It's been 40 long years since iconic Swedish pop group ABBA has released a new album. But on Friday (November 5), the band will be sharing their ninth studio project Voyage. The rekindling of Agnetha Fältskog, Björn Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson, and Anni-Frid Lyngstad comes after years of being unofficially split. They disbanded in 1982 after releasing The Visitors, but renewed interest in their music peaked during the 90's. It was all thanks to their greatest hits album, ABBA Gold, and the ABBA-inspired smash hit musical, Mamma Mia!
But even though the OG Eurovision winners steadfastly rejected performing again - even turning down $1 billion to reunite in 2000 - fate could not keep them apart. After ABBA informally reunited at a private party in Stockholm in 2016, the group announced they were recording new music in 2018. And the rest, as they say, is history!
While we patiently wait for more music besides "I Still Have Faith In You," "Don't Shut Me Down," and "Just a Notion" to be released, we thought we'd take a trip down memory lane and rank ABBA's most iconic songs in this week's Top 10!
Keep in mind: ABBA has achieved a wopping 48 hit singles throughout their entire career. This Top 10 was particularly hard to create, and we didn't even get to squeeze in all our favorite ABBA bops! (Live365 gives honorable mentions to "Money, Money, Money," "The Name of the Game," "Super Trouper," "Chiquitita," "Voulez-Vous," and "Knowing Me Knowing You.")
Still, there's no fun in a ranked list of songs unless there are high stakes! Despite the challenge, we hope you enjoy and at least partially agree with our picks. Without further ado, here's ABBA's Top 10 Songs!
10. "The Winner Takes It All"
This moving ballad was a #1 hit in the U.K. at the time of its release and one of only four top 10 hits for ABBA in the United States. It also became the second ABBA song to reach #1 on the adult contemporary chart in the U.S. after "Fernando."
"The Winner Takes It All" is the lead single for ABBA's seventh studio album Super Trouper. While many fans believe "The Winner Takes It All" was written to reflect the divorce of members Björn Ulvaeus and Agnetha Fältskog, Ulvaeus claims the song is only fiction and simply depicts the emotional experience of divorce. Fältskog has said numerous times this "The Winner Takes It All" is her favorite in ABBA's entire discography.
You know a song is good when John Lennon and Pete Townshend publicly praise it. There is an ominous sound in the rhythm and chord structure of "SOS" that leads off into a haunting minor key. It gives more sophistication in the sound of ABBA's pop hits, and Björn Ulvaeus even said this track was the one in which the members found their pop identity after three years of trying.
"SOS" was written by Benny Andersson, Björn Ulvaeus and Stig Anderson and was recorded at Glen Studio in Långängen, Sweden in 1974. It reached the top 10 in the U.K. and the top 20 in the United States. ABBA's appearance on American Bandstand to perform "SOS" in 1975 is credited with a surge in the group's popularity in America.
No one is really sure who "Fernando" is or which war this song references (possibly the Mexican Revolution of 1910 or the Spanish Civil War of 1936), but one thing is for sure: "Fernando" is the group's best-selling single worldwide in their entire career, and is considered one of the best-selling songs of all time.
Originally written and recorded in Swedish by Anni-Frid Lyngstad as a solo effort, the success it achieved in its home country inspired the group to re-record the song in English as part of an ABBA record. When released, it spent an incredible 14 weeks at #1 in Australia - where it still remains one of the biggest pop hits of all time. "Fernando" also reached #1 in the U.K. and climbed to #13 in the U.S. The song was also the first by the group to hit #1 on the adult contemporary chart in the U.S.
On the song, Ulvaeus recalled in the book 1000 UK #1 Hits: "That lyric is so banal and I didn’t like it. It was a love lyric, someone who loved Fernando, but I inherited the word ‘Fernando’ and I thought long and hard, what does Fernando tell me? I was in my summerhouse one starry evening and the words came, ‘There was something in the air that night’ and I thought of two old comrades from some guerrilla war in Mexico who would be sitting in the porch and reminiscing about what happened to them back then and this is what it is all about. Total fiction."
The first single released under ABBA's name and the title song of their second album, this is another love song based on a historic struggle - specifically, the Battle of Waterloo of 1815.
"Waterloo" brought ABBA their first worldwide fame when it won the 1974 Eurovision Song Contest for Sweden. It was one of the first upbeat pop songs to win the contest and at the 50th anniversary of Eurovision, voters picked "Waterloo" as the best song in the history of the competition.
Originally titled "Honey Pie," the lyrics of "Waterloo" draw a parallel between emotional surrender in a relationship and Napoleon's defeat at the battle. It's cute, romantic, and oh-so catchy. No wonder it shot straight to the top of the U.K. pop singles chart and also became the group's first top 10 hit in the U.S. in 1974!
6. "Does Your Mother Know"
This song is notable for its vocals from Björn Ulvaeus instead of ABBA's traditionally female vocals. Written by Benny Andersson and Ulvaeus, the demo for “Does Your Mother Know” featured Ulvaeus on guide vocals; so it was decided to keep them during the official recording process.
