must Have Been Love” may be the band’s biggest song ever.

Where Are They Now?

Roxette went on hiatus in 2002 when Fredriksson was diagnosed with a brain tumor. She had it removed but ultimately lost sight in one of her eyes. However, she recovered from the experience, and in 2009, Roxette reunited for a concert.

The band have since released two more albums – Charm School in 2011 and Traveling in 2012 – and are reportedly working on another.

In 2014, Gessle was honored at the BMI London awards for the song’s 5 millionth radio play.

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