MOMENTOUS MONDAYS: ICONIC & IDENTITY-BUILDING ARTISTS OF ALL TIME – WEEK 3: ABBA

Type the words ‘best bands of all time’ into Google and you get a plethora of results. Literally. Hundreds upon hundreds of publications, lists where these authors of said publications, try to determine who they reckon are the greatest bands of history…and as a result, you get a myriad of bands that account for each publication’s personal ‘top 10’…or top _____. There are the non-negotiables in any of these lists, like The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and Queen, bands which are unanimously known across the board, and are known by everybody to be objectively good, even if people’s personal tastes change across the years and people fall in and out of love with a certain band over time (for example, one diehard group of people may love Queen forever, while another group won’t and another group would be indifferent about them altogether). Then there’s the bands that show up in most publications and are agreed on for the most part by these publications- bands from the likes of The Beach Boys, The Bee Gees, The Eagles and Fleetwood Mac, to The Police, Chicago, Simon & Garfunkel, and Bon Jovi. There’s also the bands that are sparingly discussed amongst the various publications, present in just a few, but not in others, bands that aren’t necessarily as unanimously agreed upon as Queen or The Beatles, but still agreed on amongst publications here and there- bands that are somewhat on the ‘fringes’, considering their musical niche; bands from the likes of Oasis, Guns‘N’Roses, Foo Fighters, Nirvana and Blondie, to Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Radiohead, The Who, R.E.M. and Metallica; to name a few. U2 is even placed on various publications online, presented by a lot of these internet articles as being one of the best rock bands of all time. U2 was an artist that I wrote early on in 2019 as part of my Top 100 Artists initial blog…and maybe if I had my time again, I would’ve placed them, no question, here in this blog series of 50 Iconic and Identity-Building artists, for sure. Regardless, U2 are considered one of the best of the best…and with songs like ‘With or Without You’, ‘All I Want is You’, ‘Where the Streets Have No Name’ and ‘Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For’, need I say more?

What I’ve realised from glancing at various ‘best bands of all time’ articles online, is that even within the confines and context of the criteria of being a ‘best band’…well, there’s lots of definitions of that, and there are plenty of artists that turn up in these lists, that are indeed influential and impactful to the music niche that these bands cater for. Sure, some of these bands I’ve just aforementioned above, are present on this top 50 Iconic and Identity-Building Artists blog series, but a lot of them are not (and that’s ok)- I’ll be refining this list of artists under the label and umbrella of ‘Iconic and Identity-Building Artists of All Time’ in the upcoming weeks, maybe some bands/solo artists will come into this top-50 list, while others may exit such a list as well. But as I was perusing and viewing a bunch of these publications online pertaining to the topic of ‘best bands of all time’, there’s one band in particular that is indeed absent on virtually any list online (expect on a few ‘best pop bands of all time’ publications- namely by Esquire, Ranker & IMDB, which is a shame, in my opinion!)…and yes, you guessed it. It is indeed the band I’m to discuss this week, and if I’m completely honest, you can’t have any iconic artists blog post list without this band in it.

Maybe I’m old fashioned, and maybe I just enjoy this band a lot (because my parents were solid fans of this group), but I have to say, that no list is complete without at least the acknowledgement of quite possibly one of the most impactful bands to arise from a country that is not the U.S.A., Australia, Canada, NZ, Ireland or even the U.K. Hailing from Sweden (home to artists like Robyn, Ace of Base, Roxette, Zara Larsson, Avicii and Swedish House Mafia), they are by far one of the most impactful and iconic international bands ever, and while they aren’t necessarily as recognised in the plethora of ‘best bands of all time’ publications online, ABBA are definitely as iconic as a band like Queen or the Stones. Maybe when people think of impactful and popular bands, they automatically gravitate to bands from English speaking countries, and maybe ABBA are overlooked because of their 40 year break between albums. Or maybe, people just don’t place Swedish bands in high regard, on a subconscious level. Whatever the case, ABBA’s music to me, is timeless; even though people may not gravitate towards them as much today, compared to the 1970s and 80s when Benny, Bjorn, Agnetha and Anni-Frid were in their heyday.

