My ABBA Top 100
These short “reviews” were done years ago for the former ABBA4ever forum. I include them here, just for fun.
I think in general my opinions haven't changed much over the years. Some songs are related to special memories or certain seasons but I tried to not forget about the musical quality being the main criteria.
I like to explore ABBA songs in OOPS mode and often I’m fascinated by background vocals or intrumental lines which you tend to miss when you listen to the "full" versions only. I’m also a fan of live recordings and so I sometimes took them into account because I think live versions can show some additional potential of songs. However, I do not rank them separately, neither them nor any language versions. The latter I don’t find convincing anyway.
I’m also leaving out any additional early tracks because they just would have ended up somewhere at the end. I included Just Like That because it was included in the first rankings by other forum members and the full versions are known. I’m Still Alive wasn’t properly released yet.
Please know that there is no ABBA song I really dislike, but as this is a ranking the things I like less about songs had to be emphasized. So if a comment may come across rather negative, remember that this all is a critical review about high quality songs.
- The Day Before You Came
All elements – the melody, the rhythm, Agnetha’s almost spoken vocals, Frida's background vocals, the synths, Björn’s lyrics, the repititions in the music – are combined to tell the story and to reflect the atmosphere. You can find parts of this combination in previous ABBA songs too, but in here it’s all concentrated. ABBA’s masterpiece.
- Dancing Queen
A song made for eternity! So well arranged, everything is in the right place. Love the screaming backgrounds in the chorus. I never get tired of listening and exploring it again and again.
A bombastic masterpiece reflecting the lyrics, a wall of sound with many details, instruments imitating the cry of an Eagle. It all feels so majestic and free, I can dive into this sound. Also love the extended instrumental part of the live version.
- The Winner Takes It All
Brilliant! A simple theme, very emotional vocals. It touches me everytime I hear it.
Instrumentation and sound appear a bit reduced, but there actually is quite a lot going on, for example when the
organ-like sound starts in the second verse, adding even more drama to the piano parts of the first verse. The instrumental break supports this even more. The piano rhythm reminds me of a ticking clock before the desperate cry for help sets in again. And I especially love how it ends where it started with the piano at the cold ending. To me it reflects the picture of a lonely soul out there on the sea very well.
- Knowing Me, Knowing You
A masterpiece which I hardly can describe. It’s just wonderful, catchy but thanks to the vocals there also is the feeling of sadness, great chorus.
- Take A Chance On Me
Great a capella intro and I love how the other vocal and instrumental layers are added one by one. An extremely catchy tune, very rhythmic. It's magic and that’s why I actually don’t know how to explain what it does with me.
- The Name Of The Game
Megacool bass rhythm, not too many effects about the instrumentation, interesting vocal parts. Hmmmm-hmmmm, I like!
- Gimme Gimme Gimme (A Man After Midnight)
The main musical theme is just brilliant and I like the ah-ah-ah in the background vocals. The instrumental break adds a great dramatic element with the rising string sound accompanied by the “siren vocals” in the far. Together with the final chorus which is introduced by reduced vocals and instruments, this really gives me a feeling of a restless soul in despair.
- Mamma Mia
Although there’s some bitter taste because it relates to the musical now (which I can’t relate to in the slightest way), it still is one of ABBA’s catchiest tunes. I can’t resist it.
- Hole In Your Soul
Dum-dum-dum-dum-dum-dum-dum!!! Play it loud and if you don’t get a kick, I can’t help you! To me it’s one of ABBA’s best songs for its tempo rhythm and power. Love the screaming, the rebelling vocals after the break and it’s abbasolutely great live. Check out the backing vocals in OOPS!
- Summer Night City
I prefer the full-length version of this dance number. The spoken intro with the piano and the strings/synths is just fantastic.
- If It Wasn’t For The Nights
Wonderful vocals again, extended string parts, some despair in the ”staring at the wall” part, but still a feel-good song even when you’re lonely at night.
Mais oui! Great dance track, love the sax and the increasing ahahhhs...
- One Man, One Woman
One of ABBA’s most realistic and serious songs I think. Depression and sadness, optimism and hope, all at the same time. The ooh-ooh in the background emphasizes the feeling. Love how the second vocal line is blended into the main line (two friends and two true lovers/one live to live together). Lyrics told by Frida in wonderful vocals.
