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Plus One: The 11 best ABBA songs

Why have a Top 10 when you can have one more? We take on the mammoth task of ranking ABBA's best hits

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For just over a decade, pop music was ABBA’s. Frida, Benny, Agnetha and Björn dominated the 70s, filling the homes, hearts and dancefloors with their timeless songwriting. Their legacy never ended, though, and unbelievably returns to the stage this week thanks to the dawn of the ABBAtar, as ABBA Voyage lands in London this week.

In excitement for its launch, we attempt to distil the Swedish super troupers’ vast canon into just 11 of the best. It wasn’t easy.

11. The Day Before You Came

With its seemingly simple synth loop and tale of a monotonous life, ‘The Day Before You Came’ is miles away from the melodrama of an ABBA classic. But doesn’t that make it mean so much more? The last song the group ever recorded (before their 2021 return), the sadness in Agnetha’s voice feels more significant than just getting into character, and there’s an icy eeriness to it that is still somehow so catchy.

ABBA - The Day Before You Came

10. The Winner Takes It All

Though ‘The Day Before You Came’ may have been their last song, ‘The Winner Takes It All’ has that dramatic finale feel to it, which is pretty fitting given it’s the ultimate break up song. Though Björn has always maintained that the song wasn’t a reflection of his divorce with Agnetha, the fact that she sung it gave it a special gravity that’s certainly never been lost by ABBA fans.

ABBA - The Winner Takes It All (Official Music Video)

9. Chiquitita

The breezy, Mediterranean feel of their 1979 mega-hit ‘Chiquitita’ sent ABBA fans dreaming of island getaways long before the Mamma Mia! franchise. This gentle track feels way more understated that the other greats in their canon (especially placed in the middle of its disco-centric LP Voulez-Vous), but it clearly struck a chord with its jolly shuffle and reassuring brace.

Abba - Chiquitita (Official Music Video)

8. When I Kissed The Teacher

Before anyone protests, this was one of Björn’s own favourite tracks, so there’ll be no quibbling. Though an unconventional opener to an album called Arrival (imagine the anticipation of opening this record in 1976), especially when they had the likes of ‘Dancing Queen’ and ‘Knowing Me, Knowing You’ waiting patiently, it’s easily one of ABBA’s most fun and light-hearted numbers and rightly a singalong favourite.

ABBA-When I Kissed The Teacher

7. The Name Of The Game

This track was a particular hit in the UK, topping the charts for a whole month, but there’s a curious shuffle to the opening of ‘The Name Of The Game’ that almost sounds more Talking Heads than ABBA (though it was actually inspired by Stevie Wonder’s ‘I Wish’. But then hits: that glorious, heartfelt chorus that makes you want to sway in the spot with your arms in the air.

ABBA - The Name Of The Game

6. Knowing Me, Knowing You

A favourite with Alan Partridge fans no doubt, ‘Knowing Me, Knowing You’ was one of ABBA’s early breakup classics, driven by those gorgeously jabbing keys that seem to prod at the heart and usher the knowing sighs of ‘Aha’. Frida’s vocal performance is the standout, adding a little disco suspense in the verses before the bellowing strength in the chorus.

ABBA - Knowing Me, Knowing You (Official Music Video)

5. SOS

Perhaps one of ABBA’s greatest emotional turnarounds, the morose pianos at the opening of ‘SOS’ seem to cling to Agneta’s longing vocals like a desperate hug, before the bubbly synths grab them by the scruff of the neck and pull them into a ripper of a chorus. It’s a rock epic, and no surprise it was a favourite of the likes of Pete Townsend, The Kinks and even the Sex Pistols.

ABBA - SOS (Official Music Video)

4. Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight)

You’ve got to back yourself if you add a brand new song to a Greatest Hits collection, and that’s exactly what ABBA did in 1979 with Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! Mind you, if you had written that spritely synth line, played that popping bass or roared that demanding chorus, you’d probably know you’re on to a winner.

ABBA - Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight)

3. Voulez-Vous

If you want to make a comically dramatic entrance into a club, or the tube, or your office for that matter, there can be no better match than the sultry and sassy ‘Voulez-Vous’. The 1979 album of the same name saw ABBA tone down the breezy, Europop ballads of The Album and get on board the disco train, and this title-track had it all. The serpentine guitar hook, the velveteen bass, the cheeky bursts of “Aha!” Right, that’s it, it’s going on again.

ABBA - Voulez-Vous (Official Music Video)

2. Dancing Queen

Oh, you knew it was going to make the cut. One of the most famous pop songs in existence and the group’s longest-running No.1, even the die-hard ABBA purists can’t deny they’ve let their hair down to this on the dancefloor at one point in their lives. That’s the point of the song after all: celebrating the giddy, nervous energy when the “Night is young and the music’s high” that makes you feel on top of the world. That opening piano slide (or glissando for the fellow music nerds) is like a rush of serotonin as the disco hi-hats guide the natural bounce, while the strings hang in the air like dry ice and give it this timeless, classical dazzle. If that doesn’t make you want to go and dance, I’m not sure what will.

Abba - Dancing Queen (Official Music Video Remastered)

1. If It Wasn’t For The Nights

It’s one of the biggest crimes in pop music history that ‘If It Wasn’t For The Nights’ is so often overshadowed by ‘Dancing Queen’ and the other big-hitters from ABBA’s back catalogue; but then, perhaps that’s what gives it its special charm. ABBA themselves may be to blame, having supposedly decided to use ‘Chiquitita’ as the lead single for Voulez-Vous instead. But this track perfectly captures the bitter-sweet essence at the heart of their songwriting. Not only is there the basic contrast of jovial disco verses with sombre lyrics of haunting heartbreak, but as the melody reaches the chorus it seems to build in this euphoric but wistful swirl — like crying and smiling at the same time. Isn’t that why you put on ABBA in the first place?

ABBA If It Wasn't For The Nights - (BBC TV '79) Deluxe edition Audio HD

ABBA Voyage launches this weekexperience the ABBAtars up close here.