Arrival, by ABBA
Continuing our tour of the ABBA discography to place ABBA’s body of work as a whole compared to the all-time greats, we come to Arrival, an album that marks a high point of commercial appeal for the group, and containing their best-known song, “Dancing Queen,” which is admittedly not my favorite ABBA song but one which I can recognize as being a less silly and superficial song than it is assumed to be. And that is something that can be said about ABBA as a whole, and this album certainly shows a depth that is not always recognized, which makes it well worth knowing as a whole and not merely for its high points or best-remembered songs, of which there are four out of the twelve songs here.
This album begins with When I Kissed The Teacher, a somewhat nostalgic look at what is certainly a problematic relationship between a teacher (possibly a high school student) and a teacher, which is framed more triumphantly than was done by peers like the Police, but no less problematically, which is ultimately not a bad thing. After that comes ABBA’s lone #1 in the United States, Dancing Queen, a song about a beautiful teenager having the time of her young life. My Love, My Life offers a melodramatic but beautiful song about a broken relationship, something that is the subject of many ABBA songs. Dum Dum Diddle has a silly title but it reflects the fate of someone who is only happy when playing their violin while also reflecting the narrator’s romantic longing. Knowing Me, Knowing You is a classic song about the aftermath of a breakup and the sad realization that communication has broken down. Money, Money, Money is a cynical song about the desire to make it in a rich man’s world. That’s Me is another song that is surprisingly dark about the narrator expressing that she is not the marrying kind of woman, while describing herself in ways that ought to concern the listener. Why Did It Have To Me reflects on the somewhat absurd reasons why people are brought together out of loneliness and feel awkward when the other person catches feelings. Tiger is a somewhat dark song that shows the threatening and predatory nature of the city with characteristically upbeat production. Arrival is a gorgeous instrumental track that demonstrates ABBA’s strength even without vocals. Fernando is a gorgeous nostalgic song about young love in the dramatic time of the Mexican Revolution. The album closes with Happy Hawaii, a humorous song about traveling to Hawaii set to almost the same music as “Why Does It Have To Be Me,” and an original demo that had been replaced, making this an interesting experiment of sorts to see how it was that ABBA improved on their original ideas.
In judging this album and its quality I am going to take this song as an eleven track album and consider “Happy Hawaii” as an interesting but not entirely successful experiment at hula rock. Out of the 11 tracks in the original release, four of the song have been well-remembered, “Dancing Queen,” “Knowing Me, Knowing You,” “Money, Money, Money,” and “Fernando.” While Dancing Queen is my least favorite of all of their hits, these four songs definitely provide a wide range of ABBA’s excellence and all have held up pretty strongly since the 1970’s as worthwhile songs. Beyond that, this album offers some stronger tracks among the more obscure tracks, with the yearning “Dum Dum Diddle,” the rather strikingly dark but honest “Why Did It Have To Be Me?,” and the beautiful instrumental Arrival. The rest of the track are at least pleasant album tracks, making this album a solid 4 to 4.5/5, depending on how one feels about “Happy Hawaii” and whether it reflects poorly on “Why Did It Have To Be Me?” or not. With this the group is on track with four straight albums at 4/5 or better.