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Published on Aug 26, 2009
Michael Learns To Rock (also known as MLTR) is a Danish soft rock band that performs songs in English. It was formed in 1988 and has sold over 9 million records worldwide, mainly in Asia. It has produced seven studio albums as well as live and "greatest hits" albums.
In 1987, the singer-keyboardist Jascha Richter and drummer Kåre Wanscher were high school students in Aarhus, Denmark, when they saw guitarist Mikkel Lentz with his group the Rocking Studs and asked him to form a band. A year later Søren Madsen joined, playing bass.
The group debuted in Aarhus in May 1988 and later entered the city's annual talent show. The band won and hurriedly had to come up with a name. In an interview Richter admitted that it was named after Michael Jackson: "Yeah, it was like Johnny Hates Jazz and Frankie Goes to Hollywood. Sure, I've regretted calling ourselves this many times since, but we were successful so quickly we had to stick with it and over time I got used to it." (Taipei Times, 06 07 2007)
A member of the contest jury, J.P. Anderson, became the band's manager. MLTR played live but did not release its eponymous debut album, "Michael Learns to Rock," until September 1991. A single from the album, "The Actor," topped the Danish chart and also did well in Norway, Sweden, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and the Philippines.
In 1993, MLTR released Colours which sold over 1 million records. The album included the singles "Sleeping Child," "25 Minutes" and "Out of the Blue." It also toured Asia for the first time. Two years later MLTR's third album, Played On Pepper came out, selling 1.2 million units, and the group played 25 shows in 10 countries. Hits from this album included "That's Why (You Go Away)" and "Someday."
The album "Paint My Love" was released in 1996 and sold 3.4 million copies. The band was also chosen as the headliner for the "Celebrate Hong Kong" concert on July 6, 1997, marking the transfer of Hong Kong from the United Kingdom to China. Its fourth studio album, "Nothing To Lose," was released in September 1997.
Soon after, MLTR's members took a break to spend time with their families and develop projects on their own or in collaboration with other artists. Even so, Richter wrote some new songs and the band's anthem "Strange Foreign Beauty" was added to a 1998 greatest hits album.
In 2000, Søren Madsen decided to leave the group to embark on a solo career, and the three remaining members carried on and produced the album "Blue Night," which went platinum in Denmark and sold well in Asia. The band attributed its success in Asia to a clean-living image and singing in English as a second language, and the fact that their lyrics are relatively easy to learn and sing (Taipei Times, 06 07 2007).
After the release of "Blue Night", the band took a prolonged hiatus, with Jascha Richter branching out to work on his solo album, "Blue Planet". Jascha and the band later admitted that they even considered disbanding during this time, but ultimately decided against, after their success with their greatest hits album releases. By 2004, the band regrouped again for yet another album. First, they decided to change their name once again, reverting from MLTR back to the original Michael Learns to Rock.(not cited)
"Take Me To Your Heart" (2004) focused on the Asian market. The single "Take Me To Your Heart" was a remake of Jacky Cheung's "Goodbye Kiss 吻别" and was popular in China, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Thailand and Taiwan. MLTR sang an English and Chinese duet of "Take Me To Your Heart" with Chinese singer Hu Yanbin at a 2005 New Year's Party in Guangzhou, China. The band also did a duet of the song with South Korean star Shin Hye-sung, of boy band Shinhwa.
In 2007, MLTR released "The Best of Michael Learns to Rock Live" (available by download from the band's Web site) and in July toured Hong-Kong, Taiwan, Thailand and Malaysia.
MLTR's music has been described as a Scandinavian glow that meets the international pop song, something which has been refined through the years by artists such as The Beatles, The Eagles, Elton John and Billy Joel. It's precisely the perfect balance of the two elements described above that has been instrumental in forming the compelling sound of the band and won MLTR millions of fans around the globe.