Wednesday, January 1, 2020

2019-20 Murfin Winter Holidays Music Festival—Happy New Year by ABBA

Happy New Year--ABBA

For Americans New Year’s Day is a kind of low key and lethargic holiday.  Many New Year’s Eve revelers nurse hangovers.  For other’s it is a spend the day in pajamas and robe affair to veg out in front of the tube to watch the Rose Parade and endless college bowl games.   It is the biggest day of the year for ordering pizza delivery. 
For many Americans New Year's day means drinking coffee, nursing a hangover and watching the Tournament of Roses Parade from Pasadena. 
There have not been many songs for January 1.  For years we were stuck with U2’s first big hit, New Year’s Day released in 1987 and dedicated to the Polish Solidarity movement.  It set the tone for decades of self-important and self-righteous songs with supposedly meaningful and progressive themes with Bono doing his patented vocal pyrotechnics.  A lot of folks love that stuff, but it has come to irritate the hell out of me.  
In 2017 Taylor Swift offered us an alternative.  I know that there are folks who follow this blog who have nothing but scorn for the country/pop diva and her endlessly autobiographical songs of failed relationships.  But I have always thought that if you take her for what she is and don’t try to compare her female stars of country music’s golden age she does what she does very well. 
New Year’s Day was off Swift’s sixth studio album, Reputation. She co-wrote and co-produced the track with Jack Antonoff.  She debuted the song on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon and was only a mid-level country music hit.  But the critical reception was very positive.  The song, however, does not seem to have long term traction outside Swift’s large and devoted fan base.

But we are not turning to either of those songs, or a Bon Jovi entrant into the New Year sweepstakes.  Instead we are turning to those relentless Swedish Pop hit makers, ABBA.

ABBA around the piano for the New Year.
ABBA was formed in Stockholm in 1972 by Agnetha Fältskog, Björn Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson, and Anni-Frid Lyngstad. The group’s name was an acronym of the first letters of their first names and sly pun on a rhyme scheme frequently used in pop music lyrics. Originally a folk quartet, they reached international stardom when they began writing, recording, and touring using English language lyrics even in their home country. They were one of the most commercially successful acts in the history of popular music, topping the charts worldwide from 1974 to 1982. ABBA won the Eurovision Song Contest 1974, giving Sweden its first triumph in the contest and establishing that televised completion as the most important international venue for emerging artists.  At the height of their world-wide popularity, they were the biggest and most important Swedish economic export topping industrial giants like Volvo and Saab.
Back when they first penetrated the American charts, my rock snob friends derided them.  But their catchy melodies and tight harmonies produced what seemed like an endless list of irresistible ear worms that have outlasted many of the arena rockers of the era.  Their flashy ‘70’s style costumes, heavy on synthetic fibers, bright colors, and glitter and the good looks of the two women were part of the appeal.

ABBA's 1980 European single release of Happy New Year.
Happy New Year was off of their 1980 album Super Trouper written by Andersson and Ulvaeus with lead vocals are by Fältskog. The song’s working title was the more festive and humorous Daddy Don’t Get Drunk on Christmas Day, presumably with different lyrics.  It was released as a single in Europe in 1999 and charted in several counties.

The Argentine release of Felicidad.
ABBA also released a version in Spanish, Felicidad and became a top hit in Argentina and other Latin American countries.  But the song never got traction in the U.S.
It has, however, become a New Year’s Eve tradition in Sweden where videotaped performances are the annual highlight of the celebration.

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