The Winner's Gonna Take It All: The final...

In these old familiar rooms children would play
now there's only emptiness... nothing to say


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Look at Aggie's face - LOOK! So iconic.
 
He/Him
We're ready anytime you want to reveal the winner, @Remorque...
They're coming. You can be sure of that. But I'm mostly on the forum these past two weeks on my mobile and I'm juggling these five write-ups between home and work, because I don't want too much time between number two and number one and the album write-ups...

Sorry (again) for the wait, guys.

But they are coming!
 
He/Him
4 - Arrival - 1976
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Average: 7.4918
#3: Knowing Me, Knowing You
#4: Dancing Queen
#17: Money, Money, Money
#19: Fernando
#37 (tie): That's Me
#43: When I Kissed the Teacher
#49: Tiger
#62: My Love, My Life
#63 (tie): Dum Dum Diddle
#68: Why Did It Have to Be Me?
#73: Arrival
#74: Happy Hawaii
#81: Crazy World

Highest scorers:
@WhipperSnapper - 9.0000
@Mumty - 8.9231
@Animalia - 8.6538

Lowest scorers:
@cityofdoomsday - 5.0000
@dancingwithmyself
- 5.6154
@bichard - 5.7308

My average: 8.2692
With Dancing Queen and Knowing Me, Knowing You bowing out in our top 5, Arrival is our next album to fall...

Writing and recording for the album began as early as August 1975 at ABBA's own Metronome Studios in Stockholm. The boys had decided to take a step back and let the girls sing most of the songs, letting them become the true superstars of the band and the boys taking a backseat and focus on writing and recording. Benny and Björn's focus for the album was writing true pop songs which would resonate with the general public, after previous schlager and rock 'n roll efforts were met with modest success around the globe (with the exception of I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do being massive in Australia and New Zealand) and finally getting to number one with Mamma Mia and S.O.S., both pop songs in the truest sense of the word and the ballad Fernando from the Greatest Hits compilation, released earlier in 1976.

The album eventually was leashed upon the world on 4 August 1976, nearly a year after the first sessions for the album took place. A couple of weeks later Dancing Queen, the album's lead single was released and the rest is history, really... The song was a massive succes of epic bloody proportions and was followed up with the worldwide hits Money, Money, Money and Knowing Me, Knowing You. (I'm excluding That's Me, because that was a Japan-only release.)

This is ABBA at their commercial peak with what on the outside seem to be light and breezy pop songs, but bubbling underneath there's always that odd melancholy feeling and those production values. Benny and Björn certainly did that. Take that with the girls giving it their all on the vocal department and you can see why the album was such a massive commercial success as it was, reaching no. 1 in Australia and New Zealand (where ABBAmania was at its absolute peak), Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and their native Sweden (among many others) and the United Kingdom, where it was the best selling album of 1977. In Canada it was a top 3 hit and on the massive succes of Dancing Queen alone Arrival coasted to the top 20. Not a bad feat for four Eurovision wannabes that were once described as one hit wonders...

For me, personally, Arrival ranks as one of their best albums as a whole package. I'm relistening to it for this write-up and I'm getting my absolute life to some all-time classics, some fan favourites and some deep cuts. This is the album I'd recommend to any new ABBA fan if ever they were to delve deeper into their discography. Hell, I'd recommend you all to listen to it again, while reading this write-up.
 
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You've all waited a long time for this........................




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2.

'...Half past twelve and I'm watching the late show in my flat all alone... How I hate to spend the evening on my own...'
- Agnetha Fältskog n Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnigh) -

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I'm kinda gonna miss trolling you guys.

Average: 9.5870
Highest score: 2 * 11.00 - @Sprockrooster @Animalia
35 * 10.00 - @Uno @Baby Clyde @TrueBeliever @haps @Epic Chocolat @Weslicious @LTG @Scoundrel_Days @ohnostalgia @kalonite @constantino @bichard @idratherjack @Terminus @Ed72 @AGiantSheep @Mumty @ufint @Gotnomoretosay @2014 @DJHazey @WhatKindOfKylie? @Mikey1701 @funkyg @AllGagaLike @P'NutButter @WhipperSnapper @chris4862 @SecretsOfFatima @GhettoPrincess @hownee @Hudweiser @Mina @Angeleyes @Remorque
Lowest score: 1 *
5.00 - @Filippa (SIS...)
My score: 10.00


Seaux...

Your runner-up is ABBA's diva anthem Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight). A song that the children will know as Hung Up. They just don't know.

The song was written by Benny and Björn in 1979 and was recorded at the group's Stockholm based Polar Studios that same year. The band were initially planning on releasing Rubber Ball Man as a single instead, which was a song they had recorded prior to Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!.

