Thursday, April 23, 2009

When I Change My Mind, I'm the First in Line

This blog gets a lot of search engine hits for ABBA, the Swedish pop band. But my familiarity with that particular music sensation was extremely limited until quite recently. I knew they existed, I knew they had a hit called "Dancing Queen," and I knew the musical Mamma Mia! was based on their music. That's about it.

When Mamma Mia! The Movie came out on DVD, I toyed with the idea of renting it, but I just couldn't bring myself to go there. It seemed a teeny bit over-the-top on my cheesy scale.

Then a strange thing happened. My baby brother talked about it. I honestly can't remember now whether he said he loved it or loathed it, but he was so passionate about his opinion that I had to check it out, based on his recommendation. (Or was it his condemnation?)

So last week, I picked it up off the shelf at Blockbuster. Low and behold, it starred Meryl Streep. Oh. My favorite actress. And Pierce. Ah, Remington Steele. And that guy who played Willoughby in the BBC Sense & Sensibility. Cool. And was that Mrs. Weasley? It was! And there. The clincher. Colin Firth. Such a cast. I couldn't resist.

Expecting Jeff to gag when I flashed the DVD at him as I got back in the car, I was surprised when he simply nodded in resignation and said, "I've been waiting a long time for you to rent that."


Apparently, when it first came out on DVD, Jeff suggested it to me and I made a face. Ever since then, when trying to choose a movie for me at Blockbuster, he'd considered that one, but he knew, by the face I'd made (his story), that he'd just have to wait for me to rent it myself. Or something like that.

So what was for me a day to muster up the courage to take a chance on a movie I might not like, was for Jeff a day that marked the realization of an inevitability he had prepared himself for months ago.

Sometimes I am truly unnerved by what Jeff knows about me that I do not know about myself.

To make a short story longer, when I popped Mamma Mia! in, two hours flew by as I sat entranced in front of the television set, basically saying over and over again, "That's an ABBA song too?"

Was the movie good? Ummmmm... let's put it this way. It was as good as a stage-to-screen conversion can be. Not spectacular. I've never seen the stage play (obviously), but I'm sure it was much better because... well, because that's just always the way it is. Live is better. Period. Also, to really dig your psyche into Mamma Mia! The Movie, you have got to turn off your gag reflex and just soak up the cheese. Overall, it seemed like there was something missing.

What I did love was the music. So I watched the sing-along clips. Fun, fun! Great music, pretty good performing, but... still something missing that I couldn't quite put my finger on.

So I went to YouTube and watched ABBA themselves.

Ahhhhhh... there they were. The missing components.

Namely Agnetha Fältskog, Frida Lyngstad, Bjorn Ulvaeus, and Benny Andersson. Their voices, their energy, their musicianship, their happy smiling faces. All missing from the movie. All obviously what made them great, in addition, according to Wikipedia, to their employment of "catchy song hooks, simple lyrics, and a Wall of Sound achieved by overdubbing the female singers' voices in multiple harmonies."

Mesmerized by their wicked cool 70's music videos, I could see why they are one of the sellingest bands of all time. Wikipedia says they've sold over 370 million albums worldwide, and they still, all this time later, sell two to four million albums a year.

Ulvaeus said it best in an interview dated April 8, 2009, reported on The Age, an Australian entertainment site. He believed Fältskog and Lyngstad's voices were the key to the band's success. "I think the two girls' voices were very special," he said. "The songs can be minor key, the lyrics can be very sombre, but when the girls sing somehow it sounds very joyous and uplifting and that's a very strange phenomenon which I think is very much part of ABBA."

Personally, I think their songs are enormously relatable and inexplicably addictive. I have listened to nothing but ABBA for six days running now. It's getting scary. Jeff came over to me the night before last, pulled one of my headphones back from my ear, and said with wrinkled brow, "Is this a phase...?"


Most likely. I'm a "phase" kind of girl.

But I just had to blog about it, if for no other reason than to mess with search engine results.

(PS: I happened to talk to my baby brother's wife on the phone while writing this post, and she confirmed his passion fell solidly into the loathe category. Sorry, Seth. I'm hooked.)