No, I’m not kidding. And no, this isn’t Bizarroworld Songs of the Day. Listen to this with an open mind and it’s immediately obvious why this unlikely crew burst out of Scandinavia to take the world by storm.
What it comes down to is this: you never know where you’re going to find a great pop song, and there’s nothing but snobbery in giving short shrift to a tune just because of who performs it. Yes, ABBA was often very sugary, very Europop, and way too calculated. Yes, a lot of their biggest hits (think Fernando, Mama Mia, or Take a Chance on Me) put one cringingly in mind of feathered Farrah-dos, bell bottoms, and disco balls, while tending, as some wag of a reviewer whose name escapes me once wrote, to promote both mindless toe-tapping and tooth decay. It was all very slick and prefabricated, no doubt, but boy, the formula – smooth, soaring harmonies, classic pop chord shifts, lilting melodies, and layered production that owed everything to Phil Spector – gelled perfectly in Dancing Queen, producing something that was at once a danceable earworm and something a little more. Maybe a lot more – I don’t care what anybody says, this is transcendent pop, and not at all as shallow as ABBA’s reputation would lead you to expect. To my ears there’s a positively wistful quality to the chorus; I always imagine it sung from the perspective of an older woman, watching the seventeen-year-old having the time of her life, and remembering, with a hint of sad nostalgia but no trace of regret, that lost, ephemeral moment of her own youth, when the world was full of possibilities, and none of those choices that set one’s path in life had yet been made.
Go on and dance, young lady, they seem to be singing. You owe it to yourself to revel in your youthful vitality, and make as many joyful memories as you can while the making’s good.