I’m not ashamed to admit it. Despite the fact that I am way too young to place any value whatsoever on 70s music, despite the fact that I can never extricate frightening images of white spandex from their music, and despite the fact that my husband threatens to pierce his eardrums whenever the beat gets going, I love Abba. Let me say it again. I love Abba.
Maybe it’s the fact that it provides the soundtrack for the strangely haunting performance of Toni Collette in Muriel’s Wedding. Maybe it’s because they made a very popular musical by fusing an assortment of non-related songs into a (slightly) coherent story. Or maybe it’s because the songs are translated into Spanish that were routinely played during my high school foreign language class. Whatever the reason, once the beat gets going and those Swedes start rocking, I’m a goner. Although I would never say that any of their songs are bad (gasp!), here is a list of my top ten personal favorites.
10) Money Money Money – Like Sheryl Crow’s Soak Up the Sun, there is something absolutely maddening about a successful musical performer singing about the tedium of poverty. But if you ignore the fact that Abba is lamenting the solemnity of an empty wallet while rolling in piles of krona, it’s pretty fun to sing along.
9) Waterloo – I have yet to find any song about Hitler, Mussolini, or Castro that fills me with such giddy excitement as this playful number about Napoleon’s famous defeat. Someone probably should have told Abba that there is something slightly perverse about comparing oneself to a battle in which 47,000 men died with an upbeat, catchy tune. Still, I always sing along.
8) Gimme Gimme Gimme – For years, I was absolutely certain that the words to this song were Gimme gimme gimme a man of commitment (it’s actually a man after midnight). Funny how having a man after midnight – lovingly referred to by many as a “booty call” – and having a man of commitment are the exact opposite ways of having a man. I never noticed any problems fusing my lyrics in. You should try it.
7) Knowing Me Knowing You – I couldn’t really care less what this song is actually about. Love, blah, blah, loss, blah, blah, friendship, blah. What really gets me is the little musical interlude after the refrain. I don’t know what the instrument is (I’m guessing it’s a handy synthesizer), but after they sing “It’s the best I can do,” there is a killer solo that has me humming along in a freakishly high pitched guttural squeal akin to cats in heat. Sometimes I wonder what my neighbors think.
6) Chiquitita – Abba is Swedish. They sing in English. They also sing in Spanish if you happen to have the translated album. They sing songs in English with Spanish words and titles. Those kooky kids.
5) I do I do I do I do I do – Yes, I know Abba has a propensity to use title that are redundant and repetitive. But really, they must have been too busy creating these fabulous songs to worry about gratuitously multifaceted titles (such as say, Panic! At the Disco…). But what girl hasn’t dreamed of bopping down the aisle to this delightful tune in a white Lycra pantsuit? If you ask me, weddings these days are far too traditional and matchy-matchy.
4) S.O.S. – I don’t really care about the song. I mean, it’s good and I like to listen to it. But here’s the kicker – both Abba and S.O.S. are palindromes. Read forward or backward, the artist and the song title are still the same. Some people think that playing Dark Side of the Moon and watching the Wizard of Oz is eerie, but that’s got nothing on this amazing coincidence. I get goosebumps just thinking about it.
3) Mamma Mia – Although I have been to see the musical of the same name (and highly recommend it), I loved the song long before I ever dreamt I could see it on stage. This another one of those crazy songs about being brokenhearted and sad set to an upbeat tune. I say thank you Abba, for making a song about misery that only serves to lift the spirits. Nobel Peace Prize anyone?
2) Does Your Mother Know – I’m hoping that the lyrics to this song are meant to be symbolic in that the girl in question is not actually a child but merely appears to be one. In the latter situation, it’s funny. In the former, it sounds like Abba’s lyric-writing skills were heavily influenced by a dirty old man. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and praise their skills of wit.
1) Thank You for the Music – No Abba. Thank you for the music. This is a song for everyone to join in singing with Abba in praise of the music gods. Let’s all hold hands, get in a circle, and belt out the words to our heart’s content. What a joy! What a life! What a chance!
1.+) Dancing Queen – Everyone knew this one was coming. Dancing Queen is by far the most famous of the Abba gems. Even my daughter, who is not yet one year old, starts dancing to the beat before the singing even comes on. If a young child can recognize the talent and joy in this song, surely there must be something magical to it. I play it at least once a week to share a moment of Abba-inspired bliss with my flesh and blood. Just don’t tell my husband.