ABBA’s been at it for quite some time, since their humble beginnings in the 1970s, and releasing single after single after single, all throughout that decade and into the 1980s. They’ve been the most successful band to ever get their start or ‘big break’ from a competition show- ABBA was entered into the 1974 edition of Eurovision with the song ‘Waterloo’- the band won that year for the country of Sweden, and it was the first time that this quartet would perform under the acronym ABBA (the first letters of their 4 first names- Agnetha, Benny, Bjorn and Anni-Frid); as their debut album was unveiled under the credit of ‘Björn & Benny, Agnetha & Frida’. Fast-forward to 2022, and 9 albums later, this band from the humble abode of Sweden has now become a household name. Their songs have stood the test of time, so much so that there was a 1999 jukebox musical titled Mamma Mia unveiled in ABBA’s honour- the musical was an original thought, yet the songs were all from ABBA’s discography. The musical itself became a massive hit over the years; and has since been adapted for the screen. In 2008, Mamma Mia the movie was released to critical and commercial success and acclaim- and with star actors like Meryl Streep, Pierce Brosnan, Stellan Skarsgard, Colin Firth, Amanda Seyfried, Christine Baranski and Julie Walters; the movie rose to 5th in the rankings of highest grossing movies in 2008. Ten years later was the movie Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again, and with virtually all the previous 2008 cast coming back to reprise their roles in the sequel movie, the 2018 jukebox musical further proved the impact, influence, and iconic nature of ABBA in general.

Yes, these songs are indeed 40 years old (some maybe more), but what Mamma Mia and its sequel remind us, is the fact that when a good song is a good song is a good song; then time is no barrier, nor obstacle. Songs don’t necessarily have to be newer to be better, and on a similar vein, just because a song is ____ years old, doesn’t mean that it can’t be applicable and impactful for the current generation of now. As I sit and view the musical landscape of now, as much as I think I can see it; I have to say that I’m unfortunately bummed, upset, and disappointed, by the prospect of how pop is leaning much more into EDM these days (and for a fact, that much of pop music now is expletive-ridden, something that wasn’t the case ____ years ago). Maybe that’s how the demand of the market of pop songs are going these days. Or maybe artists cared more of their musical craft back then, as opposed to now. Whatever the case, pop music nowadays just isn’t the same as it was before.

There’s a reason why ABBA are the top selling Swedish band/artist of all time (closely followed by Roxette, a Swedish duo who also had their heyday a while ago, in the 1980s), and there’s a reason why their songs are still impacting people and listeners, to this day. Artists come and go, and yes, it’s actually looking like their comeback album Voyage (that was unveiled to us all in 2021) would probably be their last. But be that as it may, Benny, Bjorn, Anni-Frid and Agnetha have given to us 9 wonderful albums of hope, enthusiasm, passion, love, encouragement, loss, lament, and excitement. Never has there been a band like ABBA, and never will there be again (maybe, just maybe, Steps, a vocal group from Britain, could come close by the end of their career also). But what will remain are their songs that have lasted decades upon decades, and maybe even decades more. Songs like ‘Dancing Queen’, ‘Knowing Me, Knowing You’, ‘The Winner Takes It All’, ‘Waterloo’, ‘Money, Money, Money’, ‘Mamma Mia’, ‘Fernando’, ‘Gimme, Gimme, Gimme’, ‘Take a Chance on Me’, ‘One Of Us’, ‘I Have A Dream’, ‘Thank You For the Music’ and ‘Happy New Year’ (and many, many more) have imprinted upon our hearts, and if I’m being honest, these songs by ABBA seem to be more relatable (and dare I say, catchier) than most other pop songs unveiled around a similar time to ABBA’s music (and most other pop songs unveiled to listeners today as well!).

