"The Winner Takes It All"
ABBA - The Winner Takes It All-Elaine.png
Single by ABBA
from the album Super Trouper
B-side"Elaine"
Released21 July 1980 (1980-07-21)
Recorded1980
GenrePop
Length4:54
LabelPolar
Songwriter(s)Benny Andersson, Björn Ulvaeus
Producer(s)Benny Andersson, Björn Ulvaeus
ABBA singles chronology
"I Have a Dream"
(1979)
"The Winner Takes It All"
(1980)
"On and On and On"
(1980)
Music video
"The Winner Takes It All" on YouTube

"The Winner Takes It All" is a song recorded by Swedish pop group ABBA. Released as the first single from the group's seventh studio album, Super Trouper (1980), it is a ballad in the key of G-flat major, reflecting on the end of a relationship. The single's B-side was the non-album track "Elaine". The song peaked at No.1 in several countries, including the UK, where it became their eighth chart-topper. It was also the group's final top 10 hit in the United States. It was written by Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson, with Agnetha Fältskog singing the lead vocal.

In a 1999 poll for Channel 5, "The Winner Takes It All" was voted Britain's favourite ABBA song. This feat was replicated in a 2010 poll for ITV. In a 2006 poll for a Channel Five programme, "The Winner Takes It All" was voted "Britain's Favourite Break-Up Song."

Background

Ulvaeus and Andersson started writing "The Winner Takes It All" in the summer of 1979 in a cottage on the island of Viggsö. According to Andersson, the idea for the song suddenly came up "from old ideas, from old small musical pieces" they had. The demo had an original title of "The Story of My Life" and the first arrangement for the song was uptempo with a constant beat. However, they felt their first effort "much too stiff and metrical", so they left the song for a few days while they worked on other songs. Four days later they returned to the song, and Andersson came up the idea of using a French chanson-style arrangement with a descending piano line and a looser structure. Ulvaeus then recorded a demo using nonsense French words for lyrics, and took the recording home to write the lyrics for "The Winner Takes It All". According to Ulvaeus, he drank whiskey while he was writing, and it was the quickest lyrics he ever wrote. He said, "I was drunk, and the whole lyric came to me in a rush of emotion in one hour." Ulvaeus said that when he gave the lyrics to Fältskog to read, "a tear or two welled up in her eyes. Because the words really affected her."[1]

Ulvaeus denies the song is about his and Fältskog's divorce, saying the basis of the song "is the experience of a divorce, but it's fiction. 'Cause one thing I can say is that there wasn't a winner or a loser in our case. A lot of people think it's straight out of reality, but it's not".[2] However, Ulvaeus admitted that the heartache of their breakup inspired the song, but noted that the words in the song should not be taken literally.[1] He said: "Neither Agnetha nor I were winners in our divorce."[3] American critic Chuck Klosterman, who says "The Winner Takes It All" is "[the only] pop song that examines the self-aware guilt one feels when talking to a person who has humanely obliterated your heart" finds Ulvaeus' denial hard to believe in light of the original title.[4] The booklet for the double CD compilation The Definitive Collection states "The Winner Takes It All" is the song where Bjorn admits that the sad experience of his and Agnetha's divorce the previous year left its mark on the lyrics."

Chart performance

"The Winner Takes It All" was a major success for ABBA, hitting No. 1 in Belgium, Ireland, the Netherlands, South Africa and the United Kingdom. It reached the Top 5 in Austria, Finland, France, West Germany, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and Zimbabwe, while peaking in the Top 10 in Australia, Canada, Italy, Spain and the United States (where it became ABBA's fourth and final American Top 10 hit, peaking at No. 8; the song spent 26 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, more than any other ABBA single).[5] It was also the group's second Billboard Adult Contemporary #1 (after "Fernando").[6] "The Winner Takes It All" was also a hit in Brazil: it was included on the soundtrack of "Coração Alado" ("Winged Heart"), a popular soap opera in 1980, as the main theme.

