1000 Albums Project

ALBUM 316

ABBA Gold: Greatest Hits, by ABBA
Suggested by Mike Wootton (Guilty Pleasure)

There are nineteen songs on ABBA Gold.

Of those nineteen, I know sixteen. And by “know”, I mean “can sing the chorus and most of the verses.”

After my listen today, I realised that, of the three songs I didn’t know, I actually did know two of them. Which leaves a single entry on this Greatest Hits album that I hadn’t heard (or retained after hearing) before: the slightly forgettable One of Us.

The kicker? I’ve never knowingly listened to an ABBA album.

Surely there’s no point in me reviewing this? Who doesn’t know ABBA, and these songs? All I have to do is list a few titles, and you’ll be humming along.

Dancing Queen.

Mamma Mia.

Super Trouper.

Waterloo.

You’re now singing at least one of these songs in your head. For the record? My favourite is Knowing Me, Knowing You, thanks to Alan Partridge.

ABBA are insidious and pervasive. They are in film soundtracks such as Muriel’s Wedding, Priscilla Queen of the Desert and of course Mamma Mia, plus in countless TV shows and more. ABBA are omnipresent. ABBA are inevitable. ABBA are Legion

My statements may sound mean-spirited, but they are anything but. The reason for the band’s successes? It’s because they can do it. ABBA can write songs, perfect songs, unforgettable and emotional and uplifting songs. Songs that make you smile, and dream, and dance.

There aren’t many bands with such a stacked resumé. The Beatles, sure. Queen. I’d also venture Madness, which shows my personal bias. But even great acts such as these have made me work to absorb their oeuvre, and they all have a few clunkers in their back catalogue. ABBA? Their songs are just there, in my head, as if I’m Neo in The Matrix but instead of knowing Kung Fu I know Seventies Swedish Pop.

When reviewing previous non-compilation albums of such well-loved and successful acts, I’ve levelled the accusation of “Singles Band” their way with a wagging finger. Having never heard a non-compilation ABBA album before, I googled their studio release tracklists to see if I should tar them with the same brush. After reading a top-hat full of meaningless song titles, I definitely brand ABBA with the Singles Band iron. As far as I’m concerned, they wrote eighteen songs and not a single note more.

It’d be so easy to mock ABBA. They are pure glitzy camp, massively overplayed, revered by some to an almost criminal degree. But there’s simply no denying they have absolute mastery of the form. Their songs provide the boogie backdrop to an entire generation. If you don’t like ABBA, you’ve a black and shrivelled heart.

ABBA Gold gets 8/10. Agnetha, Bjorn, Benny and Anni-Frid… thank you for the music.

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