(Blogger note: Except for 2013-14 updates below, much of this website was written between 2009-11. Reader update: All 'abba4ever' forum hyperlinks (within the blog's text) are defunct. (Forum has closed.))

Friday, March 6, 2009

The Best Pop Song of All Time?

© 2009-2010 (original portions)

I happen to think Pete Townshend is a modern music genius, so his opinion means something. Could debate this one forever, but ABBA's 'S.O.S.' is right up there on the list. (Some quote The Who's main man as saying it's "the best of all time". Also see page 504 of Carl Magnus Palm's 2001 ABBA biography for additional confirmation.) Mr. John Lennon also supposedly liked S.O.S. (More below.)
10 things you didn't know about... ABBA
Benny, Björn, Agnetha and Frida conquered the world with their sweet pop harmonies, irresistible sing-along choruses and splendidly co-ordinated outfits.

#2: Famous fans

There's no shame in admitting a love for Sweden's pre-eminent pop maestros. Noel Gallagher has admitted he's a fan, as have dance-rock outfit Primal Scream (in fact, they recorded part of new album Beautiful Future in the Stockholm studio where ABBA recorded S.O.S and Money, Money, Money). New wave icon Elvis Costello has admitted the piano melody in his hit Oliver's Army was based on Dancing Queen. And none other than The Who's Pete Townshend told Ulvaeus that S.O.S was one of the greatest pop songs he'd ever heard.

blog it

 2012 update: Read an informative background piece about S.O.S from the official ABBA website, linked here. (New window opens:) http://www.abbasite.com/sending-out-an-sos/

Powering on its "wall of sound" chorus, SOS is '60s "girl group" imitative singing perfection; inside tight confines. Its music accenting is amazing (in sung words and etc. And repeated over and over, an ABBA trademark). A prominent, complex rhythm track. Electronic enhancement of the singers' voice lines. Sweetly kicked off and dominated by Agnetha Faltskog's plaintive vocal. Give a good listen: With pure-voiced power, packed with emotion, the "sad-girl" singer leads beautifully throughout. She rivals her favorites. (E.g., Connie Francis.) Not the last, mesmerizing time either; soloing wonderfully in later ABBA songs, etc.  An underrated pop diva!

Linking this one YouTube clip of the song in part for the unbelievable outfits worn, and liked the flowers to the ladies. (Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f19GKcZU1vg)

Many other versions are available including this link to an impressive live one. And another link to a rare, 1976 performance on Don Kirshner's show (which I somehow missed).  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4-C9g4JfL-U

And one more: A fascinating performance (link here) from American Bandstand in 1975. (Mimed.) Both ladies... great in those amazing, short "cat suits". Agnetha's stage presence etc. plus that outfit: The stuff of (pop) legend. Magnetic.


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Last but definitely not least: Agnetha's Swedish version of S.O.S. is the sweetest (standard definition) sounding one: (YT link) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZxHIz-eg5UQ&fmt=18

2011 update: This post was originally written in 2009, when I was beginning to learn about ABBA/Agnetha Fältskog.  If interested in more accurate, professional analysis of this extraordinary pop song, please check out Christopher Patrick's excellent book, ABBA: Let the Music Speak. (Pages 142-43, pg. 196, and pg. 225, in particular.) Learn from a pro in a detailed but engaging way about a deceptively simple-sounding song.  
(E.g.; Find out more (from Chris) about the high harmony within this song's chorus...(and its singer).)

Also, though 'SOS' may not be a prime example of the phenomenon in ABBA, here's a link to an interesting forum discussion about the "third voice" that sometimes emerged when the two singers were in close harmony. (Trying to account for technical (recording) effects, I think I hear it at brief moments in the chorus(es) of 'SOS' (e.g., on "...the love you gave me...") As noted in the forum; (also) on the the word "darling"... Amazing!) Also as noted in the forum, perhaps an in-unison example (of this) is displayed in ABBA's "Eagle". (See page 142 in Mr. Patrick's book for a brief mention of ABBA's incredible in-unison singing, and individual timbre.) A current video link is here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dDI7x1nwTUw&fmt=22

Link to my full blog: http://star4abba.blogspot.com/

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