- Why Did It Have To Be Me
Fantastic kind of an interacting duet and the sax is great. I love both the studio and the live version. The live version has even more power though.
- So Long
Self-confident lyrics, vocals a bit angry, great up-tempo song! Made to be a real long live number, if you ask me. The 1977 live version was extended with the opening part of Glenn Miller’s legendary “In The Mood”, shows how much you can play around with it.
- Lovers (Live A Little Longer)
Oh yeah! So unique and unusual for ABBA with the rhythm, the contrasts and the edges in the melody, leaving room for fantasy. Frida’s vocals are 100% spot on. Megacool!
- Does Your Mother Know
While the intro of the early version has a more hand-made, almost live character the fast rhythm of the drums (or whatever) in the album version is pure energy, like an electric hammer. I’m awake the second I hear it and simply must move, don’t you too? Björn’s best vocals on an ABBA song I think.
- I Wonder (Departure)
I wouldn’t call the studio version over-produced, but live recordings just have a certain additional touch. But in either way I Wonder is a wonderful song, Frida’s intense vocals, sounding like a teenie at the beginning, but becoming more and more decisive. Definately the strongest song of The Girl With The Golden Hair.
- Move On
Great musical descriptions of a roller approaching the beach. I like Björn’s intro and the la-la-las sound as they were simply out of this world. The hummed vocals in the back remind me of shanty choirs and emphasize the coastal
- Happy New Year
Melancholy all the way. Wonderful! I love it.
- When I Kissed The Teacher
What a great opener for an album, clearly defines the musical style, the special sound of the album for me! Uptempo, light-hearted fun and I love the guitar intro.
- That’s Me
The piano theme and the sound of the almost aspirated background vocals are great and I like these kind of lyrics.
- As Good As New
Did I mention that I really like the Voulez-Vous album, the string arrangements, the uptempo songs? What an opener and the title could be taken as a motto for the complete album anyway.
Oh no-no-no-no. Oh, yes, I say! Great uptempo song with very nice joint vocals.
- The King Has Lost His Crown
This song for sure is no desaster. Great intro, wonderful Frida vocals in the verses and prominent string arrangements.
The message about love told at 150 km/h. Bang!!! The rhythm has a real good drive. Fast and furious!
Arrangement (backing vocals!) and tempo are interesting and fast enough to save it from being the second really misplaced song on Voulez-Vous. Especially in the final part it reminds of an old caroussel.
- On And On And On
- The Visitors
Frida delivers the vocals in a cold and mechanical style. Very atmospheric.
- Kisses Of Fire
If you needed a more detailed explanation after Voulez-Vous and Lovers, here’s a quickie closing the album. I especially love Agnetha’s almost whispered vocals and her looong “emotions”. Sexy².
- Me And I
I liked that one from the beginning. The live version is even better, leaving out the electronic effects and relying on Frida's great and energetic vocals instead.
- Super Trouper
Catchy. Nothing to complain about.
- The Piper
You listen to it, enjoy it and then you suddenly notice that in a way you follow the piper yourself... A clever song.
- One Of Us
Nice intro and I like the chorus very much.
Do you hear the warning? I love the combination of serious lyrics, some harder, almost cold and therefore a bit frightening musical elements like the clear drums and a nevertheless catchy tune.
- Rock Me
“Don’t stop doin’ it, don’t stop doin’ it.” Unlike many other fans I love this song.
- Gonna Sing You My Lovesong
A little bit of soft jazz, Frida’s soft vocals in the verses, a wonderful ballad.
- Tropical Loveland
I think everything is well arranged to create a fantastic relaxed and floating mood. Frida’s very soft vocals in front of the reggae-inspired rhythm and smooth background vocals let you dive in relaxing or even romantic dreams. The music just seems to surround you, touching your skin like a gentle evening breeze.
- Money Money Money
Great with a visual experience of a performance and good vocals, but not that catchy when listening to it only. Live it gets a big push by a very playful piano.
- Honey Honey
- Dance (While The Music Still Goes On)
The repetitions are the kick about this song because they are varied. The intensity of the song slightly grows when the backing vocals start and again to the end when the instruments are changed a bit. Easy methods, but I think it emphasizes the heartache of the final goodbye. And because the melody and arrangement aren’t sad there’s that special emotional ABBA mixture of sadness and fun again.
