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Left to right: Benny Andersson, Anni-Frid "Frida" Lyngstad, Agnetha Fältskog and Björn Ulvaeus
It was very unfashionable to like Abba at that time. Their songs are beautifully crafted and the production was always immaculate, everything beautifully tuned in time, and the girls' voices were fabulous.
ABBA was a Swedish pop supergroup of The Seventies and early Eighties composed of Agnetha Fältskog, Björn Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson and Anni-Frid Lyngstad.There's quite a long story behind their name, actually. The band was originally known, rather awkwardly, as "Björn & Benny, Agnetha & Anni-Frid". This is the banner under which they released their first few singles and debut album "Ring Ring". Afterwards, the name "ABBA" was coined, partially as an acronym of the group's first names, and also as something as a joke, because Abba was also the name of a Swedish fish-canning company. Since the company was pretty much unknown outside of Sweden, it was thought that the name would work on international markets. The group had to ask for permission to use the name.In 1970, the group traveled around Sweden and Denmark as a cabaret revue called "Festfolket" (Party People). Audiences preferred their singing to their comedy skits. They first shot to international attention in 1974 winning the Eurovision Song Contest with 'Waterloo'. Rapid success followed over the next few years in Europe and Australia and (to a lesser degree) the United States with a run of huge hits like 'Dancing Queen', 'Fernando' and 'Mamma Mia'. The fact that the band consisted of two Creator Couples didn't hurt. A European and Australian tour in 1977 led to a feature film and massive sell-out concerts.By the end of the decade, the group had matured artistically moving away from the light-natured songs of the early years and towards heavier themes. Internal affairs had turned Darker and Edgier as well: Agnetha and Björn divorced in 1980, and Benny and Frida would follow suit a year later. 'The Winner Takes It All', a bittersweet ballad about the end of a romance (generally assumed to be based on Agnetha and Björn's divorce) is considered by many to be the artistic peak of the group.ABBA never officially broke up, but by 1983 they had essentially dissolved. The former members would go on to have mixed careers and despite occasional public appearances together never did reunite despite a reported offer in 2000 of $1,000,000,000 (yes, you read that right, that's a billion dollars) to do a reunion tour consisting of 100 concerts.This was not however the end of ABBA in popular culture. The music remained popular, steady sellers and formed the background for the 1994 Australian Cult ClassicMuriel's Wedding - ABBA has always been especially huge in the Land Down Under. More directly, Benny and Björn collaborated thrice in the realm of musical theater. First with lyricist Tim Rice on Chess, and later in the creation of Mamma Mia!, a stage musical based around the ABBA songs. The musical, opening first in 1999 in London and in New York in 2001 has proved enormously popular with global audiences. In 2008 a movie version was released staring Meryl Streep, Pierce Brosnan and Amanda Seyfried (who, at 22, was born well after the group dissolved). That film was such a smash hit it made $100+ million before it opened in North America. Their third stage musical is called "Kristina from Duvemåla" (or just "Kristina" for short) and is based on the literary epos by Vilhelm Moberg about a group of people who emigrate from Sweden to America in the mid-19th century. The musical was a massive success in Sweden and remains one of the most popular musicals of all time there. It's been translated into English but has not been performed other than in concert. Many fans of the original Swedish version are highly critical of the English translation, citing a huge decrease in the quality of the lyrics, which might have played a role in the show not being brought properly to an English speaking stage.The compilation album 'ABBA Gold: Greatest Hits', first released in 1992 has just (as of August 2008) reached the number one slot in the UK album charts for the fifth time - a sign, if any were needed, of ABBA's enduring popularity.
Accidental Misnaming: While Frida's name was often misspelled (see "Spell My Name With An S" below), Agnetha was lucky if she ever encountered a non-Scandinavian who could correctly pronounce her first or last name. When asked, she would pronounce her first name as AHGH-nyeh-TAH. She seemed to accept the pronunciation ahgh-NYEH-tah, which probably sounded better to her than ag-NEE-thuh, which a lot of English-speaking interviewers called her. (She deserves some of the blame for this. During her solo career before ABBA, she added an h to her given name, which was "Agneta", the standard spelling of the name.) In their early days, the group's promotional material called her "Anna", but that led to some confusion between her and Anni-Frid. And using her middle name — Åse (pronounced OH-szeh) — likely wouldn't have helped. Her last name is pronounced FELTS-kug.
My Nayme Is...: By adding the h to her name, Agnetha also qualified herself for this.
Frida's last name was also commonly mispronounced, but she never tried to correct anybody. Most people said "LING-stad". The proper pronunciation falls somewhere between "LYOONGH-shtahd" and "LYEENGH-shtahd". (Is it any wonder why she never tried to correct anybody?)