There’s a sense of nostalgia when I listen to these songs from ABBA, as I’m reminded back to my own childhood. When I was younger (around the ages of 5 – 12), my parents listened to ABBA– not a lot, but quite a bit. While my brother and I listened to Carman’s whole discography (and then later on during my preteen years, we listened to Delirious?, Steven Curtis Chapman, Tim Hughes, Chris Tomlin and Rebecca St. James); my parents had a Best-Of ABBA CD (Gold: Greatest Hits), while also having The Beatles #1s CD too. They heavily rotated those two albums on the CD player, so I guess by default, my brother and I heard these two albums as well. And while we heard mostly Christian music when we were growing up, we would hear the song ‘Dancing Queen’ or ‘Mamma Mia’ every once in a while. While not venomously opposed to ABBA’s music, I don’t think my brother and I were at the stage in our age that we could fully appreciate, grasp or even understand, ABBA’s music for what it truly was (which is this)- songs about relationships, and more specifically, songs to do with breakups. With a lot of songs throughout ABBA’s discography inspired by the real lives of these four people; much of their songs about heartbreak and heartache (‘One of Us’, ‘The Winner Takes it All’, ‘SOS’, ‘Knowing Me, Knowing You’) became some of their best-charting and relatable songs that they’ve ever recorded- leaning into the fact and understanding that breakups and bad personal lives lead to great songs, which in a blunt and crude way, it’s true.

ABBA was truly a band that had as much drama behind the scenes, as they did in front of it- Bjorn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson were married to Agnetha Faltskog and Anni-Frid Lyngstad respectively, and after their respective divorces (yes, both couples received divorces at similar times while also marrying at similar times too), ABBA didn’t have the same infectious joy that it once had. A song like ‘The Winner Takes it All’ was borne out of that personal moment, and remains to this day, as being one of the most saddest pop songs to ever have graced our radio waves…ever. The first time I heard ‘Knowing Me, Knowing You’ (and really understood it), I made this assumption that all of ABBA’s music was like that, and then my parents said that this song was written in response to each of the members’ relationships and marriages failing, and then I understood the song a little more. Even the songs ‘SOS’ and ‘One of Us’ were about the members of the band’s personal lives, and though not as ‘popular’ as the songs ‘The Winner Takes it All’ and ‘Knowing Me, Knowing You’, these two songs still convey the hardships and difficulties that may come from relationship breakdowns that happen very publicly, especially ABBA, who were very much in the public eye, upon the time of said relationship breakdowns.

I would have to say that the song ‘The Winner Takes it All’ would have to be one of the saddest songs ABBA has ever recorded and created, and by extension, one of the saddest songs in the 1970s decade…period. The song was written by Bjorn after separating from wife and fellow band member Agnetha (so I’m sure it was pretty awkward and just plain weird when the final product had Agnetha sing the whole song solo, without anyone else singing)- the song itself is about a persona who doesn’t want to separate and wants to cling to, as long as possible, a marriage that was probably sinking and doomed, maybe from the word ‘go’- therefore, for Agnetha to sing the song when it was really a song from Bjorn to her (his own thoughts put to the page); must’ve been very interesting to even contemplate singing…thus- hats off and kudos to Agnetha for even taking it like a champ and singing on the track, because if it were any other band and any other two people, then I don’t think the song would’ve been made- it would have been too awkward. ‘One of Us’ is another heartbreak song, released in 1981, and again reflects upon the failed marriage between the two men to the two women in the band- the song, written by Bjorn and Benny, were indeed sung by the two women, thereby having a ‘woman’s perspective’, even though it probably had a ‘male’ POV. The song suggests that in any post-breakup, out of the two people exiting said relationship, one of them usually does better or ‘rebounds’ better than the other person. ‘SOS’, written and recorded in 1975, showcases a relationship where the persona is reflecting upon how even though their ‘lover’ is right there next to them, that they feel alone. They send out an ‘SOS’, asking their significant other to initiate a connection with them, because ‘when you’re gone, how can I even try to go on?’- they may not be gone physically, but more often than not, relationships often fail even when both people are present in it physically…when emotionally and mentally, they could be a mile away. ‘Knowing Me, Knowing You’ is the other ‘breakup’ song, that was written and recorded in 1976, years before both couples broke up- the song is about a couple’s relationship and how it is strained, and how both people in it realise that divorce is a plausible option for them, that could possibly be on the cards and considered moving forward. The song could’ve been a foreshadowing of actual divorces that happened between them in the future, but alas, a song could still also be…a song. Isn’t it funny how life can imitate art sometimes, right?

