Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Waterloo

Well, I must admit I've been away for a while. Away from writing on here. I don't know why. The interest just comes and goes. I've spent the month sometimes opening up this page and thinking about maybe writing something, and then doing the opposite.

But hey, it's after midnight and I turn twenty-five in ten hours and fourteen minutes (12:46am) so I might as well quickly write about this anomaly that has happened. This won't help the time I'll have for sleep as I have to get up at 7am for a solo flight, so I'll be quick. Hopefully I won't create too many typos.

Ever since I first heard this band's stuff, over time, I have not found any song of theirs to my liking. I just had absolutely no positive feeling from anything I heard from them. Some of their songs I can't listen to at all, while others just sound mundane or not to my taste. They were huge in Europe and to this day they refuse to reunite for any reason whatsoever, no matter how much cash is offered. Their name consists of an acronym made of the first letters of their given names.

Oh, Fernando, mamma mia! It's ABBA.

Aside from Celine Dion and some oddly British character named Butch something, these four have the rarest distinction of being the first of these Eurovision champions to have guaranteed success after their appearance and win on the contest. And they're part of a quirky mix of individuals in sharing this distinction, because one is Canadian yet won for Switzerland, and the other sounds like an obscure American redneck from the deep south. ABBA sounds like the only European act to fit this combo. They're one of the first of Sweden's great musical exports, with acts like Roxette, Ace of Base and Robyn to follow later.

I don't like 'Mamma Mia' - it sounds overly contrived, like they're pretending too hard to emulate a stereotypical Italian drama, and 'Voulez-Vous' is interminable and outright annoying. 'Dancing Queen' sounds too effeminate for my taste, and 'Fernando' simply doesn't raise my interest, though it sounds admittedly pleasant. 'Super Trouper' sounds like a song a mother might sing to her little boy as he fell asleep. Up till recently, the only thing I enjoyed listening to that was written by Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus was 'One Night in Bangkok,' a silly, kitschy soundtrack thing they wrote entirely apart from ABBA for the benefit of a West End musical an associate was creating called Chess. That song is performed by Murray Head, and it's simply fun to listen to.

I don't really like discovering songs through film soundtracks, but this turned out to be the case for this ABBA song, the name of which is obvious thanks to the title of this post. Thank you, character from the Martian film that likes 70s disco music that Matt Damon has no choice but to listen to. I forget your name (it's not important for me to keep it in my head) but I've finally heard an ABBA song that's not half bad.

Ironically for me, I happen to enjoy the actual song that enabled them to have the legendary popularity and lasting legacy they have today. The reason they're infused into pop culture (for older people probably) is because they chose to submit this song for their performance at the 1974 Eurovision contest. Had I been a panelist for one of the broadcasters then, I likely would have given them a top mark. Hearing this seems to justify why they got success - and not temporarily, like every other winner, but permanently.

'Waterloo,' like Boney M.'s 'Rasputin' chooses a historical perspective for its lyrics. This time it's Napoleon's surrender at Waterloo, a place in Belgium. It still exists, and of course, it exists elsewhere, including as the title and lyric of this song and as a college town in south western Ontario. There are no doubt other Waterloos out there. This is the second 70s pop song from continental Europe I've heard that uses history to outline a narrative or story. I find it to be an interesting comparison to American pop and disco of the same time. Eric Clapton sung about Cocaine; most prominently, the Village People sung about hanging out at a gym, and Lipps Inc. wanted to go to 'Funky Town' (probably a disco). Turning my ears to Europe, I get a sensationalized story about a Russian Tsarets-turned-political-manipulator and references to a historic battle from 1815 concerning a major French conqueror. Obviously these are fun, jocular things that distort or dilute the details or take the focus towards something else that aligns with it, but it still inspired me to look these characters up.

The musical progression follows a simple progression in the key of D major. The verses start with a nice one-time addition of what sounds like 12-string acoustic guitar. D...C sharp-B-A. You could say the basic building blocks are D-A-B. The chorus follows this same exact movement, except a tone down on the second note, so it goes D-G-A. I like the pre-chorus line the most, which sits in B minor. Those dramatic high descending notes? That's simply Bjorn or Benny (I don't know who played piano) playing a descending, broken B minor chord note-by-note high up, playing each note an octave apart. BB-F sharp-F sharp-DD-BB! B minor from B to B an octave lower. Those are fun.

What do I like? It's simple yet fun in a carefree way. It just sounds nice to listen to, catchy in a natural feel-good way, not melodramatic or overly effeminate or outright annoying. I like the female vocals and how they simply say 'Waterloo.' I think most people enjoy songs that reference or verbalize familiar or notable places. I've never been to the Canadian version of the town, but it's familiar in name so it's appealing to hear. The only downside? I think the sax is okay but not totally necessary - I feel like it's there because it was perhaps traditional or typical. Nearly every 80s pop song of notability has a sax in it, because 80s songs had saxes in them. And drum machine effects. Sax was often present in disco and pop music of the 70s as well. At least there wasn't strings. That was the big thing with music in the 70s. Here's something current (for the time) yet not absolutely conforming to every typical standard.

Now I really need to get some sleep. I'm losing more and more the more I type.
Music: A-
Lyrics: A


Red Cloud
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