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  • Alf Björnberg

Swedish pop group. Its members were Benny Andersson (b Stockholm, 16 Dec 1946), Agnetha Fältskog (b Jönköping, 5 April 1950), Anni-Frid Lyngstad (b Ballangen, Norway, 15 Nov 1945) and Björn Ulvaeus (b Göteborg, 25 April 1945). Having established separate careers within Swedish pop they started working together in 1970, from 1972 under the name Björn, Benny, Agnetha och Anni-Frid. The acronym ABBA was adopted in 1973. Their victory in the Eurovision Song Contest in 1974, with Waterloo, launched the most successful international career to emerge from that context. During the period 1974–82 the group attained global popularity with songs such as Mama Mia (1975), Fernando (1976), Dancing Queen (1976), The Name of the Game (1977), Take a chance on me (1978) and Super Trouper (1980), all of which were number one hits in the UK, and albums such as Waterloo (1974), ABBA (1975), Arrival (1976), The Album (1977), Voulez-Vous (1979) and The Visitors (1981). In terms of chart performance, Abba was the world's most successful pop group in the 1970s; by 1983 their cumulative record sales were estimated at 180 million units.

Abba's music, most of which was written by Andersson and Ulvaeus with some lyrics by their manager Stig Anderson, features carefully designed, eclectic syntheses of 1970s pop and dance music with European and Latin American popular styles, most notably in stylistic pastiches such as the ‘Italian’ Andante andante, the ‘Greek’ I have a dream or the ‘Andean’ Fernando. Its prominent characteristics are sensuous combinations of diatonic melody and tonal harmony, often involving harmonic motion alternating between two or three chords. A further important factor contributing to Abba's sound is the meticulously crafted production. The engineer Michael B. Tretow created dense but transparent combinations of multi-tracked vocals with skilfully balanced backings setting new production standards for mainstream pop. In addition to the music, the group’s success was also facilitated by their pioneering use of visual media for promotion, as exemplified by several video clips for single songs and the concert film ABBA: the Movie (1977).

The group disbanded in 1982, after which the members have pursued separate careers with varying degrees of success. Andersson and Ulvaeus wrote the musical Chess (with lyricist Tim Rice, 1984), Kristina från Duvemåla (1995), based on Vilhelm Moberg's tetralogy of novels about 19th-century Swedish emigrants to the USA, and Mamma Mia (2000).