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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Solo Agnetha: The best post-ABBA song? Many. (Updated)

© 2009-2014 (Original portions and updated sections, 2010-14.)

FYI: This listener's Agnetha (solo) "top ten" song list may be found at the end of this lengthy post...
Click here if you wish to 'jump' to the newer, more comprehensive list now. (Strongly recommended. The 'jump-to' section (page bottom) also includes some 2013 updates...))

(Previously written text:) Who can really say? Best song can mean a few things, including the one or two (or several?) that Agnetha [aŋˈneːta]  Fältskog herself was most proud. And/or ones that perhaps meant the most to her. (I think there's intersection between those two groups.) And especially, one that made good use of that pure, rangy, plaintive voice.

As will be apparent: For me, it's mainly about the voice. The Swedish singer is rightfully proud of it. And Ms. Fältskog may modulate or soften as appropriate but usually does not "hold back" when singing. Though she often doesn't "let it go to her max" (as sometimes "pushed" in ABBA (pgs. 262-63), it's still out there for us -- more understandingly planned (range) and produced.

(Blog note: A recently updated section here.) In her later English solo albums there perhaps is no "ABBA-style" catchy hit single, to the disappointment of some critics. And there may be a few questionable song choices that probably shouldn't have been recorded. Some productions are sub-par, or marred by '80's excesses. For fans of her pristine voice however, there's still much to enjoy. Per below, she often sounds good regardless of what she's singing. Overall, I feel that solo Agnetha was able to relax a bit, try new things, display her "lower voice" at times, etc. (Update: Impression partly confirmed, via this 1983 interview (link) with Ms. Fältskog.) Elaborating: To this listener, at times the performer's singing seems a bit "overdone" in some ABBA songs; either pushed to limits and/or technically modified. (Sometimes a clarion-like presence (but usually in a bright and appealing way) in a number of ABBA songs. 'Team-member' Agnetha marvelously performed the (vocal) role of dramatic accent/high harmonies provider in numerous songs...)) For me however, though notable exceptions (with ABBA) certainly exist, her natural, adaptable, feminine voice regularly seems generally better slotted in the (subsequent) solo English albums.  

(Yes, it's worth saying again: Agnetha's background vocals and harmony work in ABBA is stellar. Just one quick sample of many: Ms. Fältskog leads in parts of this (linked) song (even seemingly mimicking a bugle with her voice) , but her recorded, varying background harmonies are beautiful as well (link):  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xWVB0LcR_3Q&fmt=18 .) Further note: I am not knowledgeable re her Swedish solo efforts, though I am 'getting there'. Here is a quick "nod" to that considerable body of work (link) http://star4abba.blogspot.com/2009/06/agnetha-selected-songs-in-swedish.html . Excellent efforts in her native language....Recent update: For very big fans of Agnetha's special voice, the 1996 compilation My Love, My Life is likely a worthwhile investment. Even if you do not understand Swedish. (Many of Agnetha's earlier, pre-ABBA/early ABBA-period solo songs are included.) Here is a brief review from a (more) knowledgeable source (link).

Since we can't ask the artist herself, a few opinion-driven (and much-belated) selections follow; mini-reviews included. It's a long post, but the singer is worth a/another listen. (Links here are in light blue.) Please see if you agree with some of the choices. My own subjective "rankings" are at the bottom of the postAlso, if you'd prefer to see/hear Agnetha demonstrate her abilities "right now", please try the unofficial You Tube playlist which follows. As of this writing, some of her best solo efforts are included within various tribute videos:
(Link): http://www.youtube.com/view_play_list?p=F1E367911859E577

AND, please  review "Johnny's list" (of Agnetha solo songs) linked at the bottom of this post. From a complete Agnetha fan/expert....Update: Plus, some 'top ten' Agnetha solo song lists (incl. Swedish songs) from (other) fan/experts at abba4ever.com (link).

Continuing on: Right off the bat, I don't have enough "information". Ms. Fältskog has released something like 13 Swedish or English albums (Music section), after ABBA. As a parochial American, I haven't listened to most (yet!). (Therefore, this post's subject will be updated as necessary.) Agnetha.net's (web site) 'Bio' section doesn't give much clue as to any one song that the artist herself thought as special. So, since it's my blog, I'll toss out a few possibilities. Please forward comments with your own ideas, if you'd like to. (Links to current You Tube versions of many songs are included below, but note; some YT links have been removed for licensing/copyright issues. Please right-click on links for a new window.)) Her recently released compilation album, My Very Best may also be somewhat helpful (photo is a link to the album (right-click)) :

