Results for Abba

interviews

John Kennedy O'Connor on Eurovision

The Eurovision Song Contest is largely unknown to most Americans, but for much of the world, the annual songwriting contest is one the biggest (and occasionally, one of the most controversial) cultural events of the year. Like the Superbowl meets American Idol on steroids, the nearly 60-year old televised contest has grown to include more than 35 countries from in and around Europe duking it out to decide who has best original song. Each year an estimated 125 million people tune in to watch and it's their votes which determine who comes out on top.

Despite the fervor before and during the contest, most Eurovision winners rarely go on to further success as artists - with few exceptions. Chief among those is ABBA, who arguably wouldn't have become a pop music powerhouse for 40 years if it weren‘t for their big break at Eurovision. To learn more about their musical birthplace, and just why it’s so darn popular, Jim and Greg recruited John Kennedy O'Connor, author of The Eurovision Song Contest: The Official History, to share the storied, and oftentimes strange, history of the annual music phenomenon. They‘ll all be tuning to watch this year’s contest in Denmark on May 6th.

Go to episode 438

Elisabeth Vincentelli on ABBA

ABBA Forty years ago this month, Anni-Frid (Frida) Lyngstad, Benny Andersson, Björn Ulvaeus, and Agnetha Fältskog took the stage at Eurovision 1974, decked out in platform shoes and sequined suits, to perform a new song called "Waterloo." ABBA would become the first Swedish act to win the song contest. And while Eurovision winners rarely stay relevant, ABBA proved a huge exception, cranking out hit after hit in the 1970s before disbanding in 1983. But their legacy is complicated, explains Elisabeth Vincentelli. By day, she's the chief drama critic for the New York Post. But by night she's an ABBA superfan who wrote a 33 1/3 book on ABBA Gold, the group's definitive best-of collection (and one of the top-selling albums in European history).

As Elisabeth reveals to Jim and Greg, there's way more to this band than just "Dancing Queen." Both Agnetha and Frida were well-known performers in Sweden before they married Benny and Björn and started ABBA (Agnetha was also an accomplisehd songwriter). Unfortunately, the two couples struggled to maintain their relationships in the limelight, leading to a downward spiral that Elisabeth likens to Rumours-era Fleetwood Mac (with less tabloid coverage). Things finally fell apart in the early '80s. But a decade later, ABBA saw a strange resurgence among punk and gay subcultures, then among mainstream crowds, thanks to the Australian dramedy Muriel's Wedding and Broadway smash Mamma Mia!. The four members have all found success on their own, but Elisabeth has a bold prediction to make… Could an ABBA reunion could be in the works?

Go to episode 438

Top Albums of 2005

The“Best Records”list: It's“a sacred thing”in pop music fandom, says Jim, requiring a discerning ear and laser-like focus. Thankfully, our hosts are here to help. After sifting through hundreds of records, and countless days spent listening (perhaps to the discontent of their wives), they‘ve managed to pick out their absolute favorites. Here’s what Jim and Greg say they'll still be listening to in 2006.

Go to episode 2

Billy Bragg

Roots, Radicals and Rockers In the 1950s, a surprising, short-lived musical craze swept across the UK: skiffle, a raw version of African-American blues and folk performed by white British youth. Folk-punk singer-songwriter Billy Bragg has written about skiffle in his new book Roots, Radicals and Rockers. This week, he sits down with producer Evan Chung to make the case for skiffle as the origin of English guitar pop and the first sign of the DIY sensibility of punk.

Skiffle emerged out of the trad jazz scene – an early New Orleans jazz revivalist movement in the UK. In the middle of their sets, the trad jazz musicians would put down their horns and pick up acoustic guitars, washboards, and upright basses to play the songs of Leadbelly, Big Bill Broonzy, and others. Skiffle hit the top of the pop charts in both the UK and the US when Lonnie Donegan released his version of Leadbelly's "Rock Island Line." Bragg argues that this was a revolutionary moment that taught British youth that anyone could play the guitar – and led to skyrocketing guitar sales. As a result, members of The Beatles, The Who, Led Zeppelin, Van Morrison, David Bowie, and even ABBA got their start in DIY skiffle groups. According to Bragg, if you want to understand everything that came after in the UK – from the British Invasion to the English folk revival to R&B to punk – you have to look at the impact that skiffle had on the emerging British teenage culture.