All of the Other Reindeer: Children fathered by German soldiers were shunned in Norway, to the point where it was grounds for incarceration and abuse towards them was common. Because of this, Frida was taken out of her native Norway by her grandmother, Arntine, who took her to Sweden.
Animal Stereotypes: Sort of; in some videos (notably "Eagle") Frida and Agnetha wear dresses with the images of a fox and a rabbit on them, respectively. There are 2 other more famous dresses, which have a yellow cat and a blue cat, but that is more a case of Color-Coded for Your Convenience. (You can see the cat dresses in the "S.O.S." video.)
The "Knowing Me, Knowing You" video begins and ends with the shot of the same wintry landscape.
The "Fernando" video begins and ends with the shot of a campfire.
The first and last music video in the ABBA Gold DVD is Dancing Queen.
The "Mamma Mia!" video begins and ends with a shot of a piano then a close up of Bjorn's hand playing guitar.
Breakup Breakout: Frida arguably achieved more success in Europe with her post - ABBA album Something's Going On than Agnetha did during her solo career in the Eighties. However, Agnetha is aiming for another solo comeback with her first album since 2004, A.
Break Up Song: Many. Famous examples include "The Winner Takes It All" and "Knowing Me, Knowing You".
"When All Is Said And Done", however, manages to mix this trope and Hakuna Matata.
"Chiquitita" is about someone comforting a younger person following a soul-crushing event implied to be a break-up.
Brilliant but Lazy: ABBA never liked touring because it took time away from writing new songs which is why they relied more on music videos and TV appearances.
Benny and Björn appeared in the movie version of Mamma Mia!.note Benny as a pianist in the middle of the sea during "Dancing Queen", Björn fittingly as a God during "Waterloo".
Cute Clumsy Girl: Agnetha was rarely a flashy dancer. This is because, according to her own words, she didn't have as much control over her body as Frida did. There're many fans who describe her dancing as definitely clumsy. Less subjectively, she has also claimed that she can't drive boats without crashing them on the dock and she's bad with computers.
Everything's Better with Princesses: Real Life example. Since 1992, Frida has been formally styled Princess Anni-Frid of Reuss, due to her marriage to a (now-deceased) German prince. (She reportedly doesn't particularly like being addressed by her royal title, though.) She's also a close friend of King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia of Sweden (she reprised "Dancing Queen" for the Queen's 50th birthday gala in 1993), and according to at least one source is a lady-in-waiting of the Queen.
Rags to Royalty: Frida's a Cinderella type. For the sake of hilarity, you can think of the rest of ABBA as her 'musical mice'.
Genki Girl: Frida on the stage. She keeps moving and jumping and she just looks so darned happy during it.
Getting Crap Past the Radar: In "Summer Night City", Björn sings the lyric "Walking in the moonlight, love-making in a park" in the chorus. As the song progresses, it sounds more and more like "Fucking in the moonlight". Years later, Björn admitted that maybe he had dropped the f-bomb once or twice towards the end of the song.
Gold Digger: Frida's character "in Money Money Money", probably.
Jailbait: "Does Your Mother Know" is about a guy in a dance club who realizes that the girl flirting with him is (probably) underage. He's still willing to flirt and talk with her, though, but he's careful not to let things get too far.
Jukebox Musical: Mamma Mia is currently the sixth longest-running show still on Broadway.
Live Album: The patchy ABBA Live was released in 1986, featuring live performances of songs from 1977, 1979 and the Dick Cavett special in 1981 re-rubbed for the 80s. It has fallen out of favour with fans since a higher-quality album, "Live at Wembley Arena" was released in 2014.
Long Runner Line Up: If you go by the release dates of their singles, regardless of the band's name ("Ring Ring" was released in June 1972 when the band was called Björn & Benny, Agentha & Frida; "Under Attack" was released in December 1982), they just managed to qualify as a Type One. If you go by their use of the name ABBA (adopted in late 1973), they just missed qualifying.
Lyrical Dissonance: "The Day Before You Came" and its video sound and look very sinister, but the lyrics themselves (supposedly) describe a woman's mundane life before she met her lover, and implies that she now leads a more interesting life. That said, the song offers no description of what happens AFTER she meets him; anything could have happened afterwards really. We don't even have much clue of who 'you' is actually addressing...
There is a theory that she is actually meeting DEATH and just reflecting her life, which would perfectly explain the sadness of the song.
There are many, many examples of ABBA songs with sad lyrics and happy music. To list a few: "Ring Ring", "Mamma Mia", "If It Wasn't for the Nights","Knowing Me, Knowing You", "Angeleyes", and perhaps "Waterloo".
Milestone Celebration: Mamma Mia! debuted in London's West End on April 6, 1999, twenty-five years to the day after ABBA won the Eurovision Song Contest.