Image source (link)
From her 2004 interview with Lasse Bengtsson, she listened to part of this song and commented "It's good." And it certainly is. (Headphones suggested.) Here's part of one very recent comment on a You Tube version of "If I Thought You'd Ever Change Your Mind": "The most beautiful female voice on earth!" -- from 'masorlie'

A pretty good "jumping off" point. And the song was recorded just a few years ago, as a mature artist. If that voice is still intact today....well.... lets all hope we hear it again. Sensitive, yearning lyrics, too. Despite some criticism from music "pundits", Ms. Fältskog is sometimes at her best on these "types" of songs. (Love, romance, yearning, and... sadness.) Using the U.K. chart as a measure, "If I Thought..." is her highest charting post-ABBA single outside of Sweden. It also makes the 2008 "My Very Best" compilation.

I need to listen to the 2004 return album "My Colouring Book" further, to comment intelligently. I do know that "When You Walk In The Room" is also outstanding. Another recent You Tube comment (that song): "Her voice is a miracle" -- from 'gcafeche'. "Colouring Book" may likely wind up being her "sign-off" (solo, English) album, giving it some extra poignancy for fans. (Please see this updated post for another beautiful song from Agnetha that may speak to this, at least in part.)  

BTW, Agnetha's in-English singing shows hard work on the performer's part to "get it right". (Plus, ability with the language.) Updated note: As with all artists, not everything attempted is a triumph. The recent ending of AMC's "Mad Men", Episode 12 (Season 3) reminds me that, though Agnetha's voice is beautiful as always on "Colouring Book's" "The End of The World", she did not touch the original from Skeeter Davis. For me anyway, Agnetha's voice is just too bright for this heartbreak song, and doesn't capture the despair of Skeeter's version. (Not "wrenching" enough - though the Swedish singer is capable of that.) The whistling in this updated, cover version didn't work for me.

Proceeding, it looks like we're not going to be able to limit this to only one post-ABBA song. (A good thing! To be honest, this singer might be able to "sing the telephone book" and have me listening. Ref.: This album's song "P&B". I don't know what she's "on about", but she sounds great. Brightly sung. And: Like her brief (but inane) spoken section at the beginning. A feminine voice. And an appealing accent... throughout. )
Continuing, I'd immediately offer Ms. Fältskog's "The Queen of Hearts" for consideration, released (in English) on her 1998 "That's Me" album. (Note: It was recorded back in the early '80s as a 'demo'.) It shows off the power, range and clarity of her voice, and it's lyrics easily can be associated with the talented and attractive lady herself. (Not that this was necessarily intended.) It's not on '08's "Very Best". Update: If interested, a quick recommended read at this point: Carl Magnus Palm's liner notes for Agnetha's "That's Me" hits compilation (link). His notes touch upon all of her '80s solo efforts and contains good information and commentary. I certainly agree with his assessment of the artist's "stunning" English rendition of this song, "The Queen of Hearts". (Somehow "only" a demo originally.) Updated note: The Swedish version of this song seems even better; softer and sweeter....

Still going back a way, the title single from 1983's "Wrap Your Arms Around Me" has many of the qualities mentioned: Striking clarity. Range. Plus drama, and some fantasy-inspiring lyrics. (As a solo singer, I love this pop soprano's(?) surprisingly rich lower expanse (strong example, here). It's one of the best parts of her range, and could it bebe even better today?? And, also: Is she a soprano? )  I also happen to enjoy it immensely when Agnetha hums or "la-las", as she does just a bit in this song. (So this little 1974 Agnetha number (link) has me in heaven.) The sweetness in her voice is apparent especially later in the song here. Mimed in the video below, in an odd '80s outfit, but still: A superstar performance by the spellbinding lady. Brilliant at engaging (viewers) via the camera.....and in command of the audience on this one. (Conquering any shyness, etc. in the spotlight here.)
(It's track 1 on disc 2 of "My Very Best".)
The 80's-sounding "Can't Shake Loose" (from Wrap Your Arms...it's on the My Very Best compilation) may deserve a quick mention (more here about the song's promo video (link)), as does "The Heat is On". The artist's higher voice was at times like Olivia Newton-John's. I'm not sure at times if it was truly the best area for her. I further wonder what her vocal tessitura is/was considered to be.... She sometimes strained or pinched on her highest notes, or could sound a bit like a young girl. With due respect, seems to me that this singer's very highest voice may have been best reserved for dramatic accent, within harmony. (As used in ABBA at times. Again, it's significant to note that ABBA's producers (read: Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus) regularly "pushed" their singers' limits, according to Mr. Palm's 2001 biography. Ref. page 263.) Update: Please note this angelic, high-voiced, falsetto exception to the above (link). And, in general, it's impressive what this singer could "do" (various effects, range-use, etc.) with her voice. Certain solo songs really helped bring that out....
As seen in an earlier post I'm also fond of sexy "Stay" from this album, though its background "panting" (etc.) is a bit much and can easily become distracting. Speaking of versatile Agnetha's vocal realms, 1987's "Let It Shine" ("I Stand Alone" album) is sung in a nice, sweet vocal "channel". A relaxed, smooth-sounding Agnetha singing a bright song. Shinily sung as if there's a smile on her face. It's on "Very Best". (Please see more about this '87 album, here.) And, a required mention of actress Agnetha's (sort of) secret sense of humor, on display below in a catchy, very '80's music video. ("I Won't Let You Go", from her 1985 "Eyes of a Woman" album. I believe that Ms. Fältskog wrote the melody for this song.) A brightly sung but echo-ey thing; however: She nailed the singing.  Solid lower-voice portions. Brilliant, crystal-clear delivery. Feeling. And shining flashes of her dramatic higher voice (repeatedly in the refrain). Strong; with not much "pinching" or straining. It's on "Very Best", and is a nice example of (some of) her vocal abilities. At least to me, only Agnetha was able to sound like this. (Ignoring the song's '80s production excesses and the awkward body-builder video.) :
(Links) Song is in the middle section of this section of the nice "A is for Agnetha" 1985 TV special: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K8D1sOklwiw
another, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fGG8XexinA0&feature=related

