By Chuck Klosterman
Initially accrued in Eating the Dinosaur and now to be had either as a stand-alone essay and within the book assortment Chuck Klosterman on Pop, this essay is set ABBA.
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Extra resources for ABBA 1, World 0: An Essay from Eating the Dinosaur (Chuck Klosterman on Pop)
They tried to create a simulacrum for how the American pop ethos appeared to objective Swedish outsiders. This is where we get the weirdness of ABBA: the Star Trek outfits, the histrionic onstage super-vamping, and the curious decision to consistently make Swedish women sing English narratives with Spanish4 themes. S. culture, attempted by European citizens who weren’t remotely interested in being American. Consequently, it was always a little off. Sometimes it was too much. But it was successful.
By the end of the twentieth century, it was far more contrarian to hate ABBA than to love them. Now, who was “right” among these factions (the original ABBA supporters, their antagonistic detractors, or the modern revisionists) is not important to me. I have no interest in convincing anyone they need to download Voulez-Vous posthaste, because I am post-taste. But what is compelling is how this polarizing trajectory occurred. The pattern is certainly not unique to ABBA; it’s not unusual to see artists who are (a) initially appreciated before (b) falling out of favor, and then (c) returning to prominence after the fact.
The core complaint (from the most predictable sources) was that ABBA records sounded like collections of commercial jingles. In retrospect, this criticism is as misdirected as it is uninspired: By erroneously tying “Waterloo” to advertising, it somehow implied that ABBA were capitalist stooges who wanted to sell something beyond the music itself (in truth, it was the TV commercials who wanted to affect people as easily as ABBA, not the other way around). Much like the Carpenters, ABBA became representative of a musical aesthetic so distant from the edge of rock that clever people weren’t even willing to expend energy hating them.