Cruel Summer is the third American album by Swedish pop music group, Ace of Base. When Flowers saw the sale of four million copies after its release in Europe, Asia and Africa on June 15, 1998, Arista Records decided to release their own version of the album in the US and Japan, re-titled Cruel Summer.
Cruel Summer was released on August 25, 1998 in Japan with two bonus tracks, and on September 1, 1998 in America.
In 1996, the band completed its promotion of The Bridge album, which had sold seven million albums worldwide. Ace of Base did not immediately return to the studio as they had with their second album. Band member Linn Berggren tired of the spotlight, and had returned home early from the group's tour of Asia. The quartet took a break from both recording and promotion; Ulf Ekberg moved to Marbella, Spain.
In mid-1997, the band's record companies asked Ace of Base for new material. Representatives at Arista Records specifically asked for "summery", sunny songs. By Autumn of 1997, "Doctor Sun" had been recorded; it was the first song completed for the new album. The band members test-played the song in several clubs in Gothenburg. Originally, the song featured vocals from all four members, but Ulf's vocals were eventually cut on the final version, which was not released in the United States.
The band members had resisted recording another cover, but at the insistence of their British record label, Polydor Records, Jonas Berggren chose Bananarama's "Cruel Summer". The original version, however, was considered unsuitable, and a new version, overseen by Arista president Clive Davis and produced by Cutfather and Joe was commissioned instead. Jenny had written "He Decides" for the new album, however, this song, too, was considered unsuitable in its original form, and was remixed by Charles Fisher. The resulting mix was darker in tone than the original. Ulf composed "more than twenty songs", but only one was used on the released album. Linn wrote and produced a demo entitled "Lapponia", which was originally submitted for The Bridge, but the track was rejected. Instead, Arista generally chose songs written by Jonas for the American version, although not all of these songs were considered album-worthy in their original versions. Jenny was asked to record new vocals for "Donnie", and Linn's vocals were cut altogether. The resulting remix was later described as a "Phil Spector-inspired Wall of Sound". "Life Is a Flower" was considered unsuitable for American audiences, despite high chart positions worldwide. Clive Davis ordered a new version, which became "Whenever You're Near Me", an adult contemporary love song. The record company head also was instrumental in the recording (and re-recording) of "Everytime it Rains". The original vocals by Jenny were found unsuitable, and a version featuring Linn's voice was used instead. "Travel to Romantis" was remixed by Love To Infinity and "Always Have, Always Will" was edited for the U.S. release.
While the band members began their promotion for the worldwide release of the Flowers album, Arista executives wavered on whether there would be a U.S. album at all. As late as spring of 1998, Arista representatives had commented that the album was "too bubblegum" and would not be released at all in the States. When it became clear the album was selling well in Europe, representatives at Arista relented, and the album was released, three months after the European version. The name of the album, however, was rejected. Arista settled on the name Everytime it Rains, but retitled the album Cruel Summer after printing 500,000 copies of the single.
Despite spawning a top 10 single, the album did not sell well. It peaked at #101 on Billboard's Hot 200 Album chart and dropped out of the charts soon after release, despite good reviews by Fred Bronson, who praised the album for its retro sound. A second single, "Whenever You're Near Me", received little attention, and was not even correctly promoted on the Arista website, where it was listed as "Whenever You Need Me"; despite fan efforts to get the mistake corrected. The record company soon ceased any further promotion. People Magazine reported in December 1998 that only 122,000 copies of the album had sold, while the Flowers album was certified multi-platinum.