2011 update and edit:  This 2009-10 post got a little long -- and rambling. Therefore, several remaining paragraphs are getting 'cut' here, with the exception of a few words about - and a YT video for - Ms. Fältskog's (1983) "Man". We'll then proceed more directly to my 2009-10 listing of top, in-English solo songs for the artist. (Which repeated some of the edited paragraphs' content within their brief descriptions.)
Plus, now that I know more about Ms. Fältskog's Swedish solo work I will try an updated "top ten" list: "The Best of Agnetha, solo". (Further below, near the end.)

(Previously written text:) Another song that does not make the "Very Best" compilation: Seductively-tempoed "Man". It's Ms. Fältskog's own song, and it is sung with angelic clarity and sweetness. Beautifully "self-harmonized". (At least two different voice lines sung by the artist, then combined. Seemingly "harmonizing with herself" I believe, at points.)

Even without enhancement, a clear, "metallic" voice that also can be beautifully softened, packed with emotion, etc., etc...
At times it features ringing "brilliance" (sharpness and clarity of tone). And "Man" seemed to be sung from the heart.. I.e., again with the yearning?  Remarkable. And ...an 'extra' re this song and album: Part of the making of the "Wrap..." album. Agnetha is impressive to watch and hear... behind the scenes. A gifted singer. Although some "live" singing in this video could be dubbed in from the (final) album(?).  Hard to tell....(BTW: This YT video presently displays something like 260+ 'likes', and ZERO 'dislikes'. Some 'troll' will come along to spoil that of course....)

(Link for this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dqhQauDpaug)

Is ""Wrap Your Arms Around Me" Agnetha's best (in-English) song, post-ABBA? Or, "To Love"? "Let It Shine"? Angelically-sung "Man"? Personal-sounding "Shame", one of her own favorites? Super-sweet-voiced, plaintive "Stand By My Side"? Or her prominent later songs from the "Colouring Book" album? None of the above? The best perhaps still yet to come...?? Stay tuned....

P.S. So which one?? I'm still learning. And I think there are many to choose from. (Note: There is an excellent forum topic about Ms. Fältskog's "best" English solo efforts here (link). You can see some lists from others who have good knowledge of the subject.)

There's also early Agnetha (pre-ABBA) and then mature Agnetha. Plus stellar solo songs in her native language. But, for me (and others), it's mostly about that special voice and its qualities. So I have to "sneak in" this euphonious little earlier one (even though not post-ABBA), http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MG4zeI-yPeg&fmt=18 and then... for me, it has to be this one, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dqhQauDpaug. (Very close: "Colouring Book"'s two songs mentioned above were a tremendous affirmation of her abilities. (Plus solo song list number '2b', below.) And also (a surprise listing..so "high" up), the brightly sung and upbeat "P&B". She sounded really good and seemed to have fun (yee haw!).Thanks to YouTube's 'swissprincess1974' for offering this captivating snippet of Agnetha recording (or lip-synching recording?) part of "P + B". (They couldn't find a way to get this beautiful lady on-screen (in the movie...)? Maybe she didn't want to....)