During rehearsals for the band's 1979 world tour, it was performed under the title Under My Sun.

Rightfully so, the boys and their record company thought the disco flavour of the latter would suit the musical climate just a tad more than Rubber Ball Man, so that just stayed an unreleased demo in Björn's vaults...


It features our Aggie on lead vocals, channeling her inner disco diva, with Frida totally giving it her all, not only on those chorus harmonies, but during that middle 8, where the woman fucking LET'S RIP with those operatic vocals. I am not ashamed to say that this is one of my favourite moments in ABBA herstory. Like... Ever.

The song was completed to coincide with the band's European and North American legs of their 1979 world tour in October 1979. The autumn winds weren't ready, because it was a massive hit, reaching the top spot in Belgium (yath etc.), Finland, Switzerland and Ireland and became a top 3 hit in the Netherlands, Austria, Norway, Germany and the United Kingdom. Interestingly, the song became the band's most successful single in Japan, reaching no. 17 on their singles chart.

It was eventually released on the band's second greatest hits compilation, imaginatively this is not a word titled Greatest Hits Vol. 2.
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Though Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! was never officially released in their Native Sweden by the band's Swedish record company Polar, the public actually got to buy it when they purchased the greatest hits record. The record stores did, however, find a loophole and ordered copies from the United Kingdom on Epic Records, which made the single eligible to chart and the song eventually reached no. 17 on the Swedish singles chart. Even the record company couldn't stop our fiery foursome!

"If" ufint "could give out two 11's this would be the other one. Such a legend, so relatable (although I want a man all the time, not just after midnight). So melodic. So catchy. What a hook. 5 minutes of heaven.", with Epic Chocolat calling it a "Disco fever classic." and Mina stating it's "Yet another timeless bop.".

GhettoPrincess says it's "Amazing. That intro…. kills me every time. Agnetha holding onto that note before the chorus. The amazing chorus. Yes ABBA you give me pop perfection.", while Hudweiser just wants to act a dancing queen, telling us it's "Another one I want to hear in da club with the bass maxed up.".

To SecretsOfFatima it's "An absolute masterpiece. The beat, the vocals, the lyrics…everything is perfect. Undoubtedly one of their best.", while idratherjack names it a "gay club classic. The inclusion of this and Summer Night City would have made Voulez-Vous a contender as their best album.".

Fillipa admits"I really don’t like it. Too much into disco..."
I'm just not going to say anything other than that there's no such thing as "too much into disco".
She's not our only hater though! The ray of sunshine in this rate dancingwithmyself tells us "I was over it long before Madge took it and ruined it further.".

WhipperSnapper just knows what's up, but I'm not sure all you guys and gyals are ready for this? "Who knew our girls were cock hungry cum sluts? After this song was released the entire world knew! We've all been there.". Oh my. I never thought I would hear Frida and Agnetha be called cock hungry cum sluts, yet here we are!

TrueBeliever is feeling ha mothafucking oats when listening to this, calling it "An amazing dance track that really gets the blood flowing. I’d dare say this is even better than Dancing Queen in that respect. It’s dark and mysterious, ethereal and somewhat sinister, pulsing and frenetic. Perfect, really. Top 5 contender for my 11.".

Well, d'you know who did give this his 11?

It's my sometimes when he's giving high scores to good songs boo and yours... Poor ol' Sprockrooster!
"It has to be said first, that if it was not for Hung Up this would not be my 11. A reverse expedition as I really started to love this song, because of the sample use in Hung Up. But in time it actually might outshine Hung Up. I literally love everything of this song. The build-up, production, lyrics, message, vocal delivery. The intro is very unique and you instantly know it is this track. An absolutely killer pre-chorus with that ad-lib taking us into that massive chorus. And then a post-chorus serving that iconic melody. A bit of oldschool soul/rnb instrumental in the middle-8. Giving me everything I would ever want."

And that's that!



The video features the band in the studio recording the song and having an amount of fun, I guess... This is definitely one of their most disappointing videos. Oh, what could have been...


Seeing as the song was released while the band were touring North America and Europe there was no promotion for the single, but Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! was, of course, performed during the setlist, featuring an absolutely fantastic dance break by Frida slaying the fucking house down.

I couldn't not let Mikey1701 comment on it... "The breakdown during the song also gave Queen Frida the chance to show off some choreography during the Voulez-Vous world tour, which when I watched it for the first time, cemented her place in my heart as the one, true queen of pop.".
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He/Him
ABBA released a Spanish version of the song, called ¡Dame! ¡Dame! ¡Dame! on their 1980 album Gracias Por La Musica. This version was released as a promo single in Latin America (and other Spanish speaking territories) to promote the album over there...


Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! was eventually performed live on television when the band sung it on stage for their 1981 tv special Dick Cavett Meets ABBA.


Abbacadabra released their Hi-NRG version of the song in the late 90s...



...and it was the theme tune to the British comedy series Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!, starring Kathy Bates and Richard Dreyfus.


Before stating the original is "An anthem." P'nutbutter has a question... "Denise Van Outen did a good cover of this I recall?". She sure did! For the 1999 compilation album ABBAmania!

 
He/Him
The A*Teens released a cover of the song on their debut album The ABBA Generation. It was released as a single in late 1999 as the third single lifted off of the album in a slightly remixed version compared to the album edit, but it wasn't really a hit anywhere though...


They, too, recorded a Spanish version of the song to promote it in Latin America among others in 2000 in order to get the album selling over there, eventually becoming a minor hit in Mexico, Chile and Argentina.


A year after that, the song was covered by some of the contestants of the first season of the French version of Star Academy and featured three of them on lead vocals, Olivia Ruiz, Jenifer Bartoli and Carine Haddadou. The song got to number one in France at the height of the show's success in 2001 and reached no. 11 on the Wallonian charts too.


bichard gave this song the full marks it so truly deserves, calling it "Fucking brilliant. Really should have been a number 1, but is one of their most instantly recognisable songs nonetheless. Maybe it's because this is so good that I've never really taken to Hung Up? Why listen to a bastardised Frankenstein when you have this glorious original?"...

Which brings us to the following.
(I'm ignoring the fact that Sprockrooster mentioned it THREE FUCKING TIMES in his 11-write-up.)

In 2005 Madonna wrote a letter to Benny and Björn asking them to sample Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! for what was to be the lead single off of her tenth studio album Confessions on a Dancefloor. Apparently she begged and pleaded until the boys caved in and eventually one of the most influential singers in pop herstory was able to sample one of ABBA's songs, becoming the second act to ever officially sample the band after the Fugees sampled The Name of the Game for their 1996 single Rumble in the Jungle.
The song became a massive hit and introduced both Madonna and ABBA to a younger audience again.


So OF COURSE, a lot of you ladies mentioned that one...
tylerc904 admits that he'd go for this one instead of the original, saying "The infamously sampled instrumental is the highlight of an otherwise fantastic song. I prefer Hung Up honestly, but this is a funky jam I cannot fault.".
WhatKindOfKylie? thinks the original has "
One of the greatest intros of all time in the history of music, it's not hard to see why even a fellow legend like Madonna wanted to sample it. It's just a bop that keeps on giving and giving, and even now 40 yeas later, it really just goes off.". Doesn't it?
And to Mikey1701 "It was already iconic before Madge borrowed the electric flute riff for Hung Up (I really enjoy the visual of Madonna begging B&B to let her use it), but I feel that the track allowed a whole new generation to bask in the glory of this flaw free experience. I’m used to my queens being heartbroken or falling in love, but never thirsting for the D. Relatable queens.".
Finally, CasperFan calls it "Irresistible! SO good , Madonna sampled it!". Did she now?

The song was also featured in the 2008 movie adaptation of the Mamma Mia! musical, with Amanda Seyfried singing the lead, accompanied by her co-stars Ashley Lilley & Rachel McDowall.

 
He/Him
This version was even released as a single by Amanda to promote the soundtrack to the movie and the movie itself and was accompanied by a lovely little video to play on the music channels...

You just couldn't escape this movie, n'est-ce pas?
"Fucking mess at" constantino "thinking the Amanda Seyfried cover was the original at one point...and bonus mess at" ha "for thinking that Miss Seyfried had oh-so-creatively sampled Madonna’s seminal Hung Up…".
MESS AT ALL OF THE ABOVE.
 
He/Him
But you see...

1.

'...The winner takes it all... The loser's standing small... Beside the victory that's her destiny...'
- Agnetha Fältskog n The Winner Takes It All -

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Make-up? Flawless. Shirts? Not so much.

Average: 9.7826
Highest score: 6 * 11.00 - @Angeleyes @Mina @Hudweiser @GhettoPrincess @kalonite @JonBcn @Remorque

27 * 10.00 - @nlgbbbblth @hownee @SecretsOfFatima @chris4862 @WhipperSnapper @P'NutButter @AllGagaLike @CasperFan @Mikey1701 @cityofdoomsday @WhatKindOfKylie? @tylerc904 @Sprockrooster @VivaForever @Gotnomoretosay @ufint @Mumty @Ed72 @Terminus @idratherjack @Filippa @Scoundrel_Days @LTG @Weslicious @haps @Baby Clyde @Uno
Lowest score: 2 * 7.00 - @dancingwithmyself @funkyg
My score: 11.00

And with Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight) out of the competiton, your winner is crowned. It is without a doubt one of the best ever divorce songs ever written, featuring a stellar performance by one of the purest vocalists out there...

