Additions tend to improve music. They are extras added to a nice melody. You can add tricks to flavour the composition. Do you remember you heard 'Money, money, money' for the first time? The intro sounded very strange, as if it came from another planet. If you scrutinize it, you find the intro has a remarkable musical scale. The song itself is in A minor, but the intro contains the note D#. This results in A B C D# E F G# A. This is one of the gypsy scales! Because we are not used to this scale, it sounds so strange. Until you get used to it, then the mysterious feeling diminishes. Is it Benny’s urge to folk music we hear? There might be folk influences, there may be more in the ABBA repertoire, but of course the sound remains ABBA-esk.
One nice trick in 'Money, money, money' is the motif just before the chorus. The motif is played twice, the first time on the beat, the second time it hops between the beats (shifted half a pulse forward). This unexpected hop makes it special. It draws your attention: hey, what do I hear? It’s funny!
Some tricks are striking and therefor are fun. In the second verse of 'Kisses of fire' you can hear a nice one: the words 'Losing you' have a deviant rythm, which wakes you up. In general changes of rythm will strike the listener. The intro of 'When all is said and done' shifts twice in cadence, which dissarranges you as a listener.
But the best tricks are those which are barely noticeable. Unconsciously you’ll hear those and that improves the music, because it makes it less predictable. Exactly because you don’t notice a trick, it’s briljant; something draws your attention but you don’t know what it is.
'Chiquitita' contains a change of measure no one detects. The song is written in 4/4 time (four beats), but at the start of the chorus there is one measure with 5 beats! This is ingenious, adding one beat with nobody noticing it!
A 5/4 time usually is a somewhat weird and uneasy measure. Counting till five in stead of four may feel unnatural. The ingenuity to play a 5 quarter time without anyone hearing it is really special. I’m convinced you hear this uncounsciously and as a result appreciate the song more.
Finally a beautiful effect in 'The winner takes it all', which sounds so natural that it took me many times before I realised there is something special about it. In the chorus you hear two melodies. The vocal part is the first, the piano (and later on the orchestra) plays the second. In the last chorus the roles are reversed. While Agnetha sings a long high note, as an organ point, the orchestra plays the first melody. The backing vocals sing the second, while the music fades out.
These kinds of tricks are the extras to the music. They fascinate the listeners and thus make the songs exciting. ABBA never bores. Can you find more tricks in the repertoire?
Of course there is more to tell about the music of ABBA. The next article will appear at october the 1-st 2014, midnight (Stockholm time).
© 2014 Reinhard Beskers