03 December 2014

ABBA mania?

Today we'll keep it light and listen to some music. We've previously covered Army of Lovers, and today the theme is ABBA.

A Swedish popband from the 1970's, they were totally awesome, as we all know, and their music is still popular. It has mainly been considered light pop, and totally not political, though a few years ago, former band member Björn Ulvaeus pointed out that they did indeed write some political songs.

Now, what amazes me is that people who have actually listened to each and every ABBA song several times could possibly miss it. Granted, “Mamma Mia” isn't exactly political, but you can see it in other songs.

Not least, “The Visitors”, which Ulvaeus himself points out is about being a political dissident in the Soviet Union and the fear one surely experiences in that situation. Seems pretty obvious to me that someone feels politically persecuted:

“These walls have witnessed all the anguish of humiliation
And seen the hope of freedom glow in shining faces
And now they've come to take me, come to break me
And yet it isn't unexpected
I have been waiting for these visitors”

Other songs include “Soldiers”; a song about war and the dance of combat that only soldiers will do. It's unclear to me if the message is that this is good and admirable, as Wikipedia believes or just really scary. In either case, soldiers writing the songs that they sing is war, and once the war starts, we all are part of it, whether we want to or not. Sounds pretty political to me, and I tend to lean towards the "this is a bad thing"-interpretation, when ABBA suggest we not look the other way:

"Soldiers write the songs that soldiers sing
The songs that you and I won't sing
Let's not look the other way
Taking a chance
'Cause if the bugler starts to play
We too must dance"

Then there's “On and on and on”. ABBA sing,

“I was at a party and this fella said to me
"Something bad is happening, I'm sure you do agree
People care for nothing, no respect for human rights
Evil times are coming, we are in for darker nights"”
The world is clearly heading towards chaos here. Admittedly, the message of the song seems to be that there's not much we can do about it, so “Keep on rocking baby, 'til the night is gone” Okay. I'll keep on rocking.

A catchy song of theirs, from one of their early albums, is “What about Livingstone?” which appears to be “admonish[ing] Swedish youth for their disinterest in great explorers”. However that may be, it includes lyrics such as

“What about all those men?
Who have sacrificed their lives to lead the way
Tell me, wasn't it worth the while
Traveling up the Nile
Putting themselves on test
Didn't that help the rest?“

First of all, if we have to admire all the men, can we please admire the women too? And second, I won't deny that Livingstone was an impressive person, I'm sure he was. But whether it “helped the rest” and was "worth the while" that he went travelling about Africa, I think really depends on who you ask. There was a whole colonisation business going on at that time, and I have a feeling some people who were colonised would have preferred not to have been 'discovered'. Considering some of the atrocities that were done, the part about sacrificing one's life seems a little jarring. Saying that colonisation and etc. was 100% positive carries a political message in itself, whether intentional or not. I said I would keep it light, so I'll leave it at that, but keep in mind that something being awesome for Europe does not necessarily equal its being awesome for everyone else.

I have not discovered any other political songs, but admittedly I have not looked so carefully either. (If I missed some, do let me know!) To lighten the mood a bit, let's finish with some seemingly happy pop:


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