Tuesday, November 3, 2015

ABBA - Super Trouper

Today (November 3rd) marks the thirty-fifth anniversary of Super Trouper, the seventh studio album from the Swedish pop group ABBA. This 1980 release spent thirty-eight weeks on the US Billboard Album chart, peaking at number 17. It also charted at number 11 in Germany, number 8 in France, number 7 in Canada, number 5 in Australia and New Zealand, number 3 in Austrai, and number 1 the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and the UK.

Side one opens with the title track. "Super Trouper", the third single, soared to number 93 in Japan, number 77 in Australia, number 45 on the US Billboard Hot 100, number 32 in Canada, number 11 in Sweden, number 8 in Spain, number 4 in France, number 3 in Austria and Switzerland, number 2 in Norway, and number 1 in Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Ireland, and the UK. I like how the song opens with an unaccompanied rendition of the chorus. The lyrics tell of a despondent singer who spends so much of her life on stage. The term "super trouper" refers to a spotlight that follows a performer.

"The Winner Takes It All", the album's first single released in the summer of 1980, reached number 33 in Japan, number 16 in New Zealand, number 10 in Canada and Spain, number 8 on the US Billboard Hot 100, number 7 in Australia and Italy, number 5 in France, number 4 in Germany, number 3 in Austria, Norway and Switzerland, number 2 in Finland and Sweden, and number 1 in Belgium, Ireland, the Netherlands, South Africa, the UK, and on the US Billboard Adult Contemporary chart. Again, we have another strong opening - this time an instrumental overture with piano at the center. The sorrowful lyrics tell of a relationship completely on the rocks and where only one party ends up in a good place afterward.

The second single "On and On and On" went to number 90 on the US Billboard Hot 100, number 52 in Japan, number 18 in France and number 9 in Australia. This one has a bouncy energy, right from the get-go. It almost has hint of new-wave to it, especially with the clipped vocal delivery of the verses.

The next track, "Andantes, Andante", was released as a single only in El Salvador and Argentina. The song very much is a swaying lullaby. Replace some of the keyboards with some steel guitar and this one easily could be done in a country style.

The mid-tempo "Me and I" closes out the first half. A vocoder is employed for part of the echoing on the chorus.

Side two begins with the gentle lilting ballad "Happy New Year". It was released as a single in 1999 to promote CD releases from ABBA; at that time it charted at number 75 in Germany, number 27 in Sweden, number 20 in Norway and number 15 in the Netherlands.

"Our Last Summer" continues with the lofty melodies as the singer reflects upon memories of the past.

"The Piper", released as the B-side to the third single, deals with themes of the seduction of charismatic fascist leaders. The light, dancing march of course brings to mind the pied piper of Hamlin, leading away the children as easily as he had done the vermin previously.

"Lay All Your Love on Me" was released as a twelve-inch single in 1981. The opening keyboards on this one have a dramatic, gothic vibe to them. It goes well with the songs overall melodramatic romance theme. The rest is an energetic dance tune.

The album closes with a live track "The Way Old Friends Do", recorded at the Wembley Arena. It is a powerful performance that showcases the amazing vocal harmonies of the group.

Later CD releases included two additional tracks: “Elaine” (a very snappy synth-pop number) and “Put On Your White Sombrero” (a "synth meets mariachi band" song).

I did not own Super Trouper on vinyl, but I did have the first and third singles as 45's. At the time I was getting into the hits from the group and even owned The Magic of ABBA compilation album on vinyl. So, over half of this album was new to me for this review.

For more from ABBA, click here.

1 comment:

HERC said...


I've watched several documentaries on the group and its members but am still curious about exactly what happened late in the band's career and how they just sort of faded away. Like every other band in the Seventies, they were on the grueling album a year grind save for a break in 1978 when they filmed ABBA:The Movie during their massive world tour. But I am getting ahead of myself.

The album immediately preceding Super Trouper, Voulez-Vous, rocked my little 13 year old world hard. I honestly do not recall any of my friends, all of the Disco Sucks mindset, liking ABBA so it was a private joy. Well, the disco songs on the album stood out among the usual ABBA pop, especially "Does Your Mother Know?" though the chill then sing along "Chiquitita" remains a huge favorite to this day. So expectations were a little high for the next album.

Then "The Winner Takes It All" hit the airwaves. A delicate ballad showcasing the women's voices, it really didn't hook me at first though I later came to appreciate the song's beauty. It was either Dad or me that blinked and bought the Super Trouper album, I really can't remember but I do somewhat recall the song that stood out for me upon first listen: "On And On And On", something about the vocals, the music, the atmosphere, the mental pictures it conjured. Still love that song. The album's title cut still comes to mind when I get into a rare polka mindset with its "Sup-pah-pah Trou-pah-pah" backing vocals.

As a whole, like almost all ABBA long players, Super Trouper seems like a collection of deliberate styles, something for everyone like a box of assorted chocolates, rather than anything resembling a cohesive song cycle and that's fine because rarely has a songwriting duo such as Björn and Benny managed to combine and synthesize so many seemingly disparate styles of music into international beloved pop hits.

The release of what would be their final studio album The Visitors in 1981 coincided with both my relocation from the Midwest Plains to the Southwestern Desert and my evolution from Top 40 Pop music fan to rock fan so I slept on it, not adding it to my collection until years after its initial release. Just this past year I have gained a whole new appreciation for the album and gone cuckoo over the album's pulsing, soaring title track. Not coincidentally, it looks like a sequel to "On And On And On" in my mind's eye.

Opportunities for further listening:
Voulez-Vous (1979)
Super Trouper (1980)
The Visitors (1981)

You mentioned The Magic Of ABBA, a K-Tel compilation from 1980 that had the benefit of coming out after both ABBA's Greatest Hits (1975) and ABBA's Greatest Hits, Vol. 2 (1979) and featuring some alternate single edits of their biggest hits from both albums to provide a wider, more potent mix for American and Australian fans. I maintain the album was part of the promotional push for Super Trouper here in America, a sort of catch up for potential new fans won over by the new album but in Australia, they tacked on four extra songs not included on the US version of Ther Magic of ABBA, including two songs from Super Trouper. Because I already had the two Greatest Hits albums with all the songs from The Magic of ABBA and more, I took a pass though I later added it to the K-Tel Kollection much later.