It's The Winner Takes It All.

Though I don't doubt that there was any question in your heads whether this would/should win or not, I gave it my 11 along with 5 other people. It pulls at my heartstrings more than I can ever write down here and takes me back to a simpler time in my life when I was a small child. I wasn't actually born when Winner was released, but it was still on heavy rotation in the mid 80s, so it's definitely familiar. Take that with the fact that my mother only owned Super Trouper on LP and played it a lot around the house when I was little and it was always meant to be my 11 here. There was no doubt in my mind. I come from a broken home, with a mother that made many stupid decisions regarding men in here life (I'm not judging, just stating) and I've always known this song was special to her. Given the crumbling nature of our relationship, we will always have this song. Always.

And so I thank every single one of you who rated the songs in this rate and made this the crowning song.

Thank you.

The Winner Takes It All was written in 1980 by Benny and Björn and history has it that Björn sat down one evening drunk at his piano and started playing those keys, which would eventually be the opening to this song. He has always denied that the song was about his divorce to Agnetha and so did she. They always gave interviewers the textbook answers that there were no winners or losers in their case, especially as their children were involved...
Yet, no one can fucking deny that the song has sprung out of the heartbreak both of these people had to have experienced when living and working together while divorcing, trying to maintain a popular image for the general public. The fact that Benny and Frida's marriage was starting to fall apart when this song was released makes it even more heartwrenching...

It was eventually released in July 1980 as the lead single for the band's seventh album Super Trouper, becoming a massive hit and one of the best-sellers of 1980. It's reached the top spot in Belgium (crying etc.), the Netherlands, South Africa and Ireland, got to the top 3 in Finland, Sweden, Austria, Norway and Germany and became a top 10 in Germany, France, Zimbabwe, Italy and Spain (among others)...
It was a number one single in the United Kingdom too, became one of their last singles to reach the Australian top 10 and was also their last top 10 hit in Canada and the United States, where it spent the longest number of weeks in the chart than any of their other singles. It did, however, reach the top spot on the US Billboard Adult Contemporary Chart, which was their second after Fernando did the same way back in 1975.

I'm going to start off with Hudweiser who states "Just THE best song in the history of recorded music. There's no other way of looking at it. Even when Steps 'borrowed' the chords for One for Sorrow it still only resulted in a sub-par imitation. Everything went so right with this recording: It's a ballad! It's a pop song! Fuck, it's almost got a disco beat going on!? Agnetha's vocal is pristine, capturing the heartbreak of her loss, the almost-cruelty of Bjorn making her sing it from his POV (as lyricist), the backing vocals, THAT PIANO OUTRO! I legit want this played at my funeral.". Aint gonna be a dry eye in Schul, sis.

Mina calls it "A masterpiece from start to finish, from the lyrics, the production, and the vocal delivery. It's hard to argue that this song wasn't an instance of life creating art; out of all of the epic break-up songs ABBA released in later years following the two couples' divorces, this one is definitely the strongest.". Though I wouldn't fault When All Is Said and Done, because it's fucking fantastic, but this is just on another level...
SecretsOfFatima gives it the same superlative, naming it "A true masterpiece, though I don’t believe Björn’s original narrative about it not concerning their divorce. Sure Jan.", with Filippa too stating it's "One of their masterpieces.".

"A few years ago this would have been" idratherjack's "11 without question. Imagine making your ex-wife sing "tell me does she kiss you like I used to kiss you, does it feel the same when she calls your name". Brutal. Uncle Pete Waterman rightly declared this to be the best pop song ever written. And he should know as he invented pop music. I love that Steps took this as the template for all their best songs.".

To WhatKindOfKylie? it's "
Sublime. It doesn't matter how many times you can hear this one, it still packs one almighty punch when listening to it. Easily the finest piece of songwriting than Benny and Bjorn came up with, and Agentha'a lead vocal, will always be one of the finest in the history of song.". It's easily her best vocal performance ever and that's coming from someone who isn't really an Agnetha fan in the biblical sense...
He wasn't alone in thinking so, because a lot of other people commented on her vocals too.
GhettoPrincess acts confused, asking "One of the best pop ballads ever? No seriously…. it’s that good. That vocal, the lyrics…. my heart breaks. Agnetha just has that voice I adore." and what Mikey1701 admires "most about this song is that Agnetha was willing to take a song written by Bjorn, who she had divorced a year earlier, about the end of a marriage and belt it out. Even if Bjorn maintains that he never wrote this with his divorce in mind, Agnetha made damn sure that it WAS about it. You can feel the heartbreak laced with rage- once again proving how formidable a vocalist she is, with that final minute in particular leaving my lacefront in tatters.".

