Monday, June 13, 2011

30 Day Song Challenge, Day 13: A Song That Is A Guilty Pleasure

Oh man, seriously, I love ABBA soooooo much. No joke. I once said that if I were ever to get a tattoo, I would have "Super Trouper" tattooed on my shoulder. (For the record, no tats here. My skin remains as clean as the driven snow.) I kind of wish I did feel guilty about my ridiculously unrestrained ABBA fandom, but I don't. Not really. ABBA was not only one of the most iconic bands of the disco era, but also one of the best.

(An aside: Wikipedia explains "disco" as a musical genre that "had its roots in clubs that catered to African-American, gay, psychedelic and other communities" in NYC and Philly in the late 60's and early 70's. Make of that what you will.)

Anyone who had the grave misfortune of not already being familiar with ABBA was certainly relieved of that in the last few years as a result of the film and Broadway hit Mamma Mia!, which features the band's music. (The best film featuring ABBA's music will always be Muriel's Wedding, though. One of my favorites.) As an unapologetic ABBA fan, I was glad to see their recent revival, if only because a new and even younger generation now gets to experience all of their chintzy, glittery, bell-bottomy awesomeness. And the guilt that comes along with it. I'm not sure why everyone feels like they should feel guilty about loving ABBA. It's the same way with Neil Diamond, I think, who is equally undeserving of that kind of self-loathing. The fact is, ABBA gave us some great music with great stories. They make people get up and dance. They practically define an era of grooviness. And besides, they're probably the only Swedish band you know!

Still, if I had to pick a guilty pleasure from this already guilt-laden band, it would be the following. Here's ABBA performing their lesser-known "Fernando," which in 1975 was their first non-album hit, but which appears on their 1992 compilation ABBA Gold: Greatest Hits:

I mean, come on. Even as an ABBA lover, I find myself thinking: how in the HELL did this ever make it onto the pop charts??!!

Here's the thing: "Fernando" is not a song, it's a Tolstoy novel. It's got star-crossed lovers, it's got guns and cannons, it's even got the Rio Grande. For god's sake, there's REVOLUTION in the air! (Please oh please let me be a part of whatever liberty is won by this song!) But even I'll admit that it's about as CHEESY as they come. I suppose it's the sweeping, world-historical pretense of the song that makes me feel a little guilty for loving it so much. Ah well, I do love it so.

If I had to do the same again, I would, my friend, Fernando.


Allen said...

It's not your average ABBA song. It almost seems like a Judy Collins cut with disco strings and percussion dubbed over it. I suppose that makes a little sense if it came out in '75. I can't stand "Dancing Queen" or other such hits, but this is really quite good.

Jamey Findling said...

+1 on the ABBA pick. (Though I like even more the other Spanish-named ABBA song, "Chiquitita.") But I frankly think you took an easy path with this selection. Isn't this after all a thoroughly "safe" pick, one that in fact employs the very idea of a "guilty pleasure" -- quite against the grain -- to underscore the sophistication, the "virtue," of one's taste? Perhaps it is just that my musical taste is hopelessly immoderate, but I can think of dozens of songs that I would be more ashamed to admit liking than a song like "Fernando." (What's that? You're saying I should share my shame, instead of trafficking in the hit-and-run criticism so typical of the blogosphere? Fine, then. How about "Pour Some Sugar on Me" by Def Leppard, which I heard live when I was 15 and which to this day represents perfectly for me all that was beautiful and horrific about the experience of being 15. "Do you take sugar? One lump or two!!!!" Ugh. I have to go wash my hands now after typing that!)