Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Book Review: ABBA At 50

After winning 1974’s Eurovision Song Contest with their song “Waterloo,” ABBA catapulted to fame, capturing hearts across the globe with their melodic and ever-so-catchy pop songs. Formed in Stockholm, in 1972 by Agnetha Fältskog, Björn Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson, and Anni-Frid “Frida” Lyngstad, ABBA became one of the most commercially successful acts in the history of popular music, topping the charts worldwide with classic hits such as “Dancing Queen,” “Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man after Midnight),” “SOS,” and “Knowing Me, Knowing You.”

After their split in 1982, it seemed the ABBA story was all but over. But the 1990s ushered in a new wave of ABBA appreciation, and their music found favor again in modern popular culture. A host of ABBA-themed entertainment followed, including stage musical Mamma Mia! (1999), two box-office hit movies Mamma Mia! The Movie (2008), and Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (2018), and in 2013 the opening of ABBA The Museum, in Stockholm. In 2021, after a forty-year hiatus, the band released a new album Voyage, and announced an accompanying concert featuring their digital avatars, dubbed “ABBAtars.”

ABBA At 50 by Carl Magnus Palm will be out on September 8, 2022. Palazzo Editions provided an early galley to review.

As a child of the 70's, I was very aware of ABBA right from the start of their popularity in the United States; my older brother had a 45 of "Waterloo". As I began buying music as a pre-teen and teen, my allowance money often went to picking up the latest ABBA single that was soaring up the Billboard charts. The melodies and the vocal harmonies appealed to my music taste (and still do to this day).

As much as I knew the music, I only knew some of the general details of the band. I knew that they were two married couples that eventually got divorced. So, this book had tons of details for me to absorb. The author balances the professional aspects (recording, touring and promoting, studio interactions) with the personal aspects (romantic relationships and children) seamlessly.

The book is also full of fantastic photographs of the quartet - from their lives before ABBA, during and after. I like that the book is laid out with the pictures and text going hand in hand (as opposed to some books that just put a few picture sections each third of the way through. Seeing the pictures in-line with the story as it unfolds really rewards the reader. The same goes for having each album's details at the end of each chapter; the integrated discography works for me in this presentation.

For a full story, beginnings to most recent, ABBA At 50 has got you covered.

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