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File:Abba001.jpg


ABBA was a Swedish pop supergroup of The Seventies and early Eighties composed of Agnetha Fältskog, Björn Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson and Anni-Frid Lyngstad (the band name is an acronym of the first letter of each member's given name).

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 Classic Muriels Wedding - ABBA has always been especially huge in the Land Down Under. More directly, Benny and Björn collaborated twice 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.

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.

ABBA songs:


They provide examples of:

  • A Day in the Limelight: The "Ring, Ring" album had all four members lead, but most of the songs afterwards the women singing lead. The following is exception, on where the male members are the one who are the lead singers:
    • “Sitting in the Palm tree”, “Watch Out”, “Crazy World”, “Man in the Middle”, “Move On”, “Does Your Mother Know”, and “Two for The Price of One” are sung lead by Bjorn.
    • “Suzy-Hang-Around” has Benny singing lead.
  • Affectionate Gesture to the Head: Done by Frida to Agnetha in this video.
    • Frida also does it to Bjorn in the "Head Over Heels" video, though it's meant to be more condescending than affectionate.
  • Affectionate Parody:
  • A God Am I: "I Am The City".
  • A Good Name for a Rock Band: There's quite a long story behind this, 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.
    • Played for laughs in "I Am an A". The lyrics were written by the whole band as a collective. Sung only during the Australian '77 tour, it was never put into album.
    • 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.
  • All of the Other Reindeer: Children fathered by German soldiers were shunned in Norway. Oh, Frida.
    • Because the situation in Norway at the time including incarnation for those fathered by German men, Frida and her grandmother opted for the only solution that worked... go to Sweden. As it turns out, many others did the same thing.
  • 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.)
  • Anti-Love Song: "Should I Laugh Or Cry?"
  • Bare Your Midriff: Quite a few outfits.
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: Check out Frida and Benny getting on each other's nerves in the "Summer Night City" video.
  • Bookworm: Frida loves reading. According to herself, as a child, she would borrow up to 10 books at a time from the library. Among her favourite books are Lord of the Rings and the works of Anais Nin.
  • 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"
  • Broken Ace: Agnetha.
  • But Not Too Foreign: Frida has half-German, half-Norwegian blood, but was raised and identifies as Swedish.
  • Cassandra Truth: "Cassandra"
  • Cerebus Syndrome: Their last album was dark. Of course, considering what was going on with them, this is totally justified.
  • Christmas Songs: "Happy New Year" is close enough.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Agnetha is a dark version. See Groupie Brigade.
  • Creator Breakdown: The band's last album The Visitors and after that, their last recorded song The Day Before You Came. Agnetha was clearly on the verge of tears for the latter song.
    • The three songs the band initially recorded for their ninth album, "You Owe Me One", "I Am The City" and "Just Like That" (which is still unreleased) are joyful and upbeat. However, when the album was cancelled they decided to record three new songs for a Greatest Hits. Something must have happened between the sessions because the last three songs they recorded, "Under Attack", "Cassandra" and "The Day Before You Came" are very dark indeed (well, Under Attack isn't musically, but it is lyrically).
  • Creator Cameo: In the "Head Over Heels" video, Frida bumps into director Lasse Hallstrom (the guy in the puffy blue coat).
    • Benny and Bjorn appeared in the movie version of Mamma Mia.[1]
  • 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.
  • Day in the Life: "The Day Before You Came".
  • Disappeared Dad: Frida didn't meet her father til she was in her 30s.
    • Missing Mom: Her mother also died when Frida was a toddler; she was raised by her grandmother.
  • Dyeing for Your Art / Dye Hard: Frida's hair stylist must've gotten rich from performing all those re-dos and dye jobs.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: Their early material is more in the vein of rock, ballads and showtunes. Later on they'd go in a more pop and disco direction.
  • Europop
  • Eurovision Song Contest
  • 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'.
  • Everything's Better with Sparkles: When the average person thinks of ABBA, said person will surely think of sparkly costumes.
  • Faux Documentary: ABBA: The Movie.
  • Fiery Redhead: Frida while in Australia.
  • Five-Man Band
  • Four-Temperament Ensemble: Frida is sanguine, Bjorn is choleric, Agnetha is melancholic and Benny is phlegmatic.
  • Gender Equal Ensemble
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: In "Summer Night City", Bjorn 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, Bjorn admitted that maybe he had dropped the f-bomb once or twice towards the end of the song.
    • In this clip, Frida teases the viewers by almost saying the f-bomb of her own.
  • Gold Digger: Frida's character "in Money Money Money", probably.
  • Good Looking Privates: Their clothes in Waterloo were probably meant to invoke this.
  • Gratuitous French: "Voulez-Vous"
  • Gratuitous Spanish:
  • Greatest Hits Album: Several, actually, the most famous being "ABBA Gold".
  • Grief Song: "Slipping Through My Fingers", "The Winner Takes It All".
  • Groupie Brigade: Certainly in Abba: The Movie. Probably Truth in Television.
  • Hair of Gold: Agnetha's image. She sings the phrase almost verbatim in "Thank You For The Music".
  • He Also Did: You know Lasse Hallstrom, the guy who directed Chocolat? He also directed most of ABBA's music videos and The Movie.
  • Henpecked Boyfriend: Oddly enough, Bjorn played this to Frida in the "Head Over Heels" video. He reluctantly follows Frida around on her shopping trip and is forced to carry her bags.
  • Heroic Bastard: Frida. (Also the band's manager, Stig Anderson)
