When I was an older teen and a young adult, I got extremely skeptical and wary of artists and bands that elevated melody above everything else. I don’t exactly know why I felt this way but some of it had to do with trying to stand out among other people at that kind of time in your life when you really feel you have to, but some of it also likely came from the deluge of teen pop on the radio and on music video channels, all of which appeared to my teenage eyes and ears to be trying to sell me something. To the extent that I knew ABBA at this time, I lumped them in with all other “insubstantial” pop.
But with the benefit of two decades, my attitudes have softened. And I can now say that at least somewhat admire the ability of Andersson and Ulvaeus to construct a catchy song. Though I have always maintained I hated “Mamma Mia” I’ve never really listened to it. And, jesus tap-dancing christ, is it an earworm. Moreover, there’s a lot more going on in it than I assumed. Regardless of what I think of pop music, this is clearly a good pop song.
I’m not sure the rest of the songs live up to that one. There were seven singles from this eleven track album and somehow “Mamma Mia” was the last to be released. It doesn’t make sense to me as I really don’t see the other songs as standing up, even the bigger hits. Some of this is just exposure, obviously, as I’ve heard “Mamma Mia” way more than any other song here. But still, it just seems weird to me that they couldn’t figure out which was the album’s catchiest track. (Like “SOS” is catchy but is it clearly more catchy? And it was the 6th single! What was going on?!?)
The aesthetic is slightly rockier than I was expecting but I must say that does not endear it to me. I always get annoyed by those bands and groups which disguise their pop in the clothing of another genre, to try to make it sound grittier or what have you. That’s not what’s happening here, but to the extent that there is distortion on a guitar, it feels out of place.
And can someone explain why Ulvaeus is singing like that on “Rock Me”? He doesn’t sound that terrible on the other songs but he’s just awful on “Rock Me”. It makes you think only the women should sing.
While I’m complaining: “Intermezzo No. 1” sounds like ELO. I don’t like ELO and I find ABBA’s approach to high art music to be equally ridiculous. I hear fans don’t like it and I think that’s hysterical. It just goes to show you that some bands shouldn’t stray from their comfort zone.
This is well made, but it is not my thing. The songs are mostly less catchy than I was expecting and everything feels overproduced. That being said, I have a new level of respect for them, as the talent is clear.