So for this listener, post-ABBA: (Understanding that the list is primarily about the singer's voice, how well it is used, how it sounds, perhaps certain special qualities (of the voice) in a song, etc. It is less about the meaning of song lyrics (though a factor), strength or appeal of melodies, accompanying music (though a factor), etc., etc. Those still with me here, please take a look and let me know what you think (comments section at the end of the post). And, please also check out my updated "top ten" list (incl. Swedish songs) further below...

1. "Man"  (As time has passed a guess is that the artist may have become less pleased with this song's words. "Man" is not included on her "best of" album compilations. Portions are sung beautifully, however. BTW, if that speculation is accurate (it may not be), one may wonder why the occasionally fawning, "play-acted" "Mr. Persuasion" (not written by Agnetha) was included on the singer's 2008 My Very Best compilation. I.e., instead of "Man".)

2.( a "tie") Update: As I learn more about Ms.Fältskog's solo efforts, I "reserve the right" to change certain rankings here. This is a change... upward:  "I Won't Be Leaving You" from Eyes of a Woman is Agnetha's most affecting ballad-with-feeling... in-English, post-ABBA. Please read and hear more here (link).  (2010 update: Unfortunately, YT videos of this song have been removed (at least in the U.S.), by UMG.)  Sung subdued and sultry/sweet, with aching yearning in her voice at moments. That this physically appealing person could (also) beautifully convey real feeling in her songs (such as this) might be one reason Agnetha's fans still yearn to hear that special voice. (Yes; possibly for singer, too...? "Sexiest woman on the planet", says this YouTube poster - one of a number to do so....)) "I Won't Be leaving You" is a tender, intimate, headphones-compulsory beauty.
(Added note: Fan/experts at the 'abba4ever' forum don't seem to place this song near the top (on their comprehensive 'Agnetha' lists) , though many do like it. We all hear songs differently, and the focus here (i.e., this short list) is mostly upon the singer's beautiful voice (vs. lyrics). )

2a. (update): "Love Me With All Your Heart". Thank you to 'abba4ever' forum admin. Johnny for "reminding" me (via his comprehensive listing of Agnetha solo songs) of this 2004, My Colouring Book song, that I somehow overlooked. Though Petula Clark (and The Ray Charles Singers) popularized the English version, Ms.Fältskog makes it her own, and in some ways the 1960s song and lyrics seemingly are Agnetha. A very good job; it is Agnetha's clear and sweet-voiced sound, but with influences of Connie Francis and even a bit of Doris Day comes to mind (in her effort). (Not the first 'Doris connection' for the singer (link). And don't laugh (if you were): Doris Day is (reportedly) the top female box office star of all time, and (also) recorded over 600 songs. ) Thanks to 'abbafanglosuk' for the current song posting (on YouTube), and be sure to read the enlightening description/quotations that are included with the video. Here are some of Agnetha's thoughts about returning to recording with My Colouring Book

"I wanted to record this album partly because I have received many letters over the years where people write that they miss my voice. My own prime motivation has been the love for songs from the 50's and 60's, where there are very, very strong melodies and poignant lyrics. Many recordings from the time are fantastic. I feel very happy that I was so young when everything exploded in popular music. With this album I want to act as an intermediary of my experiences with these songs and artists. It's a tribute to them and what they've given me.""

(And you are not the only one happy to be around for the great popular music of the 1960's (etc.), Ms.Fältskog...)

2b. "If I Thought You'd Ever Change Your Mind". What can a mere mortal say, other than thank God Ms. Fältskog came back and recorded this. Perhaps the culmination for the singer, as a singer. (A wonderfully matured, yet still so youthful sounding, voice.) Again - as presented - this song seemingly is Agnetha. Or; she makes it hers. Completely owns it....The definition of a sweet, feminine voice, right there in your headphones.

The final stanza/refrain as sung; Agnetha drawing up close to the microphone in the official video: Pure heaven. (Ms.Fältskog's multi-faceted appeal in full force....)  Very few can instill genuine emotion in their voice as this artist can. And...where does that sweet 'ring' in her voice (to the fore in the song's finale) come from....?? (I.e., it is hardly just technical (recording) 'wizardry'...)
The most beautiful rendering of the word "columbine" in recording (recorded?) history as far as this fan is concerned, too...

2c. This version of "One Way Love". (Multiple voice lines sung by the artist and combined, again. Sung with lower-voiced power. See the previous post for more about this song.)

3. (update - I mentioned this song prominently in text above, but managed to forget to include it in this list's earlier rendition.): "The Queen of Hearts". I happen to prefer the slightly sweeter, smoother (linked) Swedish version. I feel that the singer's voice strains or "thins out" in certain, higher-voiced moments of the (recorded) English version. Another "signature (solo) song" -- especially in terms of how fans may (choose to) interpret (some of) the lyrics -- for the Swedish star.  (Side note: The Swedish version of this song was first recorded in 1979. So not yet before ABBA disbanded....)

