As music continues to move forward it’s become quite apparent that modern pop music has forgotten something incredibly important: the hook. The pop that dominates radio is getting drier every year, there’s no way around it. The short-term solution, it seems, is to replace any semblance of a chorus with an EDM drop, but those ear bleeding distortions can only do so much. When I go back to the era pop reigned supreme I realize how powerful a strong hook can be. Artists like Michael Jackson, The Beatles, BeeGees, and ABBA, were masters of the art. They possessed a passion for music I fear mainstream acts just don’t share.
Out of the four artists previously mentioned ABBA is by far my favourite. My Dad was a massive fan in the day so he always played their music on the car stereo. And by golly, I loved him for it. Back then my parents were heavily into Christian music, and while I didn’t mind it, nothing made me excited about music. My passion was ignited by the Newsboys, that much is true, but I remember being joyous whenever Dad put on “Gimme Gimme” and “Mamma Mia” way before I even realized I loved music. You can say I owe ABBA for the passion I have for music today. The following are ten songs that turned that small spark into a blaze.
10. Angel Eyes
I want to start the list with an underrated gem. Greatest hits compilations weren’t exactly holding up “Angel Eyes” as an essential cut back then, but my goodness they should have been. Taken from the album Voulez-Vous, “Angel Eyes” is a gorgeous tune about an ex-lover warning another girl about falling for a man who can’t commit but wants love anyway. The frantic, bouncy verses and a chorus that soars with both bitterness and longing make for an absolute classic in my eyes.
Once that iconic guitar hook plays you know you’re in for an awesome ride. “Voulez-Vous” is, simply put, a disco masterpiece. The pre-chorus creates such a tense atmosphere before the chorus comes in with a disorientating yet highly danceable groove. There are so many interesting things going on beneath the surface here as well and nothing ever feels repetitive or stale, even after years of replay.
8. Summer Night City
Listen up modern pop, this is how you write a steaming tune. There’s such a mysterious sexual undercurrent to this track that really made it stand out in their discography. The pre-chorus is still one of my favourite moments of music, with its pulsating synths and distinctive vocal melody. This should be a classic for any ABBA fan.
7. Lay All Your Love On Me
What happened to vocal harmonies in pop? When did we decide they were ever uncool? The sublime harmonies were one of the major reasons ABBA became a household name. If someone were to ask for an example of this strength in their music “Lay All Your Love On Me” is the song I’d point them to first. The chorus is chilling yet at the same time, you can’t mistake the joy beneath it. It’s almost tangible.
6. I Have A Dream
Has a more blissful tune ever been written? “I Have A Dream” is the definition of whimsical. The slow strum of the acoustic guitar paired with one of the best vocal performances of their career creates a song that is nothing short of mesmerizing.
5. Gimme Gimme (A Man After Midnight)
Even if you aren’t an ABBA fan you have probably heard a rendition of this one somewhere. It’s been covered and sampled by numerous pop icons and (sigh) EDM acts over the years. It’s a haunting dance song about loneliness and desperation. In addition to being a fantastic track, this was the first song I heard by ABBA. I remember Dad would take out Michael W. Smith’s worship, pop in ABBA’s greatest hits, and I would smile with joy as that sinister guitar came through the speakers. Those were good times….
4. Super Trouper
Would it be too obvious a joke to say I always pictured the Storm Troopers from Star Wars whenever I heard this one? Not to mention I couldn’t help but chuckle whenever the guys would sing “Sup-per-per troup-per-per” in the chorus. I wouldn’t have it any other way. Pop music isn’t written like this anymore. It’s meant to be fun, make you laugh a little and loosen up. Even when the lyrics were melancholic or depressive the music always carried it with an infectious groove. “Super Trouper” nailed this dichotomy flawlessly.
3 Knowing Me, Knowing You
Speaking of depressing subject matter behind a catchy melody, “Knowing Me, Knowing You” is a heartbreaking anthem that somehow makes simply “knowing” a person a happy alternative to loving them. It’s a breakup song that isn’t self-empowering or melodramatic (looking at you, Taylor Swift). It looks at the other person and loves them anyway despite not being able to make things work. The chorus paints a beautifully sad resolution and the guitar riff echoes that feeling of emptiness. It’s so powerfully potent.
2. The Winner Takes It All
I wasn’t all that into this one as a child, but as someone entering their twenties, it has hit so hard. While I haven’t been in a relationship, I know that position of loss. I’ve felt left behind and forgotten as if God cared more about that person than me and I’m just sitting here alone and idle. I’ve had dreams that never came to fruition or else achieved seemingly without effort by someone else. The battle between talent and hard work is a painful one. For that, “The Winner Takes It All” means so much to me. It’s one of the greatest songs ever written. The pure, unfiltered heartbreak behind those shaking vocals is just crushing. There’s nothing more to say.
“Momma Mia.” This missed the list only because it’s a little overplayed.
“I Do, I Do, I Do….” This one is kinda dated but I can’t help but adore it.
“Name of the Game” Love, love, love the chorus on this one, but the verses run on a little too long.
“One Of Us” Another excellent song I wish I could have included on the list. Sadly a limit had to be placed somewhere.
“Honey Honey.” This one is just a pure, sweet love song I always come back to.
“Under Attack.” The band’s last single and a superb way to go out.
1. Dancing Queen
Even after much listening there really was no question about my number one. “Dancing Queen” is one of my top five favourite songs of all time. It’s the pure embodiment of youthful freedom. The piano jumps around and the vocals soar with life and delight. It was my favourite fourteen years ago and it’s still my favourite today. It’s a testimony to good pop music and one of the many, many reasons ABBA are so beloved.
ABBA, thank you for the music.