Go to episode 613
specials

Songs About Money

This week on Sound Opinions, Jim and Greg play their favorite songs about money. It's a show honoring public radio's favorite season—the spring pledge drive.

Go to episode 17
reviews
Everything NowEverything Now available on iTunes

Arcade Fire Everything Now

Arcade Fire has risen from indie rock obscurity in Montreal to become a major label, Grammy-winning, arena-level band. But Jim and Greg are not sold on Everything Now, their fifth studio album. While Jim says there has always been intellectual substance and an emotional core behind their big sound, he calls this the most ordinary collection of songs the band has given us. There are some tracks he loves and he appreciates that they are showing a sense of humor. But he finds this album not as ambitious musically – they all sound like imitations of ABBA songs, and not always with success. Greg somes up the album as“meh.”He calls it a second-rate disco record that fails to get him on the dance floor. There are some great pop moments, but not enough musical inspiration. Everything Now is a double-Try It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 609
lists

Songs of Thanks

'Tis the season to hold family and friends close and be thankful for what we have. Jim and Greg share some of their favorite "song of thanks," tracks that highlight gratefulness and appreciation.

Go to episode 626

Tax Day Special

No matter what bracket you are in, no one likes paying taxes. Nothing makes things more tolerable, though, than great music. So Jim and Greg have compiled the perfect playlist for Tax Day:

Go to episode 541

Tax Day Special

No matter what bracket you are in, no one likes paying taxes. Nothing makes things more tolerable, though, than great music. So Jim and Greg have compiled the perfect playlist for Tax Day:

Go to episode 280
news

Music News

ABBA Rumors are swirling that Swedish pop powerhouse ABBA is in talks to reunite after all four members were seen together last weekend. During a gala to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson's music partnership, Agnetha Fältskog and Anni-Frid Lyngstad made an appearance singing their song "The Way Old Friends Do." The band broke up seemingly for good in 1982 and despite millions of dollars in offers; ABBA has rejected the idea of a possible reunion tour. Not to quash fans' hopes, but Swedish music historian Carl Magnus Palm believes there is a 99.9% chance ABBA will not reunite, noting that the foursome didn't actually all sing together the other night.

Go to episode 550

Music News

First up in the news is the report that both the House and Senate have reauthorized the Higher Education Act with new provisions that essentially make colleges akin to cops. The bill requires universities to implement tougher traffic filtering technologies in order to deter p2p filesharing. Jim and Greg think any attempts to deter filesharing will be as effective as attempts to curb cheating, binge-drinking and plagiarizing.

Jim and Greg recently spoke with Big Champagne's Eric Garland about artists benefiting from filesharing and album-leaking. Labels have now caught on, but they don't want you to know it. When a track from the forthcoming Buckcherry album was leaked on the internet, the band and its label were quick to complain. But, according to a Wall Street Journal article, they were the source of the leak. It's an old PR stunt for the hip hop world, but now mainstream, albeit“boneheaded”acts like Buckcherry have caught on. Get ready for more faux file-leaking sob stories.

In other music news, music retailing giant iTunes may be getting some competition soon. Amazon launched a digital music service less than a year ago and has yet to make a dent in that market. Now the website has teamed up with MySpace to offer music fans a way to sample and then purchase individual songs and albums. The tracks will be DRM-free, and users won't have to launch a separate application to purchase music. Jim is quickly running to add the Amazon CEO as his MySpace friend.

There's never enough Abba on Sound Opinions, so we were excited when the Swedish pop quartet appeared in the headlines. The band's greatest hits album Gold recently went to #1 in the U.K., breaking the record for the oldest band to ever hit the top of the charts. The reason for the resurgence is the release of the movie Mamma Mia, but hopefully the legacy of the band will not be tarnished by the film.

Frequent chart-topper Chris Brown is also making news this week. His hit single "Forever" has made it to the Top 10 , but little did fans know it was written as a Wrigley gum jingle. For a long time artists have lent their music to advertising companies, but as far as Jim and Greg can tell, this is the first time a song was developed initially as an ad campaign. Is it just a chicken/egg argument? Or does the commercial intention matter to a song's integrity? Let us know what you think.