4. (another 'tie'; quite a few very good song efforts): "To Love", and "Stand By My Side".  Both illustrate some of the appealing things Ms. Fältskog could do with her feminine voice. I wonder why she didn't open her voice and let loose a few more forceful singing moments like those in "To Love". It is one of her nicest-sounding solo efforts. The powerful rendering of the (sung) word "means" (to love) - is memorable.

The impossibly sweet, plaintive, refrain unleashed in "S.B.M.S.'' is one-of-a-kind. A siren's cry....arrowed straight to us. Only Agnetha could sound like that.  Ms. S. and P.  Sweet and Plaintive.

4a. "Let It Shine". As noted, I enjoy "bright Agnetha" -- her voice seems intrinsically sweet... and bright. (So she is "Ms. S. and B.", as well.(??) How did she manage that?) Anyway, songs that bring such qualities to the fore are appreciated. It is perhaps a cliche, but there often seems to be bright "sunshine" in this singer's voice. It can be warm at moments; at others it seems to "sparkle" or shine.... (Difficult to completely 'hide' in some of her sadder songs or ballads.) In such aspects "Let It Shine" is a signature work (i.e., solo songs, "sweet and bright". Here (link) may be another appropriate one...). Very smooth delivery, also. A good example of Ms. Fältskog softening her characteristic clear, ringing (sometimes fortissimo) voice (for portions of this song). One might qubble with some small aspect of this song - perhaps the tempo - but Agnetha delivers her vocals flawlessly. Excellent and fitting background harmony recorded by the singer as well. Very close to perfection... and a perfect - sweet and bright - female voice here, in my humble view.

4b. "Maybe It Was Magic", "Remember Me", "Wrap Your Arms Around Me", "What Now My Love" (All very good ones for voice fans. Compelling singing/interpretation in all, at moments. "Remember Me" is 'ranked' highly by me for it's impact: I think it can be taken as Ms. Fältskog's English-singing "swan song", if you will. I.e., no new English language albums/songs to come from the artist. (So the lyrics asserted their significance for me in this song (i.e., more so than the voice).) Also from ...Colouring Book, "What Now..." features appealing, building orchestration (and wonderful musicianship overall). Mature Agnetha finds a bereaved, slightly husky "ache" in her voice... appropriate for this one.  Very few popular artists are able to sing with bare emotion like this...
(Aside: For some reason Agnetha's occasional accent - which I usually enjoy - is jarring to me at moments on Colouring Book (in general). Perhaps it's being familiar with other (English) versions of (some of) the songs that she covers....))

4c.  "The Angels Cry" (Eyes of A Woman album, by Justin Hayward), is an excellent song for Ms. Fältskog's considerable abilities. She sings it in a mournful manner (for her) as it is (of course) a sad song. You can detect the longing in her voice at moments. Nice rising singing, and "clear as a bell". Perhaps could have used slightly more "softening" of the voice at appropriate spots -- which she could do....But, again, there's often no hiding the shiny brightness inherent in Agnetha's voice. (More, below.) Also, with close listening to this song, the singer seems slightly "off" (key) on a couple of notes here and there. A tiny bit of a struggle for her at brief moments. A rare problem for comfortable-(and precise-) in-the-"studio-Agnetha". BTW: Link to another superb rendition of this beautiful song by Renaissance's Annie Haslam (mind your volume): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CK2rekYhmUo
(FWIW: My own very slight preference is for Annie's more accurately-sung, controlled... but less emotional version.)

Update - few more efforts need to be added: A mention for the "Eyes of A Woman" song from the album of the same name (which I seem to like more and more); as a good example of both "crisp" and metallic qualities sometimes present in Ms. Fältskog's singing voice. ("Metallic": It IS a quality.) Link to YT example is here.  And....yes; one more: "Little White Secrets" is a "stealthy", appealing beauty - especially in its forceful latter portion. Another feeling song from the artist; discussed in a bit more detail here (a future post).

5. (more 'tied' songs!) (update): "When You Walk in the Room" (from My Colouring Book). Power, volume, clarity...and enthusiasm from 54-year-old Agnetha. Love the sweet 'ring' (non-technical usage) still present in the singer's voice, especially in the fortissimo refrain. Plus... the world's cutest (correct) pronunciation of "...thunder boom".

5a. (update):  "If You Need Somebody Tonight" (from I Stand Alone). A slow and intimate one, again displaying feeling (in the singer's voice).