While it’s these four songs that I’ve just aforementioned above, have a lot to do with relationship breakdown and breakups; there’s plenty of other tracks throughout the band’s whole career that are much more pop-driven and ‘bubblegum’ if you will, songs that are much more positive and a lot less bleak- ‘Take a Chance on Me’, ‘Lay All Your Love On Me’, ‘Super Trouper’, ‘Money, Money, Money’, ‘Voulez Vous’, ‘Gimme, Gimme, Gimme’, ‘The Name of the Game’ and ‘Thank You For the Music’ are just some of the more upbeat songs from ABBA’s catalogue, and all these songs have a much more sunnier deposition compared to heartfelt emotional kickers like ‘The Winner Takes it All’ (which I believe is actually one of the band’s most emotive and personal that they’ve ever done, despite it coming from a place of hurt, hopelessness and pain). ‘Take a Chance on Me’ is a way for the persona to sing to their potential lover, wanting them to ‘take a chance on me’, to leap beyond the unknown and to step forward into excitement and new possibilities, while ‘Lay All Your Love On Me’, as danceable as it is, is actually a lament and a heeding warning-  this song, written in 1980 (just mere years before the band split) is actually a song that showcases the persona losing what is dear to them, and not knowing where and when love is coming back for them (and who in the form of). ‘Super Trouper’ is a reminder of the one special someone we all have in our lives, especially in the sea of sameness, hustle, bustle, and busyness, because as this song suggests, we’re to remember that ‘…tonight the super trouper beams are gonna blind me, but I won’t feel blue, like I always do cause somewhere in the crowd there’s you…’; whilst ‘Money, Money, Money’ is a tongue-in-cheek song about a persona declaring that they’ll be happier and more fulfilled if they have more money, when in reality, the meaning of the song is the exact opposite of what is being sung- that sometimes having more money won’t necessarily make us as fulfilled as we think it would make us.

‘Voules-Vous’ translates into English (from French) as to meaning ‘Do You Want?’, and the song ‘Voules-Vous’ is a track where the personas are asking their potential lovers if they still want them seriously relationship-wise, or if they are just fooling around, stringing them along and not being serious; whilst ‘Gimme, Gimme, Gimme (A Man After Midnight)’ showcases Agnetha Faltskog singing as the main vocalist, in a track where the persona lives a life that is lonely compared to people that she meets, and even the ‘celebrities’ that she ‘idolises’. She desperately wants a companion, a ‘man after midnight’, someone that actually stays the night rather than disappears after the ‘fun’ is over- a metaphor for someone who sticks it out relationally, rather than someone who runs when things get tough. ‘Gimme, Gimme, Gimme’ is actually sung from the POV of a lonely woman looking for true and lasting love, rather than someone longing for companionship of the sexual kind or someone wanting some kind of hedonistic release, someone who could potentially view men as a ‘means to an end’. ‘The Name of the Game’, though upbeat, speaks about a theme that is unfortunately not too uncommon, even now- a scenario where the persona falls in ‘love’ with their psychologist, someone in a position of ‘power’ who has helped them ‘open up’, become much more vulnerable, and this persona credits this help as a way of expression of ‘love’ given to them. ‘The Name of the Game’ is a song where the persona is wrestling with their ‘feelings’, and we’re reminded that more often than not, people in private patient-psychologist ‘relationships’ can often mistake a general wellbeing concern with some kind of ‘love’. ABBA then deliver ‘Thank You For the Music’, a song that, years later, people ascribe to being a love letter from the band to the fans. The song is a way of saying thank you to the people who have stuck with them, by them, who’ve supported them over the years. That through the support, it has led them to continue to make music over the years, thus, titling the song ‘Thank You For the Music’ is very appropriate- ABBA thanking us for the music that they have continued to make by way of us supporting them (because frankly, without loyal fans of any music artist, well…that artist will sure fade into oblivion sooner or later, right?).

