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Feb 27, 2019

With ‘Gold: Greatest Hits’, I Revisit The Peculiar, Yet Ultimately Satisfying Music Of Pop Rock & Disco Act ABBA

I used to work at a comic book store and at this store the employees could bring in their own music when the boss wasn’t there – our selections ran the gamut from R&B to Metal to Salsa – yet we had pretty much a no Hip Hop policy that really pissed me off – yet the perks of all the music being played was that I was exposed to some styles I never in a million years would have sought out. A colleague of mine – a big Led Zeppelin fan, was curiously for me also a huge fan of ABBA, and though at first I resisted this music as being too corny, I do remember that I was eventually taken aback by some stellar songwriting moments amidst all the cheesiness. Though they are classified as a Pop, Pop Rock, and Disco band, I feel that their experimental Disco parts are where the band really dated itself – not just because of what the actually sound of all that proto-synth sounded like, but because of their desire to incorporate these baroque classical elements into the beat which makes it sound so – how shall I say this – ‘music teacher square.’ Disco and orchestration went together like peanut butter and jelly in its day, I am well aware, but it was this synergy that always sounded off to me, whereas when it came to Disco’s real appeal for me, I much preferred the underlying Funk elements – the real reason why it was dance music, and not all the epic flutes and strings which by their very nature bled into the soundless spaces that are necessary to keep things truly funky. Add to this the fact that Disco was more mechanical than syncopated like Funk – and no Disco was more mechanical than the stuff coming out of Europe, inspired by and large by ABBA’s international success. Alas, theirs was really great Pop in general, no doubt about it, and it is funny because I really like the other CD that my coworker often played in conjunction – that of the Swedish Rock band The Cardigans. Though they were separated by 2 decades of activity (ABBA started in 1972, while The Cardigans began in 1992), there is no surprise that they have the same Pop Rock spirit and they are both from Sweden. But back to the ones who started it all – ABBA, even for all their corny and kooky electro disco Euro Dance symphonic missteps (in my more modern assessment), this extremely talented group also authored some of the most complex arrangements in Pop history, with literally each track consisting of wild transitions, not just melodically but instrumentally – kind of like they were determined to use every tool at their disposal in order to express the multitudes of styles ping ponging inside their creative minds.

Written by @taylor

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