5b. "Just One Heart" (Eyes of A Woman album). Pleasant, and angelic at moments. One of the most engaging from Agnetha's higher voice. She uses her girlish falsetto ....It is different from many of her other songs. (Something that I like...)

5c . "I Won't Let You Go" (sung great, but marred by '80s production excess). Sexy "Stay" makes my list here, too. Appealing singing, but distracting background "panting" and moaning spoils it.....

5d. "P&B".  By the way, there appear to be several knowledgeable fans over at the "abba4ever" forum who definitely disagree that P & B was a good effort. Fair enough. (Reminder: This list is "about the voice" (how it sounds (to me)), vs. song lyrics.) To my "American ears" I think Agnetha voice sounds feminine and enjoyable. (I especially like it when she unleashes her bright voice element.) She is also sweet and siren-like in the refrain; almost letting it go, but with control.  Update: A beautiful studio snippet is here (link). (Via this YouTube clip (which might have been over-dubbed after production - can't tell for sure), excellent resonance on the word "fool", as she nails the lower-voiced moment...)

6. 1985's "Click Track". Actress Agnetha "raps" a bit (rhymes over a beat) and shows her sexy lower voice in an edgy '80's video. This appealing song/video combination would have been something of a hit in the U.S. (at the time) with proper promotion, IMO. (Especially the video.) One reason I prefer solo Agnetha: She tried out a few different things (such as this video effort). However, this song is still a bit of "ABBA formula": Bright music, (with a) sadder 'message'. BTW, we sometimes overlook this: Excellent English language skills displayed by the Swedish star in this fast-paced song. (Plus the intriguing Swedish-tinged 'rap' at the song's start....)

6b.  "Once Burned, Twice Shy". Listeners can definitely hear the "hurt" in the singer's voice. (Updated section:) Perhaps something here in the style of Ms. Fältskog's singing idol, Connie Francis?  Sung in a higher key (maybe a bit too high...), Agnetha's tense/wailing soprano voice is a little difficult to listen too. (In line with the song's lyrics, this may be fitting...) Not much sweetness (in the voice) here.... mostly angst. With what sounds like a slide guitar (I'm not an expert), a good, American country sound on this one. Agnetha's troubled,"crying" voice heightens the feeling of distress.

AND, "Golliwog" has to be listed, even though it's not a post-ABBA song. It's too sexy not to be. Young Agnetha's playful (and sexy) falsetto.(HAH! Try the Swedish version....It's funny; lots of play-acting (with the voice): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zxiERdwOuCk&fmt=18 )

One more (unranked) ; maybe just a "typical" solo song example from Ms. Fältskog. (YT link follows.) Sounding great, with ease. Multiple voice lines sung, again. Catchy. (Almost a Steely Dan-like backing at moments. But maybe a lot of '80's pop songs sounded something like that.... The video is "totally" Eighties in look, and -- other than "retro"-fabulous-looking Agnetha -- not especially well presented.
But just one example of what Agnetha could almost effortlessly knock out (as a singer). (Please see this post for more about this subject.) Like others, I'd guess it could have been something of an easy-listening hit, with promotion. Agnetha has a good feeling for this one. Short song; nice job: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-j-MkNGv4BA&fmt=18
(From "Eyes of A Woman".)

 AND...yet one more "nod" (OK, a "bow") to Ms. Fältskog's abilities: "Never Again", the 1982 duet with singer Tomas Ledin does not happen to be one of my personal favorites. (It is included on Agnetha's My Very Best compilation.)
The song seems a transparent attempt (by both singers) to mimic (popular music) American (black) "soul" artists, at least to my sensibilities. However...it wasn't necessarily a "terrible" attempt. (No effort that includes Ms. Fältskog's voice is (that).) Agnetha, at moments, could sound a little bit like such a singer. Kind of a "light pop/soul sound", as mentioned at this worthwhile website re Agnetha's solo albums (link).

As witnessed with ABBA, singing/harmonizing with others is a strength for Agnetha. The post-ABBA duets bring out and highlight her beautiful, feminine voice. One that does so is linked here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5g9gLQBUfDM

Updated note: I consider the gentleman who administers the 'abba4ever' forum (Johnny) to be a complete expert about Ms. Fältskog and her music. Please have a look at his recent, five-page list (plus other fan/expert comments about it): "Johnny's Top 134 Agnetha song ramblings"....
We don't happen to agree on some songs (rankings). Johnny focuses upon lyrics and meanings more than I do. But his knowledge is much more extensive, extending to Agnetha's Swedish songs, etc. It is well worth a look.....there is much to learn for Agnetha fans. (FWIW: His "top ten" is fairly accurate, in my humble view, though I don't happen to agree with his #1. Obviously from my (less-comprehensive) list above, I place in-English songs "Man" and "Let It Shine" much higher -- focusing upon how (well) Agnetha sings/delivers them (vs. lyrics).

