ABBA was better than I thought. I admit that this is actually an inadmissible statement. You don’t have any idea what I thought, and therefore you don’t have any idea either how much value you should attribute to the fact that I thought that ABBA was rather okay. Well, what I thought was initially based on seeing this group at the Eurovision Song Contest in 1974, and you might remember them singing their ‘Waterloo’ there, dressed in their Napoleon outfits. It seemed obvious: yet another teenybopper group with some dreary act. The group’s enormous successes made sure that I kept hearing their hits very often, and slowly but surely I started to realise that I actually liked hearing these hits. I decided to purchase ‘Arrival’, with the excuse that my little son adores it.
Now that I have listened to their latest – ‘ABBA, The Album’ – quite a few times, I think that I know more or less how it works with ABBA. These two B’s from the middle, Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson (not forgetting their manager Stig Anderson), are pop producers and pop composers of the good commercial type (like for instance Hans van Hemert, Eddie Ouwens and Peter Koelewijn in Holland). When they listen to other people’s records, then they hear what it’s all about, and they can copy it. As far as there are any artistic pretensions, they barely shine through in their work – that is primarily aimed at the success. For that matter, Andersson and Ulvaeus have listened quite well to Spector and the Beatles (and a lot of other artists from the sixties), they probably have a little more talent than the aforementioned Dutchmen at their disposal, and in any case better and better looking singers.
The result is easily digestible pop, without any profundity. This is not meant as a criticism, but as a statement. ABBA will probably not enrich someone’s life. But when you are feeling good, it’s alright to hum along to such a song.
For the rest, I think that ‘Arrival’ was somewhat stronger than ‘ABBA, The Album’. I also have the impression that the hits from ‘The Album’ won’t be as successful as the hits from ‘Arrival’. The songs aren’t that bad, but most of them don’t stand out either. And we have come to expect something else than that.