The Winner Takes It All is probably one of the most realistic anti-love songs of all time, as it talks about the shameful reality of what happens when you get your heart ripped out and stamped on by a gold platform boot belonging to a Eurovision song contest winner.
Written by Björn Ulvaeus, with the aid of a bottle of whiskey, in the aftermath of his divorce from fellow bandmate Agnetha Fältskog, The Winner Takes It All marked the moment when Abba ceased being a band of happy-go-lucky double daters and began to develop a more mature, personal and reflective style. The divorce the following year of fellow bandmembers Benny Andersson and Frida Lyngstad sealed Abba’s fate, and although this period of turmoil proved to be one of their most fruitful creatively – their final album The Visitors is the band’s underrated masterpiece – the writing was on the wall.
It can’t have been easy for anyone – writing a song about your divorce then having your ex-wife sing it, but Agnetha’s heartbreaking vocal is filled with both ice cold resignation and bittersweet longing, telling us that she was feeling the same things as Bjorn while behaving like a true pro.
Courts, judgements, gossip; this is how most happily-ever-afters truly end up. After talking for so long about the bliss of falling in love, with The Winner Takes It All, Abba admitted they’d been selling us a pack of lies. The bastards.
Abba, I still love you.
Words: Thomas Dearnley-Davison