ABBA - favourites and least favourites

Published June 06, 2012

Favourite song: The Winner Takes It All. If I have to choose one, which I really don’t like to do, this would be it. To me it was like ABBA achieved everything they had been working for when they wrote and recorded this song. It’s just the perfection of what they could achieve as a foursome. The simplicity of the two repeated melody lines, combined with variations in the arrangement and subtle mood changes in the lyrics, plus an incredibly vulnerable lead vocal performance by Agnetha – it could be one definition of pop music at its very best. Other favourites include ‘When All Is Said And Done’, ‘The Day Before You Came’, ‘Knowing Me, Knowing You’ and ‘The Name Of The Game’.

Least favourite song: ‘I Saw It In The Mirror’. A good tune that’s wasted on Björn and Benny’s not-very-good vocal performance, and the somewhat plodding tempo. They should have let Agnetha and Frida sing it instead.

Favourite album: Voulez-Vous. If we’re talking complete albums, this is where ABBA really reached their peak as far as I’m concerned. I think I like that the album is a little chaotic: plenty of up-tempo numbers, disco rhythms and a general feel of disquiet, as well as a “battle for space” in the soundscape between vocals, strings, keyboards and guitars. Perhaps there’s also a sense of “undiscovered gem” about the album, simply because what I feel were the best tracks were never international single A-sides, such as ‘As Good As New’, ‘The King Has Lost His Crown’ and ‘If It Wasn’t For The Nights’. If they’d thrown out ‘I Have A Dream’ and added the full length version of ‘Summer Night City’, it would have been an absolutely perfect album (albeit with less of the variation that was a point of pride with ABBA).

Least favourite album: The Visitors. Are the songs better than on the Ring Ring album? Certainly. Is the production more accomplished than on the Waterloo album? Of course. Yet, emotionally I find it easier to connect with those albums than with The Visitors, which, to me, just sounds a bit too much like “we know how to do this now”. I don't actually dislike any of the ABBA albums, but I find it more engaging to listen to their music when they’re still on a journey of exploration, than to hear them at the last stop of that journey – or perhaps already in the limousine whisking them away from the train station.