It's obvious to tylerc904 that the song's "Clearly a classic, and if it does ultimately win this like I suspect, I will not be upset in the slightest. It’s moving, beautifully sung, and chugs along like a smooth ride up until that final AAAAAAALLLLLLLLL. I used to spin around my garage on rollerblades to this song trying to hold that note. Memorieeeez.".

Though Epic Chocolate thinks it's "A little bit over the top." and gives this a 9.50 rating, TrueBeliever calls it "A stunning song, rife with amazing melody and harmony. Refined and understated, it packs a passionate punch to my heartstrings. If anything, it’s a bit too long." which is probably what made him give out the same score...

"Just the ultimate heartbreak anthem about building fences and DIY." explains kalonite as he "struggled to choose my 11, but in the end, I honestly really didn't have a choice.". A fucking CHOICE was constantino's score of 8 as he remembers "when Britain voted this to be their favourite ABBA song? Yeah, no. This is wonderful but it’s also a bit dreary and tacky, which is not what ABBA was about. There are some really pretty sonic details here which makes me care for it overall.".

chris4862 actually "contemplated giving this a slightly lower rating, because shockingly it has never been a personal favourite, and wouldn't likely be in my top 25 ABBA songs but I can't deny that it is a masterpiece.", with P'nutbutter asking "Best pop ballad of all time?", then following that up with "(Meryl Streep legit made me cry singing this too.)". He's talking about this version by the way...

dancingwithmyself is of the opinion that "It's competent and forever tainted by Mamma Mia The Musical.". There, there...

WhipperSnapper calls it "A stone cold classic," but has some thoughts to share about the video, first asking "so why is it that I can only remember how badly Agnetha needed a deep conditioning treatment in the video? Honestly, couldn’t they afford a real hair stylist by this point?".

bichard calls it "An ABBA classic that entirely deserves that mantle. Although in terms of the AgnethaBallad genre, it comes third for me behind One Of Us and SOS. Still amazing, though.", with VivaForever being quite adamant knowing this would be the winner, asking "This is going to run away with it, isn't it? It's overrated but it is in fact amazing. The final vocal run is everything.", while ufint states he "wouldn't be mad if this is the winner and takes it all.".

JonBcn gave this his 11 too and I'll just let his words speak for themselves...
"This is not my favourite Abba song; that would be something off the next album or maybe the Day Before You Came. But I had to give this 11 for so many reasons. Even as I child I marvelled at how these people had come up with an entire song written entirely in metaphor (albeit one that hits you rounds the head) whilst working in a second language. The juxtaposition of melodrama with a subtle disco beat marked a template for basically all my favourite pop songs since then. Agnetha’s star turn; her performance is perfect and the song is deceptively difficult to sing (apols, anyone who’s ever seen me at karaoke). Oh, and for years I couldn’t say ‘self confidence’ properly because of how she changed the inflection to make it rhyme with ‘tense’. I still do it, but on purpose."

I'm going to end my final write-up with poor ol' Sprockrooster for obvious reasons of course.
"WHAT A SONG. This is in a league of it's own. If this doesnot win, then it might be the biggest shock in PJ rates history. Reading this on wikipedia "In a 1999 poll for Channel 5, "The Winner Takes It All" was voted Britain's favourite ABBA song. This feat was replicated in a 2010 poll for ITV." I am going to edit this when the rate is over and add that during a PJ rate it scored a hattrick. MAKE IT HAPPEN, people!"

Well. Y'all did.

I'd usually put some cover versions into my posts, but this time I'm going to leave you with the video for the song, which was shot in 1980 on Marstrand, an island on the Swedish west coast and was directed by Lasse Halström.
 
he/him
I had "The Winner Takes It All" on the other night and it really is such a special tune, but I guess I have to be in the right mood for it to really take me over where as all of the other songs I'd rank higher in their discography seem to get me no matter what. "Gimme Gimme Gimme" is my favorite A*Teens song too and that is saying something because of how strong their discography is for teen-pop. Also, I got into Madonna's music before ABBA, yet I already knew "Gimme Gimme Gimme" from ABBA long before I ever knew about "Hung Up", so there is hope in this world.

Also @Mina now having two 11 victories. The narrative about how you never win these things:

 

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