Ultra Bra has definitely been one of the most important bands in Finland. Their stylish crossover between pop and rock music touched people from both popular and underground music audience, so it's no wonder that they sold more albums than any other rock artist in the '90s. Ultra Bra's diverse sound is a result of multi-instrumentalism -- they have a wide collection of players from traditional rock to string orchestra. Also it's not surprising that their music is quite popular among highly educated young people, because of the politically left-oriented lyrics. For that reason Ultra Bra had serious problems in getting rid of their politicized status.
Actually Ultra Bra was politically branded when they attended a political music contest arranged by the Finnish Social Democratic Party in autumn 1994. Ultra Bra was formed just for this contest, but because they won it, they received an offer to record a single as a prize. So was born Houkutusten Kiihoittava Maku EP, which became a big hit in Finland. Ultra Bra didn't do anything else for a while, but slowly their reputation grew by itself. And it was obvious that a band like Ultra Bra would get a recording contract. So by the summer of 1995, they spent their time in the studio, recording their debut album, Vapaaherran Elämää. This album contained many hits, including "Sankaritar," "Ken Saro-Wiwa On Kuollut," and a song from the previously mentioned contest, "Taksi, Veturi, Valtamerilaiva." It was not only these songs that kept Ultra Bra's reputation growing -- the whole album and extremely successful live concerts amazed all of Finland. Even the critics were satisfied -- Vapaaherran Elämää was chosen the Album of the Year in Finland in 1996.
Ultra Bra toured the following autumn and spring, and in summer 1997 they started to record their second album. Kroketti was a natural follow-up for their debut -- the concept is almost the same, but the sound is better and songs are not as political as they used to be. Also, pop is the keyword for Kroketti. It's not just the new album Kroketti that became popular -- Ultra Bra's new single "Tyttöjen Välisestä Ystävyydestä" wasn't on Kroketti but it was a true summer hit. Ultra Bra used that song also when they participated in the Eurovision contests, though they didn't qualify. But the following summer was Ultra Bra's summer: though one of their five singers, Anna Tulusto, left the band, Kroketti went platinum and Ultra Bra's concerts were box-office hits.
Ultra Bra worked on their third album the next autumn, and in March of 1999 it was released, instantly going to number one in the Finnish album chart. Kalifornia was a logical follow-up to Kroketti, except that the sound was even more pop than rock. The songs were simpler than anyone expected, but that didn't seem to bother the people of Finland, because all the singles from Kalifornia were Top Ten hits. Ultra Bra was also a hit onstage -- all their concerts sold out immediately.
After the summer of 1999, Ultra Bra retired from publicity for a while. They started working on their new material, and announced that they would again take part in the Eurovision contest. Unfortunately, they didn't qualify. After that, Ultra Bra released a couple of singles: first Heikko Valo and later Villiviini. The next summer was again a time for festivals and concerts for Ultra Bra. Also, the single Pinnan Alla was released and they kept working for their next album. And in November 2000, the new album was released. Though Vesireittejä isn't Ultra Bra's best effort for their last album, it was a major hit -- first it went platinum and then their few concerts sold out fast. Also, Ultra Bra's videos received awards.
After the release of one single, Rubikin Kuutio, Ultra Bra announced that they were planning to disband, since they were actually formed just for 1994's songwriting competition. Their music may not have been the biggest influence for later Finnish artists, but surely they affected Finnish pop culture. ~ Antti J. Ravelin