Monday, June 13, 2016

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

Oh man, seriously, I love ABBA soooooo much. 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. ABBA was not only one of the most iconic bands of the disco era, but also one of the best.

[Insert very awkward break here.]

I began writing this post a couple of days ago and, when I came back to finish it, the world had changed.

Wikipedia describes "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. I think a lot of people make fun of disco, or count disco as a "guilty" pleasure, in part because of its association with queer people and queer places.  But disco remains, and persists, as one of the most joyous, most exuberant, most life- and love-affirming musical genres ever.  I'm reminded of this on what is a tragically sad day today.  Early yesterday morning, more than a hundred people were wounded or killed at a gay nightclub in Orlando, the worst mass shooting in United States history. No doubt they were dancing together, living together,loving together, laughing together, and listening to disco together at some point that night, before their joy was transformed into a nightmare for all of us.  The pulse of LGBTQ nightlife has always been 120 beats per minute.

I don't have words for the pain and sadness and rage I feel about what happened at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, but I will say this: as horrifying and unthinkable as it was, it wasn't a "senseless" tragedy. In a nation that barely manages a shrug in response to public figures and elected officials who spew hate and incite violence, where there are more guns than people, where the struggle for LGBTQ rights is pacified with minor concessions, where the tired narrative of so-called "lone wolves" who "self-radicalize" whitewashes all of our complicity in constituting them as killers, a massacre like yesterday's makes perfect sense.

Bless all of those poor souls who died and those who were injured. Bless their families and friends. And let justice rain down like water on the rest of us.

[Insert another awkward break here.]

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 also the guilt that comes along with it. I'm here to say that you should not feel guilty about loving ABBA. (Same goes for Neil Diamond, who I think is equally undeserving of that kind of self-loathing, just ftr.) The fact is, ABBA gave us great music with great stories. They made people get up and dance. They practically defined 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.

Click here to return to the "anchor page" for #30DaySongChallenge2016 with the full list of this year's picks

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