Q-Music: Box of ABBA

  • by Gregg Shapiro
  • Tuesday June 28, 2022
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Q-Music: Box of ABBA

Aside from ABBA, can you think of another Swedish quartet with two female (Anni-Frid and Agnetha) and two male (Bjorn and Benny) members, a 50-year history, and multiple hit singles, as well as 10-CD and 10-LP box sets? No? Neither can I. What about a Swedish pop quartet whose music inspired a long-running Tony-nominated Broadway musical, and a subsequent dreadful movie adaptation and sequel? If you answered "no" to the previous question, you'd be right.

Nevertheless, even though ABBA has been celebrated via numerous compilations, the 10-disc "ABBA: Album Box Set" (Polar/Universal) is the first of its kind domestic product.

Beginning with 1973's "Ring Ring" and concluding with the 10-song "Tracks" collection, this box set ought to be of interest to longtime fans and newcomers (if there are any left) alike.

ABBA's queer appeal shines through like a rainbow made of ice, amongst the 10 albums, which includes 2021's reunion album "Voyage" (released after a 40-year recording gap). Over the course of ABBA's lengthy recording and performance hiatus, its popularity seemed to increase not fade for its LGBTQ+ fans.

Featured in movies and associated soundtracks with strong queer draw such as "Muriel's Wedding" and "The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert," to name a couple, ABBA became a constant presence. Even synth-duo Erasure, featuring gay vocalist Andy Bell, got into the act, putting out the four-song "ABBA-eque" EP in 1992. Diva-goddess Cher followed suit in 2018 with her ABBA album "Dancing Queen."

While early hit songs including "Waterloo" and "S.O.S.," were definitely meant for getting down at the disco, it was "Dancing Queen" (yes, queen) from 1976's "Arrival" album that earned ABBA a permanent place in rotation at gay clubs. Buoyed by a retro-disco beat and inspiring words of encouragement, "Dancing Queen" transcended gender to become a sensation (although the titular character being "only 17" might still give one pause).

Following that, ABBA made the most of the popularity of dance music on subsequent albums with tracks such as "Take A Chance On Me," "Voulez-Vous," "Angel Eyes," "The Winner Takes It All," "The Visitors," and especially "On and On and On" and "Lay All Your Love On Me."

But it's not all midnight sunshine and Volvos. English not being ABBA's first language often works against the lyrics. There's nothing profound being said, although there doesn't necessarily need to be. Regardless, the simplicity tends to drag the songs down, instead of elevating them. Thankfully, the melodies and instrumentation go a long way in saving the material. The 1974 Eurovision champions were simply unstoppable, and remain so to this day.

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