The Mama Mia movie has revitalised interest in Swedish 70s pop giants ABBA. The other day I heard 10-y-o Junior’s school choir perform “As Good As New”. 5-y-o Juniorette and her pals at daycare sing garbled versions of all the hits, such as “Oo-nay-boo” (“Voulez-Vous”).
I grew up with ABBA and I’m still a big fan. But I haven’t listened systematically through their oeuvre, haven’t really paid much attention to the lyrics as I do when I encounter new music. Looking at “Voulez-Vous”, the title track of the band’s sixth 1979 album, I found something funny.
“Voulez-Vous” is a rousing disco tune, set to raise your pulse and make your pelvis wiggle. The French words mean “Do you want to?”. Its musical mood is excitement, anticipation of something pretty steamy:
A sense of expectation hanging in the air
Giving out a spark
Across the room your eyes are glowing in the dark
But reading the lyrics, I realise that the song’s a bit of a joke: it’s actually about being bored with the disco meat-market:
And here we go again, we know the start, we know the end
Masters of the scene
We’ve done it all before and now we’re back to get some more
You know what I mean
Andersson and Ulvaeus are about 33 years old here. They’ve made all the disco conquests they care to make. Though still certainly not unaffected by music, they’re no longer very excited by the prospect of taking a stranger to bed.
Take it now or leave it
Now is all we get
Nothing promised, no regrets
Ain’t no big decision
You know what to do
I can still say “Voulez-vous?”
And while I’m at it, let me point out that “Feel the beat on the tambourine” is a really strained rhyme. The beat? On a frickin’ tambourine? I don’t think so!