ABBA's 15 Best Songs: Critic's Picks
Swedish music has successfully and indefinitely engrained itself in today's music scene with the country producing some of pop's most prolific producers and singers, but it likely all would have been much, much different without ABBA.
The quartet made up of Agnetha Faltskog, Bjorn Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson and Anni-Frid Lyngstad, ruled the international music market for a decade with the group's European-inspired disco hooking listeners with the act only growing more ambitious with their sounds, arrangements and lyrics. Even as romantic, innergroup tensions put strain on the singers, the results were brilliant pop tracks that boast a deeper, fascinating story. Today, ABBA songs define a golden-age of disco and dance music, but the Stockholm singers represent much more than feel-good floor fillers. Here are the 15 ABBA songs that have undeniably stood the test of time.
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15. ABBA - "Does Your Mother Know"
While most ABBA classics are grounded around Agnetha Faltskog and Anni-Frid Lyngstad's harmonies, this 1979 single saw Bjorn Ulvaeus taking the lead for one of the band's atypical-but-extremely fun singles. Ulvaeus details flirting with a much younger lady, backed by his band mates' harmonies, on this piano-driven, boogie-disco cut.
14. ABBA - "Our Last Summer"
A lesser-known-but-still-beloved ABBA song -- it didn't make the band's classic Gold compilation album, but did land a spot on More ABBA Gold: More ABBA Hits -- the Super Trouper LP cut represents the quartet's knack for dreamy and romantic choruses.
13. ABBA - "Chiquitita"
A song that showed ABBA's international reach, "Chiquitita" (a Spanish term of endearment for a woman meaning "little one") not only upped the group's global appeal (with versions recorded in Swedish, English and Spanish), but the lullaby-like verses showcase the group's brilliant ability to jump from soothsayers to power-pop belters.
12. ABBA - "S.O.S."
Bjorn Ulvaeus said "S.O.S." was a key single in ABBA's finding its musical identity, which becomes clear in the song's brilliant progression of a tender, minor key on the verses led by Faltskog's heartbreaking alto before jumping to its anthemtic, major-key chorus. The touches of sparse synthesizer and keyboard elements only further set the song's ominous tone that sees Faltskog sounding on the verge of tears before passionately pleading to her lover, "The love you gave me / Nothing else can save me, S.O.S."
11. ABBA - "Fernando"
While it boasts a similar rhythmic feel to "Chiquitita," this cut was released three years before and boasts a fascinating backstory that further indicated ABBA's upcoming global domination. "Fernando" was originally released as a solo track by Lyngstad, before being re-recorded by the full band in Swedish (which tells the story of a heartbroken lover named Fernando), along with English and Spanish (both of which focus on a nostalgic conversation between two soldiers in the Mexican Revolution war).
10. ABBA - "Money Money Money"
ABBA got their Fiddler on the Roof on for this super-fun 1976 single where the listener can hear the group getting audibly playlful with their delivery and shouting about if only, "They had a lot of money!"
9. ABBA - "Waterloo"
An early song in ABBA's career, the 1974 single incorporated rock and jazz elements, atypical for the group, but ultimately the sonic innovations led to one of their most satisfying tracks.
8. ABBA - "Super Trouper"
"Super Trouper" brings one of the act's biggest chrouses that begs to be sung at karaoke, but also subtly boasts fascinating sonic elements like its choral-like opening to the staccato elements in the addictive chorus,
7. ABBA - "Mamma Mia"
A true ABBA classic. While its place is undoubtedly set in history -- from the long-running Broadway play and its Merryl Streep–led film, not to mention the cover marking the biggest Billboard hit by '00s tribute band the A*Teens' -- "Mamma Mia" ultimately stands as a gem in the group's discography, but not even its most innovative or musically impressive output.
6. ABBA - "Name of the Game"
The funk-inspired opening. The undeniable soulful hook. The fact that both Faltskog and Lyngstad had solos. "The Name of the Game" is an important standout in ABBA's discography that simultaneously proves their versatility.
5. ABBA - "One of Us"
One of the best ABBA songs that represented the underlying love stories circling through the quartet's time together, "One of Us" was written by Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson and inspired by their divorces to their band mates Faltskog and Lyngstad. The single marked a darker shift in the group's later material, while blending uplifting harmonies on the heartbreaking chorus ("One of us is crying / One of us is only / Waiting for a call... / Wishing she had never left at all") to encapsulate the emotional depth baked into the group's history that makes them sound so good.
4. ABBA - "Knowing Me Knowing You"
You'd be hard pressed to find a better chorus than "Knowing Me Knowing You," which automatically begs to be sung when the drums hit ahead of the mix of power chords, guitar riffs and layered vocal segments (listen up for the "Uh huh," if you've missed it all these years). The song details a breakup years before the divorces before the ABBA members, seemingly becoming an ill-omened moment in the band's fascinating story.
3. ABBA - "Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight)"
Perhaps one of the more bizarre cuts in ABBA's discography, "Gimme!" is the epitome of how the Swedish sensations could transform minor chords, hair-raising harmonies and ominous production into pop perfection. The template would set the stage for future spooky-pop hits (Michael Jackson's "Thriller," anyone?) and the song's influence would later be felt with a brilliant sample in Madonna's "Hung Up," the lead single off her 2005 album Confessions on a Dance Floor.
2. ABBA - "Take a Chance on Me"
The opening a cappella of this 1981 single indicated the true musicality of ABBA, with the band nailing the opening (and Bjorn and Benny's voices even featured!) and indicated a fresh way to kick off yet another stomper of a single. Past the aca-incredible intro, "Take a Chance on Me" blends the band's classic sound with unexpected sonic shifts like the jarring-yet-impassioned belts, psychedelic synthesizer moments and reverb-heavy harmonies, making it almost sound like parts of separate songs glued together with the disco magic only ABBA knew how to create.
1. ABBA - "Dancing Queen"
From the euphoric opening to lyrics that perfectly encapsulate a youthful bliss, "Dancing Queen" is the masterpiece that's outlasted the disco era to become a standard of modern-day dance music. While there's no doubt that the 1976 classic is an exuberant piece of pop music and can get a room moving by its opening notes, there's an underlying melancholy in the cut too that ultimately speaks more to ABBA's ability to make any topic -- new love, heartbreak, war stories -- have a musical richness to it that went beyond any one note. "Dancing Queen" stands not only as their classic tune, but representative of the depth the Swedish sensations could bring to any song and how the melodies and moods they created in their time together remain just as touching today as they did igniting discos in the '70s and '80s.