Ok fine you got me. I have a strong and potentially incurable case of ABBA fever. I needed a place to better understand my disease. So here I am. My name is Emma and I’m an ABBA-aholic.
In the golden year of 1972, a group of Swedish musicians with unpronounceable names formed a pop group in Stockholm. ABBA was conceived after two couples joined forces, Benny Andersson and Anni-Frid Lyngstad and Agnetha Faltskog and Bjorn Ulvaeus. As you do, on a joint holiday to Cyprus, they improvised a live performance for some United Nations soldiers stationed on the island. Fastforward a few years and their new group ABBA won the 1974 Eurovision Song Contest with “Waterloo”. Bang bang bang – a string of hits made them superstars and they became one of the most successful musical artists of all time. Despite this, they decided to break up after only 10 years when both marriages ended.
They gained cult status during their careers, with a resurgence more recently due to the hit musical Mamma Mia in 1999 and the film adaptation in 2008. As pop sensations go, the fact that they wrote all of their music made them a rarity. The variation in their sound also stands out, at times pairing melancholic lyrics with upbeat disco, at others stripping back the sound altogether. Their disco moments are elegantly crafted with complex layers and masterful instrumental hooks. “Dancing Queen” is the perfect example. As anyone who’s been to a wedding, a karaoke bar or a cheesy club night will know – this song makes anyone feel like jumping around with their hands in the air. The passionate vocal lines, euphoric piano riffs and dramatic strings combine to create the ultimate floor filler.
“The Winner Takes It All” has become one of my all-time favourite songs. I confess to listening to it on the way to the Post Office and crying like a baby. Agnetha Fältskog’s voice is heart-wrenching and the energetic production makes it somehow more emotional. And the LYRICS. It’s a distillation of every feeling you get at the end of a relationship. Sassy break-up songs with calls to feel vindicated and happy to reclaim your independence only resonate for a while before you realise that the overwhelming feeling is sadness. For most, they don’t really wish their partners pain. It’s usually a feeling of melancholic nostalgia and lamenting the end of an era in your life. The lyrics tell of extreme vulnerability but also acceptance. “I don’t wanna talk / About things we’ve gone through / Though it’s hurting me / Now it’s history”
Besides their ability to nail songs about tumultuous relationships, some of them are just pure joy. “Thank You For The Music”, “Voulez-Vouz”, “Take A Chance On Me”, I could go on for another paragraph. They are all different in tone and style but all of them invoke reckless abandon. I can’t even count the number of times I have become a hysterical wreck on the dance floor upon hearing an ABBA banger. I mean you have a heart of stone if you haven’t felt the least bit fabulous in that situation.
I’m sure there have been groans at the suggestion of going to see Mamma Mia, let alone Mamma Mia 2. They’re camp and cheesy to the nth degree but if you’re looking for something uplifting I’m not sure there’s anywhere better. Meryl Streep, Piers Brosnan and Colin Firth singing and awkwardly dancing to ABBA with abandon? WHERE DO I SIGN?? You can be as cynical as you like. No one’s arguing they’ll win an oscar anytime soon, but it’s cheaper than anti-depressants.
The bottom line is: no one should feel guilty for loving ABBA. They’re musically airtight and they can write the hell out of a ballad. If you need any proof, just look at the dazzling longevity of their tunes. Sometimes the masses are wise, and in ABBA they made a spectacular discovery.