- Our Last Summer
One of ‘key songs’ on the Super Trouper album for me. Being (self-)reflective it can give you a warm feeling, memories can make you laugh, they also can make you a bit melancholc about former dreams or even a bit sad about what you may have missed. Not fond of the guitar solo though.
- Head Over Heels
Funny song with very interesting parts in the melody.
- My Mama Said
Cool rhythm, a bit tougher than usual, almost cold at times, great basses, wonderful guitar solo.
- Sitting In The Palmtree
Winds blow, stars glow – these early pieces just have a special place in my heart. They were the first ABBA songs I got to know at the same time as the big hits like Mamma Mia or SOS. I just like how ABBA just played around with styles at that time. You really have to listen to it in OOPS. Silly songs, but fun songs and with this one I also relate some memories, not the best ones though.
- Thank You For The Music
It’s a bit naive in a way and I like the smiles Agnetha and Frida quite often were showing when they performed the song on TV, a bit like a little excuse for Agnetha impersoning the girl with the golden hair. However, it seems to match the character of this girl who can’t imagine any disadvantages of fame. And it’s a catchy tune, just a bit overexposed because it is used too often at the end of ABBA reports.
- Dum Dum Diddle
Fun song. The lyrics remind me of a German schlager by Bata Illic called “Ich möcht’ der Knopf an deiner Bluse sein” from the same year.
- I’m A Marionette
The beginning of the album version describes the upcoming thoughts and doubts of our girl with the golden hair, there is some drama rising. I especially like the orchestral touch, the instrumental break and the fast rhythm.
Note: because this is a ranking of individual songs I don’t judge the musical songs in combination. Ranking them altogether would have lead to a higher position for the musical itself, but leaving out the context the individual parts aren’t that strong compared to several other songs.
- I’ve Been Waiting For You
Similar feelings about it as for My Love, My Life but much better vocals and more interesting arrangement on this one.
- What About Livingstone
One of my early favourites. Easy to sing along, clear story, happy mood.
Though they aren’t yellow I will always have Agnetha’s face from The Movie in mind. Interesting sequel of the city jungle allegory, but the song itself is a bit too repetitive perhaps.
- Hey Hey Helen
I love the encouraging backing vocals, Yes you can!, and the guitar part. The song is a bit less melodic which matches the lyrics well.
- Andante Andante
Apart from the pretty simple guitar instrumental break a nice song.
- Hasta Manana
Nice melody, wonderful vocals, a bit too much schlager and “Herz-Schmerz” though.
- Happy Hawaii
I‘m not a fan of Hawaiian guitars, but I love the backing piano before the chorus and also the I'm going to Honolulu before the verses. A nice song altogether which you can sing along to and maybe even move from the left to the right and back again, but that’s it.
Strong single B-side.
- Nina Pretty Ballerina
Love the bass line and the vocals. The speedy piano rhythm in the chorus emphasizes the star Nina becomes. Lyrically a kind of a an early version of Dancing Queen.
- People Need Love
Even though it certainly isn't of the same quality as the big hits I really like it. It’s a fun song. Happy Flower Power in music and lyrics. I especially like how much the music mainly relies on the quality of the bass line and the vocal arrangement which offers very clear vocals and an interaction between A&A and B&B. The yodelling adds another original element.
- Slipping Through My Fingers
Another example for overproduction. A more natural sounding Agnetha would have worked better for the melancholic lyrics.
Just when you think you have heard it oh so much and hear it again by accident you notice that it’s still a good catchy song.
- Just Like That
There are better ABBA songs but also worse. I especially like the final sax version.
The song reflects the mood and atmosphere of the story quite well, but I think the arrangement is a bit too heavy in the chorus and that's why I'm not really convinced of it.
- Should I Laugh Or Cry
One of the best B-sides for sure, but something’s missing for me. Especially the isolated single words in the verses are not quite my cup of tea.
I never skip it and some instrumental parts are very nice, but all in all there’s too much schlager for my taste.
- My Love My Life
I used to like it much better in former times, when I was much younger and still believed too much in romantic ideas about love. Now it’s a bit much of everything.
- When All Is Said And Done
Some less musical effects would have emphasized the reflective character of the lyrics and Frida’s vocals.
