Song 325: ABBA, “Dancing Queen” (1976)


I’ve been debating for a while about which ABBA song to write about, but who am I kidding? It was always going to be “Dancing Queen,” that unstoppable pop stalwart. It’s probably being played at some wedding or Bar Mitzvah at this very moment. And everybody is happy about it.

The best thing about “Dancing Queen,” in my opinion, is its pace. It just thumps along, taking its sweet time as if aware of its own greatness. There aren’t many midtempo party songs—maybe because it results in some super-awkward dancing—but ABBA absolutely nails it here. The drums are the key; they keep the beat steady while offering the occasional “bop-bop” snare hits (you can hear them after Agnetha Fältskog sings “only seventeen” in each chorus).

The second-best thing about “Dancing Queen”? That piano. Without it, the song is just a pretty-good pop song; with the piano included, you’re immediately reminded of old dance halls and romantic movies. It sounds like love and happiness. (It also inspired Elvis Costello to use a similar piano sound on “Oliver’s Army,” a decision that elevated his song from B-side status to worldwide hit. Though, it should be noted, “Oliver’s Army” is… not about love and happiness.)

Will the popularity of “Dancing Queen” ever end? I hope not. In fact, I think it should be instated as a required song at celebratory public functions. That’s basically already happened, I just think we need to make it official.


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