The track was listed as the 23rd most popular single on the US Billboard year-end chart for 1981.[7]

As of September 2021, it is the group's fifth-biggest song in the UK with 920,000 chart sales (including pure sales and streaming numbers).[8]

Music video

The Societetshuset in Marstrand town, where the music video was filmed in the summer of 1980
The Societetshuset in Marstrand town, where the music video was filmed in the summer of 1980

A music video to promote the song was filmed in July 1980 on Marstrand, an island on the Swedish west coast. It was directed by Lasse Hallström. Appropriately, the video was shot ten days after the divorce of Björn Ulvaeus and Agnetha Fältskog was officially declared by the courts. It starts with a black-and-white photo montage of ABBA, then moves to the face of Agnetha singing the song. Interspersed in the video are footages of her walking alone, still photographs and other happier members of the band.[9]

Track listing

No.TitleLength
1."The Winner Takes It All"4:55
2."Elaine"3:42

Personnel

Additional musicians

Charts

Certifications and sales

Region Certification Certified units/sales
Brazil (Pro-Música Brasil)[40] Gold 300,000[40]
Denmark (IFPI Danmark)[41] Gold 45,000double-dagger
France 250,000[42]
Kenya 10,000[43]
Netherlands (NVPI)[44] Gold 100,000^
Portugal 20,000[45]
United Kingdom (BPI)[47] Platinum 847,000[46]

^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.
double-dagger Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.

Covers

In popular culture

See also

References

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  2. ^ McLean, Craig (13 July 2008). "Knowing Mia knowing you". The Guardian. London.
  3. ^ "Abba: Five working titles which thankfully got changed..." BBC.
  4. ^ Klosterman, Chuck (2009). Eating the Dinosaur. New York: Scribner. pp. 170–71. ISBN 978-1-4165-4421-0.
  5. ^ "United States of America". Home.zipworld.com.au. Archived from the original on 29 October 2013. Retrieved 29 March 2014.
  6. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2002). Top Adult Contemporary: 1961–2001. Record Research. p. 15.
  7. ^ "Top 100 Hits of 1981 / Top 100 Songs of 1981". musicoutfitters.com. Archived from the original on 7 March 2004. Retrieved 13 January 2022.
  8. ^ UK Official Charts ABBA's Official Top 20 biggest songs
  9. ^ Vincentelli, Elisabeth (2004). Abba's Abba Gold. Bloomsbury Continuum. pp. 100–101. ISBN 978-0826415462.
  10. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970-1992. St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
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  13. ^ "ABBA: The Winner Takes It All" (in Finnish). Musiikkituottajat. Retrieved 8 January 2020.
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  18. ^ "ABBA – The Winner Takes It All" (in Dutch). Single Top 100. Retrieved 31 December 2017.
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  30. ^ David Kent's "Australian Chart Book 1970-1992" Archived 5 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine
  31. ^ "Jahreshitparade Singles 1980". austriancharts.at. Retrieved 18 November 2021.
  32. ^ "Jaaroverzichten 1980". Ultratop. Retrieved 18 November 2021.
  33. ^ "Top 100-Jaaroverzicht van 1980". Retrieved 5 November 2020.
  34. ^ "Jaaroverzichten – Single 1980". dutchcharts.nl. Retrieved 18 November 2021.
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  41. ^ "Danish single certifications – ABBA – The Winner Takes It All". IFPI Danmark. Retrieved 15 September 2021.
  42. ^ Syndicat National de l'Édition Phonographique (SNEP). Fabrice Ferment (ed.). "TOP – 1980". 40 ans de tubes : 1960–2000 : les meilleures ventes de 45 tours & CD singles (in French). OCLC 469523661. Archived from the original on 8 October 2021. Retrieved 31 May 2022 – via Top-France.fr.
  43. ^ "ABBA the World - Kenya". Billboard. 8 November 1979. p. ABBA-18. ISSN 0006-2510. Retrieved 3 November 2020.
  44. ^ "Dutch single certifications – ABBA – The Winner Takes It All" (in Dutch). Nederlandse Vereniging van Producenten en Importeurs van beeld- en geluidsdragers. Retrieved 19 November 2019. Enter The Winner Takes It All in the "Artiest of titel" box.
  45. ^ Fernando, Tenente (8 November 1979). "ABBA the World - Portugal". Billboard. p. ABBA-30. ISSN 0006-2510. Retrieved 3 November 2020.
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