- Love Isn’t Easy (But It Sure Is Hard Enough)
It’s just too nice how vocals and instruments play their roles and interact in this song.
- Ring Ring
Not a really elaborated song and I couldn’t enjoy it for quite a long time because I couldn’t get the children in The Movie out of my head. Well, I finally got over it and especially like the live version at the Tommy Cooper show. I also enjoy Agnetha and Frida pretending to dial a number during their dance routines.
Emotional, touching, nice vocals, but I wish there was a true ABBA recording from the late 70s.
- Rock And Roll Band
I really like that one, both the album and Frida’s live version.
- Put on Your White Sombrero
I like it because it's catchy, but to me the lyrics still have a touch of being demo lyrics and the arrangement is a bit over the top.
- King Kong Song
Turn up the volume and waddle all around. YEAH!!! Not the best ABBA song of course, but it’s fun to hear their less perfect and slightly “wilder” side. Live version preferred.
- Two For The Price Of One
Quite funny and catchy.
- He Is Your Brother
Pretty powerful, especially when performed live. Lyrics seem a bit too corny nowadays and an they are too religious for me anyway, but back then they just were part of that time I guess.
- Me And Bobby And Bobby’s Brother
Frida’s verses sound a bit old-fashioned again. Obviously they enjoyed some old sounds at that time. In contrast to it the chorus sounds fresh. Lyrics aren’t quite my taste though and the song reminds me of other vocal groups of that time I think (don't remember any names though)
- Lay All Your Love On Me
Not really matching the Super Trouper album I think and I don’t like the rhythm and the eclectronic effect before the chorus much.
- Under Attack
The chorus isn’t quite my taste.
- The Way Old Friends Do
A bit too pathetic perhaps, but in the context of a live environment or the somehow festive Super Trouper album it has its qualities.
- I Am Just A Girl
In the beginning the aspirated vocals seem to sound rather sad, but they also are pretty sexy. Anyway, I always remember Wolfgang Heilemann’s “Telefunken” picture hearing this song.
- I do I do I do I do I do
Don’t know how to describe my feelings about it. A bit too soft perhaps. I miss the edges, some exciting turns. Usually I like saxes very much but here they aren’t that interesting either.
What some human voices can change. I like it more than Intermezzo No. 1.
The intro with the synth horns sounds a bit cheap for ABBA’s standard and I'm missing some finesse throughout the song. It’s too loud anyway.
- Man In The Middle
Love the sax at the end, but the rest isn’t really convincing.
- I Let The Music Speak
Very nice vocals again and not a bad song, but not ABBAish enough either.
- Like An Angel Passing Through My Room
Knock, knock – I hear B&B’s musicals coming, but where did they hide ABBA?
- Dream World
Not much more than a working version. The part successfully used in Does Your Mother Know doesn’t work here.
- Another Town, Another Train
One of the more decent songs from ABBA’s youth, but... – ah well, let’s leave it as is, the song doesn’t do any harm to anyone.
- I Have A Dream
Vocals are nice, but melody and arrangement almost kill them. Much too corny for my taste and it seems completely misplaced on the album. Live I do like it slightly better.
Honestly I could live without it.
- Watch Out
- She’s My Kind Of Girl
Best of B&B’s “undercover” songs, but kind of just covering The Beatles’ style for me.
- I Saw It In The Mirror
If the vocals were more smooth, it would be much better.
- I Am The City
Sounds unfinished and weak to me.
- Crazy World
It was a good idea to hide it on a B-side. The string/synths in the verses are the only things I like.
- You Owe Me One
From the beginning I thought that ABBA was very short of material that they had to release this demo.
- Intermezzo No. 1
I’m not really a fan of ABBA's instrumental music. Live it’s a burner though.
- Merry Go Round
merry-merry-merry-merry – well, everybody needed to start with something.
- Santa Rosa
No, I don’t wanna go to Santa Rosa.
This is so very much not ABBA’s music. As much as Benny supports Swedish folk music, as much he forgot about American folk music here. These songs need US music styles with typical instruments and arrangements, partly even what you may call “black music”. Anyway, they certainly aren’t suitable for high female European pop voices, embedded in exaggerated, highly overproduced musical arrangements and any feeling of ABBA glamour.