84. Abba - Take a Chance on Me

Until the Mama Mia! musical, Abba always got a bad rap for being a crap band who only wrote disco songs. And since the tremendous backlash against disco still hasn't been forgotten (who still has their DISCO SUCKS! t-shirt?), a band worthy of attention still gets snickers from the unbelievers. But Abba was a very prolific band that had more than a dozen Top 40 US singles even before the musical. The song that I think is their best is #84, "Take a Chance on Me."

The song grabs you from the very start. The two female lead singers, Anni-Frid and Agnetha start it out, with the men, Bjorn and Benny coming in with the staccato "Take a chance, take-a take-a chance chance" to give the opening tremendous depth. The vocal talents of all four are especially evident in this part. The fact that a band had four top quality singers in it is a fact that is often overlooked. Each of the four could be a lead singer in their own band (and they were, after the band split in the early 80's).

The guys were the driving force behind the songwriting and production behind all of Abba's music. They gave this song a more restrained instrumental track, since the vocal performances were so strong. That was the genius of these two. They knew what they had in every song and did what they needed to do to elevate each individual song. For "Take a Chance on Me," the chorus and verses almost seem like they were from different songs that they decided to put together in a single song. Then they added a brilliant bridge that pulls both together and makes it a great song.

Lyrically, Abba was always a little corny for my tastes (#84 greatest song ranking nonwithstanding), and this song is no exception.

If you need me, let me know, gonna be around
If you've got no place to go, if you're feeling down
If you're all alone when the pretty birds have flown
Honey I'm still free
Take a chance on me

Originally, I thought this was a positive song about trying to get the person you're interested in to give you a shot at a deeper relationship. But upon further lyrical review, it becomes clear that it's a much sadder proposition. The lines about "if you've got no place to go" and "honey I'm still free" show a desperation of an unrequited love that has turned a little sad. It's like saying, "After you've exhausted all other romantic options and you still don't have anyone, I'll be your last resort. Come on, take a chance on your last resort!" It's like all the people who didn't realize how much of a stalker torch song "Every Breath You Take" was and played it at their wedding.
Benny and Bjorn went to much deeper territory than most people gave them credit for.

But what it all comes back to is the stunning vocal performances from all four band members. The song has been covered tons of times and I think a big reason for that is that it's just so much fun for a talented singer to let loose on. I think Erasure's 1992 version is the best, where Andy Bell's vocals really shine in a tribute to the original. Since imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, countless musicians have given their thumbs up to the Swedish Beatles. Me, too.

(Fun Fact (and embarrassing disclosure) #73 - The band's name comes from the first initial of each band member's first name: Anni-Frid, Bjorn, Benny and Agnetha. The embarrassing part is that I was listening to the band for a dozen years before that even occurred to me.

Fun Fact #112 - If you have the third season DVD set of "The Office," check out the fourth episode, called "Launch Party." Near the end, Andy and his acapella band Here Comes Treble serenade Angela with our #84. Check out the link to the Andy Singing Youtube video below, it's near the end. Once again, if "The Office" says a song is cool...)

The record company wouldn't let Youtube embed the video in my post, but you can use the link below to watch the video. There's also the Andy singing video below that.

The Abba video


The Andy video
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