The Most Empowering ABBA Songs

Have you ever come to think everyone’s favorite Swedish pop band also wrote and performed a great amount of songs with very empowering messages for women? Nowadays these messages are easy to find in numerous songs from diverse artists, but what makes ABBA songs special is the same reason that makes the band special in general: the songs were written in the 70s and early 80s and they are still fresh and relevant. And time could not be any more relevant now that Mamma Mia musical is finally performed in Finnish this spring and news about second Mamma Mia movie are spreading around the Internet.

Nothing wrong with dancing your life away to the rhythm of Dancing Queen or consoling yourself to the beautiful lyrics of Chiquitita, but you should truly check out these great and empowering yet too-seldom-heard songs by the Swedish sensation!

All the songs are written by Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus. YouTube links are on the titles.

1. That’s Me

From their 4th album titled ‘Arrival’

If I’m sweet tonight/ Things look different in the morning light/ I’m jealous and I’m proud/ If you hurt my feelings I’ll cry out loud

That’s Me was published as a single in Japan in 1977 and elsewhere as a B-side for Dancing Queen. Benny Andersson’s spirited and groovy piano track creates the immediately recognizable and catchy ABBA sound. The lyrics tell a story that might sound identifiable for today’s women too – it is not too polarized nor too pointing. ‘Carrie’ is a girl who is not one hundred per cent self-assured, but still relentlessly determined in her principles. Agnetha Fältskog’s personal affection to this song shows in the fact that her solo compilation album That’s Me – the Greatest Hits from 1998 is named after it.

It’s lonely to be free/ But I’m not a man’s toy, I’ll never be/ I’m Carrie not-the-kind-of-girl-you’d-marry/ That’s me

ABBA in a Dutch television show TopPop in 1974. Image from Beeld en Geluidwiki, by AVRO

2. Hey Hey Helen

From their 3rd album titled ‘ABBA’

Hey hey Helen/ Now you live on your own/Hey hey Helen/ Can you make it alone? (Yes you can)

A bit more heavy and funkier melody than most people are used to hearing from Abba, this score has been interestingly interpreted as anti-feminist. As a response to second wave feminism and growing divorce-rates in the 70s, it certainly tackles some (at the time) controversial issues, but it is difficult to imagine how the lyrics would be nothing more than a reassurance for the modern woman: you are strong and your life matters. Maybe the rhythmic snare drum and catchy guitar riff have distracted some listeners?

Does it make you sad/ When you think about the life you ha-ha-had/ But you're right, you had to take a second chance/ So you fight to find your freedom

3. Head over Heels

From their last album titled ‘The Visitors’

Head over heels/ Breaking her way/ Pushing through unknown jungles every day/ She’s a girl with a taste for the world

Released as a single in 1982, Head over Heels is among the last singles of the group. With immaculate lead by Agnetha, it is accompanied by a truly charming music video featuring Anni-Frid Lyngstad running around town and making faces. The track has intricate rhythm and some tango elements, and once heard, the bouncy melody is difficult to forget. The story is that of a lady who lives her life to the fullest: raising her voice whenever she needs to, not making any excuses when taking her place, leaving even her husband exhausted. I think we all know someone who is like that – and admittedly admirable in that relentless pursue for life.

Again it is mostly up to the listener to decide whether the lyrics are judgmental or not, but empowering they are in their own unique way:

She’s just one of those who always has to do whatever she pleases/ And she goes/ Head over Heels

4. So Long

From their 3rd album titled ‘ABBA’

The girls might fall for everything you’ve got/ But I’m not one of them, you know I’m not/ You won’t have me tonight/ All right, all right, all right, all right

Very straightforward rock and roll -track that has all the fun ABBA charms while showing that the "ABBA girls" know how to deliver some rolling lines. So Long was published as a single in 1974. A good old belt-out-song with a simple message aimed towards someone who believes a bit too much in the power of his wallet. The lyrics could be condensed into one sentence: I don’t need you.

So long, see you honey/ You can’t buy me with your money/ You know it’s not worth trying/ So long, so long, so long

ABBA performing Chiquitita in Switzerland in 1979. Author Peter Mazel/ Sunshine International, originally from http://www.mynewsdesk.com/se/abba-the-museum/images/

5. Put on Your White Sombrero

Recorded in 1980, first released in 1994

Put on your white sombrero/ Saddle your horse my dear/ And ride off into the sunset/ You’d better go/ For there is no/ Place for you here

This rare ABBA gem was shelved in 1980, but was later released in a compilation cd-box set Thank You for the Music. Nevertheless, with its Spanish style charms and Anni-Frid’s passionate vocals, it is a must-listen to all ABBA fans. It is a ballad to a ‘cowboy’ who has perhaps alienated a bit from the reality, and the singer gives her gentle yet firm opinion about what the man should do concerning their relationship: walk off into the sunset. While using some fun western film imagery, the song is a reminder that everyone should be free to live without excessive expectations based on what they were born like.

You think our life is a movie/ My world is real/ I live and feel/ And I can do, without you

6. Move On

From their 5th album titled ABBA: The Album

Like a roller in the ocean, life is motion/ Move on/ Like a wind that’s always blowing, life is flowing/ Move on/ Like the sunrise in the morning, life is dawning/ Move on

From a great album released in 1977, this waltz song features Björn’s spoken first verse and Agnetha’s leading vocals. All in all it has a very peaceful feeling and one of the most moving lyrics written by ABBA. This song carries an empowering message for everyone who've ever felt stuck, discouraged, scared or disillusioned. It really doesn’t matter as long as you can tell yourself you’ve always tried.

I see it and I hear it/ But how could I explain/ The wonder of the moment/ To be alive, to feel the sun that follows every rain

ABBA performing live in Edmonton, Canada, in 1979. Anders Hanser, originally from http://www.mynewsdesk.com/se/abba-the-museum/images/

Info on ABBA’s records can be found for example here: www.abba4therecord.com

 

Pictures are from Wikimedia Commons and under Creative Commons Attribution license. Thumbnail by Anders Hanser, originally from http://www.mynewsdesk.com/se/abba-the-museum/images/