Their albums are often remastered and released with bonus tracks on their respective anniversaries, and new compilations come out by the bucketload when a milestone occurs.
Live at Wembley was released on the 40th anniversary of them winning Eurovision. (Well not quite, as they won it in April and the album was released in September, but within the year at least.)
Noodle Incident: When being interviewed at the Rockbjörnen gala, Frida and Agnetha were asked what was a particularly special memory for them. Frida vaguely mentioned something about wigs and a sink.
No Plot? No Problem!: "The Name Of The Game" has literally no plot; doesn't stop it from being one of ABBA's best videos.
Oh, Crap: In April, 1981, Dick Cavett went to Stockholm to tape an hour-long interview with the group. This was when they were barely speaking to each other, and about 18 months before their last TV appearance as a group. Cavett asked them if their fame had caused them to lose any friends. They sat there dumbfounded for almost 10 seconds before Björn finally forced himself to give an evasive answer.
Old Man Conversation Song: "Hej Gamle Man", a song recorded by Benny and Bjorn in 1970 with Frida and Agnetha on backing vocals.
Omniglot: Björn. Frida is not quite up to his level, but is fluent in Swedish, English and French. She also reads widely, so it is possible she also understands other languages as well.
Pimped-Out Dress: The gang dressed up in 18th-century clothes for the first public performance of "Dancing Queen" at the wedding festivities of Sweden's King Carl XVI Gustaf in 1976.
Pretty in Mink: The girls wore some furs for some videos, including a fox coat in the video for "Money Money Money".
Rearrange the Song: The live version of "I'm a Marionette", performed on their 1977 tour of Europe, the UK and Australia, is starkly different to the version recorded later on for ABBA: The Album. The tempo is much faster (probably closer to 200 BPM while the album version is around 110), Benny's piano is more prominent, Agnetha and Frida's singing conveys more strain and panic, and the whole song has a more urgent feel.
Red Oni, Blue Oni: Frida and Agnetha. Agnetha herself has said: "I don't want to hide the fact that Frida and I had opposite backgrounds, temperaments and personalities."
The outfits they wore in their early performances of "Waterloo" — both in the official video and in their performance at the Eurovision Song Contest — followed this trope.
Ditto the video for "Chiquitita".
Inverted Trope: Oddly enough, Agnetha dresses in red tones and Frida in blue in the "Take A Chance On Me" video.
Self-Backing Vocalist: On songs where Agnetha and Frida share the lead, they often provide dual backing vocals as well. A good example is "Honey, Honey". If only one is singing lead, the other acts as a backing vocalist for the chorus (with a few exceptions).
Sensual Spandex: Frida's and Agnetha's costumes in 1979. They can be seen in the "Voulez-Vous" video.
Ship Tease: Even while the actual couples were still together, there was occasionally a bit of Benny/Agnetha and Björn/Frida flirting on stage.
Björn/Frida was especially played with during their duet performances of "Why Did It Have to Be Me?" in the 1977 tour, as can be seen in ABBA: The Movie. You can also see it in the video for "Head Over Heels", wherein Björn plays Frida's Henpecked Boyfriend who's dragged everywhere by Frida on her shopping trip and is forced to carry her purchases.
In Guilty Gear, which is already rife with musical references, there's a character named A.B.A.
JoJo's Bizarre Adventurenote Like Guilty Gear, it has loads of musical references. has a weird history with referencing ABBA. In the Japanese version, they haven't been mentioned, yet. In the official English version, the name of the character Enya was blended with ABBA, supposedly to avoid legal issues, resulting in Enyaba. Then there's the fluke of Abbachio, whose name is an actual Italian word note It's a colloquial term which roughly means 'lamb that will be sent to the slaughterhouse'; and now you know., and isn't meant to reference ABBA at all.
Soundtrack Dissonance: The producers of Community used several ABBA songs — "Waterloo," "SOS," "Dancing Queen" and "Gimme, Gimme, Gimme (a Man After Midnight)" — in their 2010 Halloween episode "Epidemiology" as the soundtrack for the episode's Zombie Apocalypse. (Note that they didn't use "The Visitors (Crackin' Up)," whose ominous music and paranoid lyrics should have made it a natural addition to Dean Pelton's — or any ABBA fan's — Halloween playlist.)
Double-s Andersson (Benny) vs. single-s Anderson (Stig).
Because the group's name is an acronym of their initials, it should be spelled "ABBA" (all caps), not "Abba" as is now common.
Spin-Off Babies: During the turn of the Millennium, there were the *A-Teens. Originally a tribute band supposed to be called the ABBA Teens, their first album consisted solely of ABBA covers with more of a teen pop sheen. However, after that, they diverted into more original songs.