We love the rock disco approach of this song and it gives us flashbacks to the classic rock of the 50's and 60's. “Does Your Mother Know” was the second single taken from their album Voulez-Vous. While the song only reached #4 in the U.K. and the top 20 in the U.S., it's been praised for its bouncy beat and incredibly mature lyrics. It's actually a song about the speaker refusing advances from a minor while still acknowledging their feelings are valid and encouraging them to think things over instead. Very deep!
5. "Lay All Your Love On Me"
One of the more underrated songs in Abba's discography, "Lay All Your Love On Me" is a bop through and through. This song was not intended to be released as a single at all. However, a remixed version of "Lay All Your Love On Me" put together by the Disconet DJ service resulted in the song landing at #1 on the U.S. dance chart and reaching the top 10 in the U.K.
What makes "Lay All Your Love On Me" so incredible? Undoubtedly, it's the descending sound of the vocals at the end of each verse coupled with an epic hymn-like chorus. The descending vocal effect was created by putting the vocals through a device which created a slightly lower-pitched recording of the sound. The church congregation-esque vocals on the chorus were created with the help of a vocoder. Although spooky season ended 2 days ago, we'd also like to mention Brian David Gilbert's recent popular vampire parody of this song is a delight if you're an ABBA fan looking for a laugh.
4. "Take a Chance On Me"
Can you believe this ultra-hit song was created thanks to Björn Ulvaeus' jogging? As he ran, he would sing a “tck-a-ch”-style rhythm to himself. This evolved into the line “Take a Chance on Me,” around which he wrote the rest of the lyrics.
The song was one of the group's most successful on pop charts. It landed at #1 for three weeks in the U.K. and reached the top 3 in the U.S. Additionally, the group Erasure brought "Take a Chance On Me" back to #1 in 1992 in the U.K. with their cover version.
Fun fact: the album this song is a part of, ABBA: The Album, was originally planned to be released in the U.K. in December 1977, but vinyl pressing plants could not produce enough copies to meet demand before Christmas. Therefore, the album was not released in the UK until January. We're happy the world took a chance on ABBA's music despite the delayed release.
3. "Mamma Mia"
Yes - that iconic song we all know and love due to the amazing Meryl Streep musical of the same name. “Mamma Mia” is the opening track of the Swedish group’s third album, the self-titled ABBA. If you couldn't already guess (or if you haven't played any Super Mario Bros. games), this song’s title is derived from Italian. "Mamma Mia" is an interjection used in situations of surprise, anguish, or excitement (literally, “My mother”).
So...why "Mamma Mia?" Well, ABBA’s manager Stig Anderson would often come up with titles that Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson would write lyrics around. This song is a prime example of that workflow. Despite the wacky title, "Mamma Mia" is hailed as an ABBA classic due to its memorable lyrics, continually shifting chords, and the fire Fältskog and Lyngstad bring to the vocals. This was also the song that ended the #1 reign in the U.K. charts of Queen's legendary "Bohemian Rhapsody."
Many believe this song saved ABBA from one-hit wonder obscurity after the massive success of "Waterloo," even though their previous song "SOS" also had chart fame. Still, it's hard not to love this song. Who doesn't get excited after hearing "Mamma Mia's" clicky opening riff?
2. "Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight)"
This. song. slaps. We don't care it's over 40 years old and has a simple message about a lonely woman looking for a man to satisfy her. Do you hear those sweeping, dramatic piano keys? Those vocals and harmonies? The opening guitar riff? Everything about this track feels like magic. Ulitmately, it highlights the fun, desperation, and heightened emotions the speaker is singing about, and we're jealous of whoever got to disco dance to this song in 1979.
Unsurprisingly, this Voulez-Vous track remains one of Abba's biggest hits. It hit #1 in Belgium, Finland, France, Ireland, and Switzerland, while reaching the top 3 in Austria, Germany, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and Norway. It also proved to be ABBA's most successful song in Japan, hitting #17 on the charts.
1. "Dancing Queen"
The song every 17-year-old girl hopes will play at her birthday party. Not to say any other ABBA song is lackluster, but it's hard to claim "Dancing Queen" deserves anything less than the #1 spot in an ABBA top 10. There's something so timeless, dreamy, and beautiful about it.
"Dancing Queen" debuted in 1976 on Swedish TV at a live gala in honor of the upcoming wedding of King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden and Silvia Sommerlath. Talk about a royal entrance! The song went straight to #1 around the world including both the U.S. and U.K. charts. One of this song's inspirations was George McCrae's disco ditty "Rock Your Baby."
Did you know the original title for this song was "Boogaloo?" Thankfully the group changed the name, because ABBA has stated they knew the song would become a smash hit while they were recording it in the studio. "Dancing Queen" has sold more than one million physical copies in the U.S. and more than 500,000 digital copies. It also has a place in the Grammy Hall of Fame.
But even better than chart and sale success, this song will forever be remembered as one of the standout tracks that ignited the trend of Eurodisco: European disco music inspired by but distinctively different from American disco. Eurodisco would then lead to Europop and Eurodance, which are still going strong today. With "Dancing Queen," ABBA rules as one of the best European music groups in the history of modern music.
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