ABBA - The Winner Takes It All (1980)
- 80's score: 2.87
“The Winner Takes It All” is a song recorded by the Swedish pop group ABBA. Released as the first single from the ...
“The Winner Takes It All” is a song recorded by the Swedish pop group ABBA. Released as the first single from the group’s Super Trouper album on 21 July 1980, it is a ballad reflecting the end of a romance. The single’s B-side was the non-album track “Elaine”. It was the group’s first single after a seven-month hiatus and peaked at No.1 in several countries, including the UK, where it became their eighth chart-topper. It was also the group’s final top 10 hit in the United States.
“The Winner Takes It All” – which had the original demonstration title “The Story of My Life” – was written by Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson, with Agnetha Fältskog singing the lead vocal.
Ulvaeus denies the song is about his and Fältskog’s divorce, saying the basis of the song “is the experience of a divorce, but it’s fiction. ‘Cause one thing I can say is that there wasn’t a winner or a loser in our case. A lot of people think it’s straight out of reality, but it’s not”. American critic Chuck Klosterman, who says “The Winner Takes It All” is “[the only] pop song that examines the self-aware guilt one feels when talking to a person who has humanely obliterated your heart” finds Ulvaeus’ denial hard to believe in light of the original title. And the booklet for the double CD compilation The Definitive Collection states “‘The Winner Takes It All’ is the song where Bjorn admits that the sad experience of his and Agnetha’s divorce the previous year left its mark on the lyrics.”
Fältskog has also repeatedly stated that though “The Winner Takes It All” is her favourite ABBA song and that it has an excellent set of lyrics, the story is not that of her and Ulvaeus: there were no winners in their divorce, especially as children were involved.
A music video to promote the song was filmed in July 1980 on Marstrand, an island on the Swedish west coast. It was directed by Lasse Hallström.
“The Winner Takes It All” was a major success for ABBA, hitting #1 in Belgium, Ireland, the Netherlands, South Africa and the United Kingdom. It reached the Top 5 in Austria, Finland, France, West Germany, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and Zimbabwe, while peaking in the Top 10 in Australia, Canada, Italy, Spain and the United States (where it became ABBA’s fourth and final American Top 10 hit, peaking at #8; the song spent 26 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, more than any other ABBA single). It was also the group’s second Billboard Adult Contemporary #1 (after “Fernando”). “The Winner Takes It All” was also a hit in Brazil: it was included on the soundtrack of “Coração Alado” (“Winged Heart”), a popular soap opera in 1980, as the main theme.
The track was listed as the 23rd most popular single on the US Billboard year-end chart for 1981.