 (YT low-res. screen cap; source)

2011 (2013) update: A new attempt at listing Agnetha Fältskog's "ten best" solo songs follows. It is difficult to confine to just ten songs for this artist. (See above.) Her special voice - by itself - makes many solo efforts worthwhile. Please note (again) that I am focusing upon the singer's voice, how well it is used/sounds, her delivery, adapting/"shaping" of the vocals. (Plus some "intangibles" and nuances (with the voice/delivery), not easily described via words...) Lyrics, song construction, etc. are factors too, but the voice is the main thing for me. This newer list considers Agnetha's many in-Swedish solo songs, though I am still learning about some of those. (So some of the solo efforts now included are not 'post-ABBA'....) Also (per "the voice is the main thing for me"), "best" songs does not always equal favorite songs (for this listener).

There are differences between the newer listing and the 2009-10 one above, for a few reasons. E.g., the yearning "I Won't Be Leaving You" - a personal favorite - has been "bumped"downward, as it may contain a small, in-English (lyrics) pronunciation error, discussed further here. Better knowledge of Swedish solo efforts displaces a few in-English songs from the earlier list. Etc...
As noted, a number of excellent efforts will "just miss" a "top ten" listing for this talented singer....It is unfair - even misrepresenting - to limit to only ten songs. (Suggest Agnetha's 2008 My Very Best compilation album for a truer portrait of the solo artist. Her My Love, My Life compilation; more comprehensive for earlier, solo material...)  Finally...check back next week! One or two songs - especially on the latter half of my list - will have changed. How the listener feels, mood, etc. alters preferences, and 'what sounds best'....(E.g., 2013 update: I've flipped positions for "Man" and "Tio mil kvar till Korpilombolo". The latter -- now "ranked" #3 on my fan's list -- is a fine representation of Agnetha's sweet and bright voice elements...

(Please see another brief 2013 update following the list....)

Here goes...(Note: Many of the following are currently available for listening via YouTube (one link here (new window)), and also on the album compilation cited above):

1. "Nar du tar mig i din famn", My Very Best and other albums. (Among other qualities, a good sample of Ms. Fältskog's clear singing voice....)

2. "If I Thought You'd Ever Change Your Mind", from Agnetha's My Colouring Book album. (Pls. see the older section above for more about this effort.)

3. "Tio mil kvar till Korpilombolo", from My Very Best and others. (Sweet and bright -(voiced). Most distinctly Agnetha! (The singer; i.e., sounding like no one else here. )  ...Plus: Ms. Fältskog's humming (etc.) throughout this effort, especially at the close -- heaven on earth. (Including not-easy-to-execute quick drops to lower notes at moments within the song.)

4. "Mina Ögon", from Elva Kvinnor I Ett Hus. (Pls. see this post for a little bit more about this song.)

5. "Man", from Wrap Your Arms Around Me. (Pls again see above for more about this song.)

6. "One Way Love", from Eyes of a Woman. (Pls. see this post for much more.)

7. (tie) "Vart ska min kärlek fora", and "Nu ska du bli stilla" (link), both from the musical Jesus Christ Superstar, Swedish production. Agnetha might have equaled herself in the second, generally less-played song here...(BTW, these two are not technically solo (career) songs, as the singer was part of the production's cast. But they are spotlight(ed) solo performances and I'll include them.)

8. "I Was A Flower", from "A". This post - and blog - attempts to focus (particularly) upon Ms. Fältskog's special voice. Per 2013's album effort, that singing voice has changed somewhat since 25-30+ years ago. Un-surprisingly. To this one -- admittedly close-listening -- fan it has become somewhat 'thinner' over time. (Best single-word descriptor I can conjure...) Though certain voice elements may be less prominent (or available) than before, others are still remarkably present: Listeners know it is distinctively Agnetha('s). 

In that context (and contributing to a slightly lowered (song) "ranking" here), "I Was A Flower" is a dark jewel from an artist evolved as a master of rendering heartfelt ballads. (Especially; lamentations of lost, ruined or unrequited love.) ...Both evocative and powerful, especially for some who may recall (moments of) the singer's career history... Agnetha has favored/done-favor-to such songs before. As previously noted however, the final, distressing moments of mournful "IWAF" are interpreted/delivered with one-of-a-kind woeful regret. The feeling here is that no other popular singer could have expressed those lines more compellingly.