The final discussion in the news is about the proliferation of '90s nostalgia in the music industry these days. Alternative-era artists like Smashing Pumpkins, Liz Phair and Sonic Youth are all drawing from their former glory days and cashing in. Jim believes such nostalgia is anathema to the alternative philosophy, and doesn't think touring behind one singular album is much better than a greatest hits concert. Greg is surprised that Jim is surprised, citing the Sex Pistols' 1996 tour as the day he gave up on any notion of rock-era integrity.

Go to episode 141

Music News

Miley Cyrus has gone from Disney star to Flaming Lips devotee. She and Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips have released a 23 song long free album called Miley Cyrus and Her Dead Petz. The album purportedly is a tribute to her dead pets as evidenced in a song like "Pablow the Blowfish." Jim thinks the record is nothing to write home about and is generally a waste of your time. Disagree? Call 888.859.1800.

EMI has stepped into the 21st century by doing something no other record label has done: allowing amnesty for samples. The company says the amnesty was put in place for“the aim of encouraging new sample requests from its broad catalogue as well as ensuring already existing samples are properly licensed.”It'll allow samplers who used EMI samples in the past to declare their samples“without the fear of a royalty back claim.”Too little too late or a big step forward, you decide.

Going Going Gone! We love a good rock auction here on Sound Opinions. Jim covers the auctioning off of rock inflatables by the English company Air Artists which includes inflatable Freddie Mercury and Brian May from Queen's 1986 The Magic tour; two life-size polystyrene and fiberglass casts used to make the inflatable Babylonian woman used on the Rolling Stones' Bridges to Babylon Tour; and the fiberglass train model used for AC/DC's Runaway Train concert. Also averrable for cold hard cash? A night's stay in the house that Bob Dylan and The Band wrote Music from Big Pink. Asking price per night - $650. Greg covers the auctioning off of the piano used to writeABBA's "Dancing Queen." ABBA cofounder Benny Andersson certified the piano and the asking price is $1.1 million. Finally The Beatles have their first recording contract up for auction. The band served as Tony Sheridan's backing band on the song "My Bonnie" recorded in Hamburg Germany. The asking price on this piece of Fab Four history is $150,000 just a little more than the $80 the band was paid to make the record in the first place.

Go to episode 510

Music News

The list of possible inductees for next year's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ceremony has been announced. Among the first-time nominees are Kiss, LL Cool J, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Genesis. But there are some old faces, too. ABBA, The Stooges, and Donna Summer have all been up for induction before. Jim and Greg think they deserve recognition, but also have a healthy dose of skepticism whenever they talk about the Hall of Fame. It's notoriously conservative and often overlooks more fringe genres. Plus, as Jim explains, winners always run the risk of being encased in glass and wax in Cleveland.

A heavy debate on piracy and the internet is brewing in Europe. First, the controversial“Three Strikes”law in France has passed in the French assembly. This means that if a French citizen is caught downloading illegally three times, he or she will lose internet access and be subject to fines up to $450,000. Their neighbors in the U.K. are also concerned about this issue. British pop stars like Radiohead, Annie Lennox, and Robbie Williams are members of the Featured Artists Coalition, which recently released a statement coming down firmly on the side of the consumer and defending internet file-sharing as a promotional tool for up-and-coming artists. But artists like Lily Allen and James Blunt have taken the other side. Jim and Greg find this to be a bit ironic considering Allen's use of MySpace early in her career.

Before they launch into reviews of new fall albums, Jim and Greg take a look at how things are going on the charts. The Beatles are still the big winners, selling more than 2 million albums worldwide in just five days. But, as Jim points out, this is a fraction of what they might have sold back in the CD heyday of 1992, and a fraction of what they might have sold digitally. Another big chart winner is Jay-Z, who sold almost 300,000 albums of The Blueprint 3. Hip hop still dominates the charts, with big-selling albums by Drake, Lil Boosie, and Kid Cudi, whom Jim and Greg discuss later in the show.

Go to episode 200

Music News

In recent months Sound Opinions has been covering the new royalty rates internet radio broadcasters are facing. Their May 15th deadline has been pushed to July 16th, but many webcasters know that they are just postponing the inevitable. Anticipating outrageous royalty rates that will put many people out of business, Pandora founder Tim Westergren decided to close down his service to users outside of the United States. The U.S. Copyright Royalty Board's rates combined with that of international collection agencies is too much for even an internet titan like Pandora to contend with. This indicates that even with support from the Senate, the digital music landscape is not a pretty one right now.