Spotlight-Stealing Squad: Agnetha to Frida. The latter was meant to be the star of the band, as brunettes are to Nordics what blondes are to pretty much the rest of the world. It begs the question: is Agnetha an Ensemble Darkhorse?
Interestingly, Frida is the only one to openly regret the fact that ABBA never had a reunion.
It should be noted that Frida had a more successful solo career than Agnetha post-ABBA. (Agnetha's popularity in Sweden before ABBA began probably rivalled that of many current pop stars including Britney Spears.)
Stage Names: Mild examples. "Frida" is Anni-Frid's nickname, but the name she is commonly referred to (post-ABBA releases just bill her as Frida). Benny Andersson was born Göran Andersson. Agnetha Fältskog was born Agneta Fältskog, but added the "h" just before her pre-ABBA solo career took off. Bjorn Ulvaeus was almost Bjorn Andersson, but Bjorn's father changed the family surname as he believed "Andersson" was too common. (And it would have confused the hell out of people thinking Benny and Bjorn were brothers, even though they may as well be!)
Stalker with a Crush: Agnetha was stalked in the 90s. The guy said he was in love with her since he was 6. Interestingly, this actually turned into a relationship which lasted years!
"Funny Aneurysm" Moment: Years earlier, Agnetha had played a stalker in one of her solo videos, "I Won't Let You Go".
"Take a Chance On Me" is about a female stalker telling the object of her adoration that she has the patience to wait for him while he sees other women. (Read the lyrics.) Agnetha and Frida sing the chorus together, but alternate singing solos in the verses. In the video, Agnetha plays it straight while Frida occasionally mugs and gyrates, possibly with the intent of portraying mental instability.
Also, one of ABBA's last songs "Under Attack" was about being stalked, and being in a constant state of fear because of it.
The song "Sitting in the Palm Tree" also qualifies. The narrator (aka Bjorn) climbs up a palm tree just to watch a girl through her window. Yep, totally not creepy at all...
Step Up to the Microphone: Björn sang lead on one or two songs on each of the early Abba albums (the most well-known being "Rock Me" and "Does Your Mother Know"), though "Two for the Price of One" was his only lead vocal on the two later albums. Benny had one lead vocal in the band's entire career, "Suzy Hang-Around".
She never liked touring and had to battle a lot of phobias (including a fear of flying that wasn't helped by a near-disaster during their only U.S. tour).
Surprisingly Good English: Considering that Björn, Benny and Stig were all born and raised in Sweden and that none of them traveled to an English-speaking country until after they had started writing songs in English, their precision in English grammar and word usage is quite amazing. However, there are occasionally some (very) minor gaffes:
"Fernando": The lyric "Since many years I haven't seen a rifle in your hands" should be "For many years I haven't seen a rifle in your hands." Reason: Björn has acknowledged that he was in a bit of a hurry writing this song. He said he didn't realize that he'd included the Swedish structure "since many years" in the lyric until after the record had been released.
"If I had to do the same again, I would, my friend" from the same song is harder to replace, but still sounds wrong. "If I had to" carries more force than the intended "If had to consider doing the same in a similar situation"; sadly, the latter doesn't quite scan.
"The Winner Takes it All": The lyric, "The gods may throw a dice," should be "The gods may throw the dice." Reason: "Dice" is plural. "Die" is singular. (It could also be "The gods may throw a die." However, that doesn't rhyme with the next line, "Their hearts as cold as ice.")
The Oxford English Dictionary does today recognise the use of "dice" as a singular term. It was completely wrong during ABBA's period, though.
Early song "Santa Rosa" has a few lines which indicate Björn's English wasn't quite up to scratch at this point. "Cause I have found no other place where I would stay" and "How I regret the day when I set up to go". "How I wish to see the old house where I used to live" is technically correct but is not something a native English speaker would say. Of course the other novelty about this song is that whichever Santa Rosa he's referring to (there are quite a few places with the name around the world), it's nowhere near Stockholm.
In "The Day Before You Came", Agnetha sings both doubt and later undoubtedly with a clearly pronounced b. In doubt and related words, the b is mute.
Rutger Gunnarsson (bass) and Ola Brunkert (drummer). We don't blame you if you didn't know about them.
Trope Codifier: ABBA revolutionized the use of the music video. Before them, music videos consisted of filming the band as if the viewer was part of the audience. ABBA turned the videos into stories.
Not quite! It's true that they changed the aesthetics of music videos, but the point of most of them was to provide eye candy for the audience. As a result, their music videos mostly consisted of ABBA doing dance routines in a studio, but they rarely had plot. To be fair, their videos WERE low-budget...
Your Cheating Heart: Subverted in "Crazy World". Bjorn thinks his lover is cheating on him and confronts her about it, but then the girl calms him down and tells her that it's only her brother who has come to stay.