ABBA’s Waterloo: A loss or a win?

After the release of the Ring, Ring album, ABBA started to prepare for the 1974 Eurovision Song Contest. They had two songs in mind as possible entrants: Hasta Manana and Waterloo. Because the former saw Agnetha sing lead vocals, the four feared this would give the world the wrong impression of the group. Consequently, they decided to go with Waterloo, which had both girls share vocals.

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This proved to be a wise decision. Not only did they win – first the Melodifestivalen, then the actual contest -, but the single did remarkably well in the charts and introduced the world to the phenomenon that was to become ABBA. Waterloo topped the charts in several countries such as the UK, Norway, Ireland and South Africa, while also reaching #6 in the US. To this day, it remains the only Eurovision song to reach the US Top 40.

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I love ABBA. I really do, but this album may be my least favorite. The main reason is because it doesn’t feel like an album, it feels like a collection of songs thrown together and they don’t work as a whole. Also, this is the only album on which there are songs I actually, sort of… dislike. Of course, there are enough good and great tracks as well, but they’re not enough to save the album, I’m afraid. For example, Waterloo – it’s a great song, very catchy. But it’s also the opening track and it sets quite a high bar; upon hearing it you expect a great album. Yet that great album never comes. In fact, the second song – Sitting in the Palmtree – has Bjorn singing about a guy who sits in a (surprise!) palm tree, ‘among my coconuts’.

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The problem is that Sitting in the Palmtree is not the only not-that-great song on this album; What about Livingstone is another that I feel was recorded just so that the album would have enough tracks. And while I have grown to like Watch Out, that took quite a while – maybe because it’s very different than most of the other ABBA songs.

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Nevertheless, the other songs are enjoyable – don’t let my mini-rant fool you! Dance (While The Music Still Goes On) is wonderful; probably my favorite song in which Bjorn sings lead vocals. With a melody and lyrics that are just a little bit sad and reminiscing, this is definitely one of the albums’ strongest tracks. Also worth noting is Hasta Manana. While the group opted not to enter the Eurovision with it, it remains an innocent, bittersweet ballad in which the attention to details once again impresses.

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A more joyful song – and with lyrics like I feel like I wanna sing,/ When you do your thing, maybe not that innocent – is Honey, Honey. Agnetha & Anni-Frid once again share lead vocals, and the outcome is another great song, one that will most likely put a smile on your face because it’s just so much fun.

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So while the album has a few duds, there are hidden gems as well. Besides, it’s an ABBA album nonetheless; at least one listening is required.

Posted on June 25, 2011, in ABBA and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

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