Thursday, 3 July 2008

Super Trouper – Abba

The beauty of many of Abba’s songs is that they set jaunty melodies to somewhat melancholic lyrics – the result is this odd juxtaposition of emotions, yet when it works, it really works – something I am sure they all realised early on.

Super Trouper demonstrates this odd pull of emotions – the lyrics (we are led to believe) are biographical – about a band that hate touring, can’t wait to finish, are lonely and depressed, the lights blind them onstage, victims of their own success – the litany goes forever on. Yet they are not just ‘troupers’ - which, incidentally, means ‘a person who deals with and persists through difficulty or hardship without complaint’ (although we are given a list of them) – they are ‘super troupers’ – which means the poor things must really be suffering through their smiles. But the song does give us hope that the band aren’t sobbing into their shiny satin hankies each night before going on stage – they have friends in the audience, and their faces will get them through the hardship of being isolated on stage.

Gosh. Poor Abba. I am sure they had plenty of high moments as well, but I can’t help thinking how hard it must have been to be two married couples in the same band – no escape at all, and then when everything crumbled under pressure they still had to carry on (for a bit). I find ‘The Winner Takes It All’ such a hard song to listen to, even though they have stressed it wasn’t about divorce (as I think it was Benny that said ‘there are no winners in divorce’) but how painful that must have been to sing for others. Sometimes Abba’s music is pretty raw, emotions laid bare, something that can be forgotten under the layers of spandex and the happy shiny disco of ‘Dancing Queen’.


music obsessive said...

Have you been reading my book again? I make exactly the same point about the contradictory nature of their music. It also applies to many great songs ('Can't get you out of my head' is another good example where a feelgood disco beat is overlaid with a minor chord melody).

Super trouper (a reference to a type of spotlight, incidentally) is from my favourite 'late period' Abba. I love all their stuff from this time ('Day before you came', 'Head over heels', 'One of us' and of course 'Winner...'). They have a real emotional weight to them that their earlier songs didn't.

Another good choice. What next??

Jayne said...

I can't wait to read your book - as soon as I have some spare reddies behind me, then it's one of the first things I shall order! (and I've just been offered a job, so things are *hopefully* on the up!)

Oh is that what it is - a minor chord melody? I have no technical know-how sadly with music, that's why your blog is so fab, as you can look at it from the viewpoint of a musician as well as an obsessive!

I often find I like songs that tackle opposing emotions, they always seem to work with me. Glad you liked!