I would have to say that if someone tells me to rattle off a few ABBA songs that really sum up what this group is about, I’d have to gravitate to the songs that almost everyone knows- songs like ‘Waterloo’, ‘I Have a Dream’, ‘Mamma Mia’ and ‘Dancing Queen’, even slower songs like ‘Fernando’ and ‘Chiquitta’. ‘Waterloo’, a track that actually put ABBA onto the map just prior to the release of their second album in 1974, led to the band winning Eurovision of that particular year, with the unveiling of ‘Waterloo’ as the song that this young band entered into said competition, effectively promoting the band to stardom almost overnight. ABBA (the name of the band) was borne out of ‘Waterloo’- prior to that song, the band was named Björn & Benny, Agnetha & Frida. The song itself depicts the persona (a woman, or a man) surrendering to their lover and falling complete head-over-heels with them; and comparing that feeling to the famed (or infamous, however you look at it) surrender by Napolean and the French military, in the battle of Waterloo way back in 1815. ‘Fernando’, a song of hope and lament, of joy and sorrow, has the lyrics that depict two friends, one of whom is named Fernando. In the song, these two friends reflect and contemplate the life they have lived, sharing memories of war, camaraderie, friendship and loyalty, as we remember the hauntingly compelling lyrics of how ‘…there was something in the air that night, the stars were bright, Fernando, they were shining there for you and me, for liberty, Fernando, though I never thought that we could lose, there’s no regret, if I had to do the same again, I would, my friend, Fernando…’

‘I Have a Dream’, a song famously covered by Westlife back in December 1999 (20 years after the original release by ABBA), is a reminder for each of us to have dreams, goals, and hopes for the future, to reach high and for the skies, knowing that having these things to motivate and encourage us, will hopefully encourage us to look beyond our situations we are in now. ‘I Have A Dream’ allows for us to somehow make sense of the current predicaments we can find ourselves in, because we know that we have these things that we want to attain in the future- and thereby, sometimes we may need to go through these things now, the have a better appreciation of life and of people at the end of the day, all the while reaching for our goals that can hopefully change the world while we’re at it. ‘Chiquitta’, a song of reflection and hopefulness, has ABBA offering a sense of help as this song is directed to…a family member? A person named ‘Chiquitta’? Whoever it’s directed to, the song is one of comfort and solace, as the message of the song is one where the persona longs to lift the downcast person, encouraging them to look at the finer things in life, and to not let hopelessness cast a shadow of depression over them. ABBA then offers two of arguably the most famous songs they’ve ever recorded- the upbeat tracks of ‘Mamma Mia’ and ‘Dancing Queen’- the two songs that almost every person (from a diehard ABBA fan to even the person who doesn’t really know ABBA at all) would know if push comes to shove. ‘Mamma Mia’ the song is actually about something as unfortunate and uninspiring as a relationship breakdown, even though the actual musicality of it is very upbeat and seemingly ‘joyous’- ‘Mamma Mia’ has the persona in the track recognising the actual demise of a relationship that was initially and once romantic; and understanding that there may be no other option than the letting go of the someone that was once held dear to them. ‘Dancing Queen’ would perhaps be the song by the group, and is immediately the song that I think about, when I think about ABBA. A song that can be read as being one that is literally an ode to dancing, the song speaks to a ‘young generation’ (people who grew up in the 1970s) who wanted to break out and dance, maybe even a metaphor and really about breaking free of the strictness placed upon them by their parents. The song could be seen as trying to break free of the rigidness of the structures and the ‘religious’ foundations placed upon people during such a time as the 1970s, or just a song to ‘boogie’ and ‘dance to’ in the nightclubs around that time. However which way you see the song, ‘Dancing Queen’ in 2022 is still a song to dance to- and is a reminder that such a song from the 1970s can still evoke the same emotion and reaction today, as it did back then.