While Americans seem completely oblivious to it, probably the biggest international music news of the week were the results of the Eurovision Song Contest. The Serbian ballad "Molitva (Prayers)," performed by Marija Serifovic, took the prize home, surprising many. In fact, as with American song contests, the Eurovision results are not controversy-free. Jim and Greg, however, are not as interested in how the votes were obtained or who the winner should be, as they are in the next step for Ms. Serifovic. With the exception of Abba, Lulu, and possibly even Lordi, most of the contest's winners have remained relatively anonymous. On the upside, Serifovic's victory brings levity and unity to a country with other very important issues on its plate.

Go to episode 77

Music News

Last weekend was the famous Eurovision Song Contest, the“World Cup”of music. A fixture in Europe since 1968, past winners include ABBA, Celine Dion and Katrina and the Waves. Eurovision never fails to feature weird music and geopolitical controversy, and this year was no exception. Singer Jamala from Ukraine beat out Australia and Russia for the top prize. Russia was irked by Jamala's song choice, a track called "1944," about Stalin's exile of the Crimean Tatar population – with obvious connections to today's crisis in Ukraine. Better the countries fight via silly pop songs than actual guns, Jim argues.

Get your sunscreen, hats, and wallets out for the first Desert Trip! The new music festival will be held in the same location as Coachella, and with its septuagenarian lineup, it quickly acquired the nickname "Oldchella." Desert Trip will feature six major acts from the 1960s rock scene: The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney, Neil Young, Roger Waters and The Who. Ticket sales have already exceeded a record $150 million – thanks to ticket prices reaching into the thousands. That's not to mention the $6,500 resort packages. Jim thinks that for that price, they ought to air condition the desert.

Go to episode 547

Music News

Last week over 125 million viewers worldwide watched Emmelie de Forest of Denmark take the top prize in the Eurovision Song Contest. The 58th edition of the televised songfest was held in the home of former contestants Abba. But perhaps more interesting than the pop music, is the geopolitical tensions. For example, Russia claims its entry at the finals was pushed into a fifth place as a consequence of vote-stealing in Azerbaijan, leading to tension between the countries. Germany, too, is unhappy with its showing, blaming the euro zone crisis and Chancellor Angela Merkel's austerity measures.

Our own pop music contest, American Idol, wrapped up its 12th season and crowned Candice Gloverthe winner. But, while her cover of "Lovesong" was a highlight, the season itself was a low point for Fox. Ratings dropped 44% from last year, and total viewership plummeted by 7 million. Compared with NBC competitor The Voice, Greg thinks the show has become your grandparents' American Idol and wonders if anyone will care about poor Candice like they once did Kelly.

At the end of the news Jim and Greg bid farewell to The Doors co-founder Ray Manzarek. The keyboard player died Monday at age 74. And as Greg explains, he was integral to creating the band's iconic dark, L.A. sound. He brought in elements from his southside Chicago upbringing, as well as his classical and jazz training. You can hear that in The Doors' famous track "Riders on the Storm."

Go to episode 391
world tours

Sweden

Jim and Greg have always insisted that rock ‘n’ roll belongs to the world. In our new series, the Sound Opinions World Tour, they prove it by zeroing in on countries that've made big contributions to global rock and pop. Their first stop is the largest exporter of music per capita in the world: Sweden. Swedish DJ and public radio host Stefan Wermelin is our guide through the country's musical history. Stefan explains that in the '50s and '60s, Sweden was a pop music backwater. Musicians churned out cut-rate covers of American and English hits. The '60s hippie“Progg”movement injected some originality and artistic ambition into Swedish music, but things didn't really change until ABBA hit it big with "Waterloo." According to Stefan, ABBA set the template for Swedish success. The band created big hits by co-opting the best bits of global pop music and stitching them together with meticulous production. That tradition of pastiche continues today with Swedish producers like Max Martin, the man behind a hundred-and-one Billboard Top Ten hits (Britney Spears' "…Baby One More Time" and Kelly Clarkson's "Since U Been Gone" among them). But today, Sweden's also experiencing an indie renaissance in genres as varied as death metal, dance music, and Americana. Decades after ABBA, artists like The Knife, Lykke Li, Robyn, Opeth, and First Aid Kit are staging a second Swedish invasion.

Go to episode 379