One year of ABBA
Exactly one year ago, my younger self listened for the first time to an ABBA song. Given that since then this band has grown to be my all-time favorite, I thought a short blog post was necessary to celebrate the event.
Why short? Because in this one, I will only tell you about general stuff (e.g. how I discovered the band, why I like it so much). The next nine or ten posts, in which I will review each and every album they had ever released, will come up sometime during the next few weeks. This should be fun and at the same time easier than putting together a list of my favorite twenty songs, which was what I initially wanted to do.
Just in case you’ve been living under a rock until two minutes ago… ABBA was one of the most successful music groups of the ’70s, consisting of Agnetha Faltskog, Bjorn Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson and Anni-Frid Lyngstad. They explored diverse musical genres and styles during the ten years they worked together; from pop to disco, they have spawned numerous hits that climbed the charts all over the world. It is also worth noting that they are the first band coming from a non-English-speaking country to enjoy constant success in English-speaking countries. For example, in Australia their popularity equaled that of The Beatles at one point.
In other words, they are awesome; they are the ones who gave pop music a good name. At a first listening, their songs seem simple, catchy and easy to remember. But the more you listen to them, the more you become aware of their complexity. Agnetha and Frida’s voices blend perfectly and they make great use of backing vocals as well. This, along with the use of clever arrangements are evident from their first compositions (such as in I Saw It In The Mirror). Through the lyrics, Bjorn and Benny always tell so much using relatively simple words. While they get better and better over time, their talent also shines through in their early songs (Disillusion, Waterloo).
I am somewhat ashamed to say I did not know of the band’s existence until a year ago. And I have to thank Lady Gaga for this, actually. The music video for Alejandro was released around then. I was talking with someone about it and at one point she mentioned it had a similar sound to ABBA’s (statement with which I disagree completely now). Now, I don’t remember why I decided to look them up at that time, considering I am not -and never was- a Lady Gaga fan. It doesn’t even matter, to be honest; all that matters is that later that day, I went on Youtube and typed ‘Abba’. The first video that came up was the music video for The Winner Takes It All. That one song was all it took to hook me (and it hadn’t been enough, I then listened to SOS). A few days later, I borrowed the ABBA Gold: Greatest Hits compilation album from my brother. From then since somewhere around January or February, I kept on discovering and falling in love with other songs until I had nothing else to listen to. Then, I just started all over again. The only reason it took me so long to make my way through their discography was because most of their songs are so good once I had listened to them, I couldn’t stop and had to play them over and over again. It was not uncommon to listen to the same few songs for weeks before moving on to others.
There really isn’t much not to like about ABBA. They were (and still are) role models; they never did drugs, they were never photographed drunk in clubs at five in the morning and they never performed in their underwear. They were sweet, kind people who tried to do what they knew best: create masterpiece after masterpiece.
Perhaps the one thing one could complain about is their reluctance to sing live. Nobody that has watched ABBA: The Movie or a DVD of one of their concerts can say Agnetha and Frida can’t sing. They always gave
riveting, powerful performances. However, because of Agnetha’s fear of flying, they only had a handful of concerts. On top of that, most of their TV performances were playbacks – although you can find enough in which they actually sing live. But the thing is, there still are not as many live versions of their songs as one would like.
That would be pretty much it… for now. My review of their first album – Ring, Ring – should be up next week.