9. As noted in the older section above "Love Me With All Your Heart" seemingly IS Agnetha Fältskog. A fitting song, "owned" by Agnetha and delivered with honey-voiced clarity by the mature singer.

10a, 10b, 10c, 10d (tie). "Maybe It Was Magic", from I Stand Alone. (Pls. see this post for much more...) Update: Obviously I'm unable to limit Agnetha's solo list to ten, so this list position includes a 'tie'.  
10a... "Let It Shine", from Eyes of a Woman. (Pls. see the older listing above for more about this song.)
10b...Despite a possible, minor mispronunciation in the lyrics, "I Won't Be Leaving You" is one of emotion-conveying Agnetha's best as a solo artist. More about that lovely song effort (headphones 'required') is linked here. 10c. Together, Agnetha and fiancé Björn Ulvaeus created an enjoyable, 1971 Swedish album, När en vacker tanke blir en sång ("When A Beautiful Thought Becomes A Song"). (Björn produced, Agnetha composed, etc.) Much of it is young Agnetha at her solo, age-21-and-under best, to my ears. A personal favorite from the album is the hard-to-describe, "one-on-one", artist/listener-bridging "Då finns du hos mig"(link). (Agnetha on piano as well as the lovely and personal vocal...) However, for this list focusing more upon the voice and singing, I'll choose the beautiful  The happy, youthful, nicely-self-harmonized "Nya ord" (link) is another top pick. Previous omission from this list: The full version of "Wrap Your Arms Around Me" (single) needs to be on an Agnetha "top-ten" solo list, if just for its whispered 'Älska mig's. (And humming....) 

11. (The most difficult choice, as so many good efforts qualify. Ref., my older listing, above:) "Little White Secrets", from  I Stand Alone. (An excellent YT video production is below.) All that I can try to say about this choice - which begins with a bit of tenuous singing (but that changes; fast) - is try to imagine siren Agnetha singing the latter portion of this song directly to you. In your ear. (It's quite easy to do so...) I.e., the later portion of the song that begins with the "Burning dreams..." line, until the end. Agnetha feels this one (as she sings it), and makes us feel it, too...It's genuine. Agnetha's "ringing", slightly metallic-edged, emotion-packed, feminine voice in the song section is (also) a "best of" snapshot of the mature, 1980s singer....  

As is evident via this 'top' song listing, my overall preference is for the more mature and accomplished adult artist. Especially as an age "thirty-something" singer.

Thank you to 'Fafner888' for producing this current YT version of 'Little White Secrets': 

(video link)

What do you think? BTW, FWIW: A few (of several) Agnetha songs very close to inclusion above are: "I Won't Let You Go" and "When You Walk in the Room (current video link)"...(Enthusiastically-delivered adult Agnetha efforts.) 2013 update: Actually, I would now "tie" 'IWLYG' and 'WYWITR' at number eleven in the (2011) list above. I have grown to appreciate Agnetha's stronger, more enthusiatic voice/singing employed in them. Also the more I listen, the more current #11, 'Little White Secrets' (somehow) sounds just slightly strained with some of the singing....
(Continuing, previously written:) ....Plus, 1975's well-done "Dom Har Glömt" (link). Don't know how to better express it, but the close-out of '75's Är du som han? is "Agnetha-'cool'".
And also:  1983's "Stand By My Side" featuring one-of-a-kind plaintiveness plus sweetness ((standard) def., meaning #1) packed into one voice/one song....(Esp. the chorus.)  An exceptional singing effort/result, IMO. And....What is delightful??... Young Agnetha's own 'En Egen Trädgård 'from 1975. 
More about that bright, 'period-piece' song is linked here...

Additional 2013 update: Other songs from Agnetha's "A" album's as worthy "contenders" (ref. above): Nicely-suited, well-interpreted "Past Forever". (The closest other "A" song to inclusion in the list above...) And, "Perfume In the Breeze": Some awkward lyrics but sung very nicely. Also, FWIW: I find the piece (to be) a little heavy on sentiment but this fan enjoys Agnetha's singing effort for "I Keep Them On the Floor...(Again FWIW: "Bubble" remains a personal favorite.....That bias, plus the song's uniqueness, Ms. Fältskog's delivery, and her dreamy "la-la's" also place that 'A' song close to inclusion in the list above....
...And yes; I still enjoy mature Agnetha's sweet-voiced effort for uptempo "Dance Your Pain Away".)

And please note: Many thoughtful Agnetha 'top ten' (solo) lists can be found at this excellent forum (link, new window): http://www.iphpbb.com/board/ftopic-30652567nx61610-9.html

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

1 comment:

  1. "The Last Time" in the album "I stand Alone" is very good too.