And then…there’s Voyage, an album that happened 40 years after ABBA’s assumed last album. To be completely honest, I don’t think anyone really thought they’d be back with a brand new album. I don’t even think that they thought it was even possible to make a comeback, themselves. In fact, if ABBA could make a comeback as they have with Voyage (an album that they’ve unfortunately mentioned, subsequently, would be their final album), then I guess any band could. Voyage was one of 2021’s most anticipated, and therefore, because of this, the measure of which it has been reviewed and critiqued has been much more critical and downright blunt, because…well, there was high expectations for the album. People have enjoyed it; and have thought that this comeback album from ABBA is one of 2021’s best. While others have felt that this album is seemingly too nostalgic, not keeping with the times; and feeling as though this group of songs aren’t as enthusiastic, passionate, or even ingenious compared to songs of ABBA’s past. Regardless of the polarisation in terms of the response to Voyage, what can be unanimously agreed upon is that ABBA’s work in music wasn’t done after the assumed end point of the 1980s- and Voyage was the result. And with a 2022 virtual tour around England to be highly considered; ABBA’s ability to allow the use of technology to bring together artist and fan alike, is what was actually a large selling point of this album in general. Because I believe, this is the first time that there’s a holographic music tour where the artists are actually living. Sure, there’s been a Whitney Houston holographic tour in 2020, and an upcoming Amy Winehouse hologram tour in the near future. But ABBA are living. Except because of their age, their can’t tour anymore. And so, the future of touring is ironically via holograms…which is what ABBA has done. And with the hype that this album has been given, then why won’t you capitalise on this moment?

I reviewed the album Voyage last year, and what I wrote about the album then, I still stand upon it even now. The album, I felt, split people down the middle- half the population loved this collection of songs, while the other half still thought that this band should’ve just had their last album 40 years ago. But for me, I’m a little torn. I respect ABBA, I really do. I’ve enjoyed songs like ‘I Still Have Faith in You’, ‘Don’t Shut Me Down’ and the album-ender ‘Ode To Freedom’ on this album…yet other songs like ‘When You Danced With Me’ feel too much like the ABBA of old, so much so that the new generation (like myself and people younger than me) won’t probably touch this song with a ten-foot pole. The hard thing that ABBA has to do is to deliver songs that cater towards two different time periods. It has to carry along its listeners and fans from 40 years ago. And it has to create an album that is resembling of where music is right now. And that can be a difficult thing to do- create something that people can relate to at the moment, while still be true to the sound that made you…well, you. And unfortunately, either nostalgia and tradition are going to win out in the end, or ‘relevancy’ and ‘modernism’. It won’t be both. And that is where ABBA falls a little. It’s trying to cater to both markets- with songs like ‘I Still Have Faith in You’ being their next-big anthem, but nothing really else standing out lyrically and melodically across this 10-disc set. Nothing on the album (aside from the first single) really has a ‘pull’ factor like past-standout songs like ‘Dancing Queen’, ‘Take a Chance On Me’, ‘Super Trouper’, ‘Waterloo’, ‘I Have a Dream’, ‘Mamma Mia’ and ‘The Winner Takes it All’…quite frankly; on a holistic level, Voyage seems very forgettable and underwhelming compared to any of their previous songs. Which is a very big shame, because even though the album isn’t that bad (upon the first listen through, songs like ‘I Still Have Faith in You’ really stands out, while songs like ‘Don’t Shut Me Down’ and ‘Ode To Freedom’ are ok); the album isn’t great either.

‘…I would’ve thought 40 years between albums allows the band to come into a well of creativity, but unfortunately; the worse thing for an album- much worse than an album being horrible, is an album being ho-hum, being ok. It’s like the band went in with a dual focus- wanting to appease long-time fans; and wanting to gain new ones. While you get songs like ‘I Still Have Faith in You’ that are great, you also get songs like ‘Just a Notion’, a song that feels like it was recorded in the 1990s; and seems out of place in the sea of pop songs at the moment. ABBA have let a lot of people down with Voyage, unintentionally though, and this album should be a reminder that sometimes its better to leave great artists in the past, because if they come back, in any shape or form; they won’t be like you remember…’ This above quote is what I wrote verbatim in the last paragraph of my Voyage review, and reflecting upon what I wrote even now…well, I still feel the same. Voyage is an album that is just ‘there’, and even if it wasn’t even made, ABBA would still be a great band. Sure, ABBA has given to us a great song in ‘I Still Have Faith in You’, but the indifference of me towards Voyage makes me even affirm my stance, that some albums, like Voyage, need to have had a clearer direction. Nothing against ABBA in a general sense, its just that their last album isn’t as emotive, powerful, and heartfelt as it could’ve been. In fact, I didn’t even know that it was ABBA’s last album until this year, stumbling across the information by accident. It wasn’t directly addressed or hardly publicised at all- I mean there were articles relaying the information, so it wasn’t as if it wasn’t known. But if me, the casual listener of ABBA (on a good day) didn’t know about their ‘breakup’ till now, will anyone else who is also a casual listener know as well? ABBA’s end to a career is seemingly a mixed bag- and the argument of whether they should’ve stayed back in the 1980s, or if they were really and truly celebrated and welcomed into the here and now, will continue to occur for years to come. I just hope that this argument can hopefully bring about new fans of ABBA’s music, and to hopefully promote civil discussions, rather than souring experiences and creating diehard fans for (as well as those against), which isn’t going to do anything for ABBA in the long run.

