Overall Album Score: 8.6 out of 10
Oh, ABBA had already hit their peak by this point. Certainly, Arrival and The Album are your best bets when it comes to their records. But they don't even show a hint that they gave up. This is another fantastic album full of such durable hits that they seal their position as one of the greatest pop band to grace our decrepit Earth.
They're still the writing melodies like the gods at any rate. "Super Trouper" takes one of the cakes. The melody is instantly memorable and treasurable. It's hardly denying that I've been an ardent admirer of that song for quite some time now. But "The Winner Takes it All" takes another cake. That's probably ABBA's most gorgeous ballad of their career (and that's saying something) with a beautiful vocal performance, and it even exhibits some emotional depth that largely escaped them until this point. That's such a surprising move considering they're usually quite shallow (but fun).
"Lay All Your Love On Me" is a huge dance hit that all Euro-freaks love in the clubs. It's so infectious and even has a surprisingly dark atmosphere. Then there's "Our Last Summer," which is a convincingly sentimental ballad with another fantastic melody. Above everything else, "The Piper" proves to be the most interesting track --- it's a pop/folky track with a hint of prog-rock. That's a strange combo, but it turned out great.
The album isn't 100 percent perfect, naturally. "Andante Andante" and "Me and I" are both cheaper than the previously mentioned tracks. However, they're both mildly entertaining. The only real stink bomb the band unleashes on us is the curiously out-of-place "The Way Old Friends Do." It's a live cut (!) of a song that wasn't too great to begin with. The resulting instrumentation is murky, and horribly out of place among all the other tracks, which glisten.
But if you're willing to put those aside, Super Trouper is a gem. Too few pop albums of the era are this good.
Overall Album Score: 8.6 out of 10 (Here is more lovely music from them Swedes...)
Average Song Score: 8.9 (The classic songs are unquestionably great pop music. "Super Troupers," "The Winner Takes it All" and "Lay All Your Love on Me." The supporting material is also pretty good apart from the closing track.)
Album Tilt: 8.5 (I could have raised this. But then there was "The Way Old Friends Do.")
Artist Tilt: 8.5 (It's more convincingly emotional than their previous records. Of course they're artists. The fillery material makes me think twice about giving it a full 9.0 though...)
Super Trouper 10/10
This is the first ABBA song I ever became addicted to back when I was 17! "Dancing Queen" was a little too famous for me to listen to incessantly (that's why I remember how old I was). Based on what I've heard other people say about it, "Super Trouper" seems to illicit greatly negative responses in listeners. I clearly don't understand these people. They should remove their pants and join the happy Swedish party!! These guys were able to pull off such perfect pop melodies that they don't even seem to be trying sometimes. Clearly there was more to it, because they've come out with quite a few stinkers in their time. But --- when they have a golden melody, they nail it. The instrumentation is quite a glorious thing as well! Especially the bass-line, which is just as catchy as the melody.
The Winner Takes it All 10/10
Though the most beautiful song ABBA has ever done is almost certainly "The Winner Takes it All." The melody is so gorgeous, and the vocal performances even manage to be soul-tugging. Usually, that's a rarity when you think about ABBA songs, but here they prove that stereotype is out-of-date. The lyrics are rather convincingly about a woman who lost her love to another woman. The instrumentation begins with a simple acoustic guitar and piano, but they give it some rhythm and beat soon --- in very ABBA styling. You know what I'm talking about.
On & On & On 9/10
For cripes sake, those two big hits are already over, and now we're traversing into the obligatory spotty supporting material. But why not let it be something like "On & On & On?" It's certainly more of a rocker than the previous tracks though robotic and contains some big synth sounds (clearly, they were experimenting with some '80s stylings, but they weren't willing to dive into it head first). It's not nearly as inspired as the previous two, but it's convincing. Most importantly, it's catchy.
Andante, Andante 8/10
This sounds like a traditional European folk track adapted with their sensitive brand of over-production. The melody continues to be nice and catchy, but it's too cutesy for its own good this time. Wholly decent and pleasant --- not their best.
Me And I 8/10
This is catchier than anything, but you get the feeling that Benny & Bjorn cut a few corners here. It seems pretty cheap. The huge synth sounds in the orchestration (and timpanis!) is wholly enjoyable and doesn't sound so horribly '80s as it could have. It's rather fun. The lyrics are about a schizophrenic person not getting along with himself/herself. I'm ready and willing to accept such weird material.
Happy New Year 8.5/10
It seems like an attempt to introduce a new holiday staple into our midsts. Well it didn't quite work, and they honestly didn't devote one of their finest melodies for the effort. In any case, this is a pleasant ballad with their great optimistic vibe! You have to love how they effortlessly work in that gorgeous chorus, though. (The girls duetting there are gold.)
Our Last Summer 9.5/10
I've always had a soft spot for "Our Last Summer" though there's no ready reason for that. Anyway, the melody is fantastic, and the sound is gorgeous. It's a sentimental ballad this group took personally --- ya know, they used to be romantically linked with each other. This also manages to be the most complexly structured track on here --- it goes through many different 'stages' and moods. There's even a nice electric guitar solo in here. Ohhhhh!!!
The Piper 9/10
A funny old song. They're going a bit folky/artsy here, and they actually pull it off. The melody is enjoyable, of course, but the instrumentation and development is great. It's ultra-polished, but that doesn't mean you can't enjoy that fake (and well picked) flute synth and the still ABBA-esque groove. The development of the song is nearly proggy... it turns into something like an early Genesis song very briefly. That's my favorite part!!
Lay All Your Love on Me 10/10
Oh, another big old hit that was probably played frequently at Eurodance parties. It probably still is. But "Lay All Your Love on Me" is a dance song that actually inspires me to get up and dance. Of course, I'm not doing that, because I never do that, but I'm inspired to get up and dance carefree. The tone of the track is surprisingly dark and menacing for an ABBA song. The melody is absolutely infectious, and so is the beat. Classic.
The Way Old Friends Do 6.5/10
A curious ending is a seriously lacking ballad "The Way Old Friends Do." The melody is corny, and the instrumentation isn't worth much. It was recorded live. Bad idea. It's always been clear that these guys were best suited for the studio. As the only track that doesn't sound crisp on this album, it's out of place like a tumor.
Hey, but there's a good bonus track. "Elaine" is something of a lost ABBA masterpiece. The synth intro more convincingly embraces '80s synth technology more than anything on the album (and in tremendously inspired results). But the real attraction is a rather menacing atmosphere and a wonderfully catchy melody. The lyrics are hilarious. Who ever said ABBA couldn't write lyrics?
"Put On Your White Sombrero" isn't such a great one. It's an ABBA-fied version of a Latin song. Not always the best combination, unfortunately. They're best when they're writing original melodies and not such derivative things. They come off as too cheesy!!! But because this is ABBA, it continues to be entertaining.
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