  • High School AU: "When I Kissed The Teacher".
  • "I Am" Song: "Thank You For The Music"
    • "I Am An A", in a different way.
  • "I Am Becoming" Song: "I Wonder"
  • Important Haircut / What Do You Mean Its Not Symbolic: You could say Agnetha's haircut in the late 70s symbolized ABBA going downhill...
  • Instrumentals: "Arrival" and "Intermezzo no. 1".
  • Intercourse with You:
    • "Andante Andante"
    • "Honey, Honey" -- sung moaning sounds (actually, heavy breathing) and implied larger-than-normal endowment.
  • "I Want" Song: "I Have A Dream".
  • Jukebox Musical: Currently the sixth longest-running show still on Broadway.
  • Kids Are Cruel: "Suzy Hang-Around".
  • Lemony Narrator: Agnetha for "Head Over Heels".
  • Light Feminine and Dark Feminine: Three guesses, no prizes.
  • Light Is Not Good: "Super trouper, lights are gonna blind me..."
    • And what to say of the girls donning white clothes and blonde wigs while singing "I'm A Marionette"?
    • The combination of a squeaky-clean and family-friendly image with loads of Lyrical Dissonance and What Do You Mean It's Not for Kids? means the concept of ABBA as a whole fits this trope incredibly well.
  • Long Runner Lineup: 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 are many, many examples of ABBA songs with sad lyrics and happy music. To list a few: "Ring Ring", "Mamma Mia", "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.
  • Missing Episode: "Just Like That", "Get On The Carousel" and "I Am An A" were never officially released. The first one has bootlegs but is incomplete, the second one can only be heard in The Movie and the third one in (bad-quality) fan recordings.
    • The 1977 Australian tour is kind of a one too; all the released footage is in The Movie, but many performances are severely compressed, or outright cut. Sad, considering it was the most important tour of ABBA's career.
    • "I'm Still Alive," one of only two songs Agnetha wrote while in the band[2] was only performed on the 1979 Europe/America tour. It might have been videorecorded for the SVT documentary about this tour, but the only film or audio recordings in circulation are (again) low-quality fan-recorded bootlegs.
  • Money Song: "Money Money Money".
  • My Name Is Not Durwood: 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 corrected anybody?)
  • Nice Hat: Frida in the "Money Money Money" video.
  • Noodle Incident: When being interviewed at the Rockbjornen 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 Bjorn finally forced himself to give an evasive answer.
  • Omniglot: Bjorn.
  • One-Woman Wail: Performed by Frida at the end of "The Day Before You Came".
  • Painted-On Pants: Agnetha, Frida and Bjorn often wore these during their concerts.
  • Performance Video
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Reluctant Fanservice Girl: Agnetha.
  • The Rival: Tabloid-wanking aside, both girls have acknowledged that they did, in fact, compete on-stage for the audience's attention.
  • Sanity Slippage Song: "I'm A Marionette", "Get on the Carousel", "Me and I", "The Visitors".
  • 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 Bjorn/Frida flirting on stage.
    • Bjorn/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 Bjorn plays Frida's Henpecked Boyfriend who's dragged everywhere by Frida on her shopping trip and is forced to carry her purchases.
  • Shout-Out: Partially. In DK Country 3: Dixie Kong's Double Trouble, there are two bear characters named Benny and Björn. They run a ski-lift business...in a warm, rocky area.
    • In Guilty Gear, which is already rife with musical references, there's a character named A.B.A.
    • Jo Jos Bizarre Adventure[3] 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[4], and isn't meant to reference ABBA at all.
  • Signature Song: "Dancing Queen", "Mamma Mia".
  • Spell My Name with an "S": Frida's name was frequently misspelled, even at press conferences.
    • 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.
  • Spinoff Babies: During the turn of the Millenium, 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.
  • Spoken Word in Music: The beginning of "Move On".
  • 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.
  • Stalker with a Crush: Agnetha was stalked in the 90s. The guy said he was in love with her since he was 6.
    • Funny Aneurysm Moment: Years earlier, Agnetha had played a stalker in one of her solo videos, "I Won't Let You Go".
      • "I've Been Waiting for You" on their eponym album ABBA has several undertones of this, although the lyrics are left ambiguous whether Agnetha is only secretly crushing on the man or indeed considering making him agree he is in love with her and that he belongs to her.
      • "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.
  • Stepford Smiler: Agnetha, type A.
    • 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 Bjorn, 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: Bjorn 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.
    • "Super Trouper": The lyric, "But I won't feel blue like I always do," should be "as I always do." Reason: Clauses with verbs and adverbs should start with a conjunction ("as"), never a preposition ("like").
    • "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 Bjorn'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.
  • Took a Level In Badass: Just watch
  • The Movie: ABBA: The Movie
    • ABBA: The Soap. I am not kidding you. It was shaped like a cassette tape.
  • This Is No Time to Panic: The song "The Visitors" is about a dissident having a panic attack when (she believes) the Secret Police ring her doorbell.
  • Those Two Guys: Benny and Björn
    • 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...
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Frida and Agnetha
  • Viewers are Morons: The video for "Lay All Your Love On Me".
  • Whoopi Epiphany Speech: "Chiquitita".

Notes

  1. Benny as a pianist in the middle of the sea during "Dancing Queen", Bjorn fittingly as a God during "Waterloo".
  2. The other is "Disillusion," from the Ring Ring album.
  3. Like Guilty Gear, it has loads of musical references.
  4. It's a colloquial term which roughly means 'lamb that will be sent to the slaughterhouse'; and now you know.
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