ABBA’s impact on pop music, Swedish music, and just music in general, is certainly unparalleled. They are the highest selling Swedish group…ever. They are possibly one of the biggest bands to exist the 1970s (alongside Queen and The Rolling Stones), while their music has been celebrated and enjoyed even to this day. Because of Mamma Mia the musical (and subsequently Mamma Mia the 2008 film and Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again the 2018 sequel/prequel), ABBA’s songs have been given new life, and people view them through the musical lens, not just songs from the 1970s that can often feel so far removed from the current situation in society right now. ABBA’s music even inspired a 1999 ‘tribute’ album called ABBAmania featuring ABBA covers from popular British groups, while in the late 1990s, a Swedish boy/girl group called The A-Teens arose. The group was initially an ABBA tribute band, releasing the album The ABBA Generation back in 1999. What resulted from this fast-selling album as the unveiling of three subsequent albums after that- Teen Spirit (2001), Pop Til You Drop (2002) and New Arrival (2003), making The A-Teens a formidable force in the pop arena, rivalling other boy/girl groups that arose to fame around the late 90s/early 2000s, artists like Atomic Kitten, S-Club 7, Steps, Plus One, Jump5, B*Witched, The Corrs, Bellefire and Girls Aloud, to name a few.

ABBA’s music, though at times 40 – 50 years old, can still feel like songs that are ‘fresh’ and ‘relevant’, as these themes of love, hope, loss, lament, joy, and sorrow are all universal, themes that cross time periods as well as musical genres. ABBA’s indeed a band that has its fair share of heartbreak songs as it does have its joyous happy ones too, and while the personal lives of all the band members were unfortunately unravelling by the time of the 1980s when the band were breaking up (for what was seemingly the last time); the situation of Voyage is a clear reminder of this- that just because it seems as though friendships can sour and be broken as of a certain moment, they can also heal and become restored with the passage of time, hindsight and perspective. For with time and us looking back, we may often find that what was the impetus to a friendship being broken, could be nothing more than just a trivial thing. And if ABBA and their music can allow us to look back and re-evaluate our own relationship, romantic or platonic, then I say that this group of four individuals have done a great job in their career thus far. It seems as though ABBA’s album Voyage is the last album. I mean, they’ve all said it. That should be it, right? Maybe. Possibly. Only time will tell. Everyone thought that their album in the 1980s was their last. Maybe they could eek out one more? I hope so. Cause as much as a ‘ho-hum’ album Voyage really was, I still feel as though the band isn’t as done as they’ve said. Regardless, this is a group that will continue to stamp on people’s hearts, either with their original material of the past, or of songs from their most recent album Voyage. People will get to know them through their 2021 album, or people could’ve known their music for years. Nevertheless, Bjorn, Benny, Agnetha and Anni-Frid have delivered a stellar career of epic proportions. And for the songs ‘Dancing Queen’ and ‘Mamma Mia’ alone, ABBA deserve their spot inside the 50- artists who are indeed, iconic and identity building, don’t you agree?

Does ABBA make the list for you all when you write your own ‘Iconic and Identity-Building Artists of All Time’ list? Is there any song, like ‘Dancing Queen’, ‘Mamma Mia’, ‘The Winner Takes it All’ and ‘I Have a Dream’, that has impacted you on your journey through life with Christ thus far? Let us know in the comments. Till next time!

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