Agnetha Fältskog, Björn Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson, and Anni-Frid Lyngstad created the Swedish music ensemble ABBA (previously known as Björn & Benny, Agnetha & Anni-Frid or Björn & Benny, Agnetha & Frida) in Stockholm in 1972. The initial letters of each member’s first name, grouped in a palindrome, form the acronym for the group. They are among the most well-liked and prosperous musical groups of all time, and they have sold more records than any other act in the annals of popular music. They topped the charts globally in 2022 and from 1974 to 1982.
With their song “Waterloo,” ABBA became Sweden’s first ever winners of the Eurovision Song Contest in 1974. The song was selected as the finest in the competition’s history in 2005 during the contest’s 50th anniversary celebration. Fältskog and Ulvaeus and Lyngstad and Andersson were the two married couples that made up the band throughout its most productive years. Their personal lives deteriorated as their fame grew, ultimately leading to the dissolution of both marriages. The group’s music changed as the relationships did; later songs included lyrics that were more somber and reflective. Following the breakup of ABBA in December 1982, Fältskog and Lyngstad went on to pursue solo careers, while Andersson and Ulvaeus continued to be successful composers of music for a variety of mediums, including stage, musicals, and film.
A compilation album called ABBA Gold was published ten years after the group split up, and it quickly became a global best-seller. Mamma Mia!, a stage musical that debuted in 1999 and toured the globe, was based on the songs of ABBA. As of April 2022, it remains one of the 10 longest-running Broadway and West End shows, with the former closing its doors in 2015. The same-titled movie, which debuted in 2008, topped the box office in the UK that year. 2018 saw the release of Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, a sequel.
The band got back together in 2016 and began preparing for a concert tour with digital avatars. In 2018, new recordings of songs were revealed. On November 5, 2021, Voyage—their first new album in forty years—was released to acclaim from critics and robust sales across a number of nations. In May 2022, ABBA Voyage, a performance residency that showcases ABBA as virtual avatars, premiered in London.
With record sales estimated to be between 150 million and 385 million globally, ABBA is one of the best-selling musicians in history. The group was rated third in the UK for best-selling singles artists, having sold 11.3 million singles by November 3, 2012. The BRIT Billion Award, which honors those who have achieved the milestone of one billion UK streams in their career, was given to ABBA in May 2023. The first non-English speaking group to consistently rank high on the charts of English-speaking nations, such as the UK, Australia, US, Republic of Ireland, Canada, New Zealand, and South Africa, was ABBA. They are both the best-selling band from continental Europe and the greatest-selling Swedish band of all time. In the UK, ABBA had eight consecutive number-one albums. The trio released a collection of their hit songs in Spanish and experienced great success in Latin America as well. In 2002, ABBA was admitted to the Vocal Group Hall of Fame. The trio became the first non-Anglophone recording artists to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame when they were honored with this honor in 2010. Their song “Dancing Queen” was admitted into the Grammy Hall of Fame by the Recording Academy in 2015.
In the studio, ABBA was a stickler for detail; they worked on songs until they were perfected rather than putting them off until later. The majority of their time was spent in the studio; in several interviews from 2021, Ulvaeus claimed they might have only done a six-month tour, while Andersson claimed the band performed at more over 100 venues across their tenure. With a drummer, guitarist, and bassist, the group recorded a basic rhythm recording on which additional arrangements and instruments were superimposed. After that, vocals were added, and orchestra overdubs were often added last.
Twenty of ABBA’s singles from their active career, which ran from 1972 to 1982, made it into the Billboard Hot 100; of those, 14 reached the Top 40 (13 on the Cashbox Top 100), and 10 reached the Top 20 on both lists. Four of those singles made it into the Top 10, with “Dancing Queen” peaking at number one in April 1977. “Fernando” and “SOS” peaked at number 13 and 15, respectively, although neither song was able to crack the Top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100. However, they were successful in reaching the top 10 on the Cashbox (“Fernando”) and Record World (“SOS”) charts. The Recording Industry Association of America certified “Dancing Queen” and “Take a Chance on Me” gold for sales of more than one million copies each.
The trio also scored 12 Top 20 hits on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart, with two of those hits—”The Winner Takes It All” and “Fernando”—tracking to the top. ABBA’s “Lay All Your Love on Me” topped the Hot Dance Club Play chart and became their fourth number-one record on a Billboard chart. Eight ABBA albums have reached the Top 50, five have reached the Top 20, and one has reached the Top 10. Ten ABBA albums have charted in the top half of the Billboard 200 album chart. Voyage became ABBA’s highest-charting album on the Billboard 200 in November 2021, debuting at No. 2. Three albums achieved platinum status (selling over one million copies), and five albums were certified RIAA gold (selling over 500,000 copies).
August 2008 saw the compilation album ABBA Gold: Greatest Hits reach the top of the Billboard Top Pop Catalog Albums list, marking the group’s first-ever number-one album on any Billboard album chart (15 years after its first US release in 1993). Six million copies have been sold there. Barry and Robin Gibb of the Bee Gees presented ABBA with their Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction on March 15, 2010. The Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City served as the venue for the event. Benny Andersson and Anni-Frid Lyngstad represented the group.
ABBA was nominated for a Grammy in November 2021 for Record of the Year. Their first-ever nomination came from the single “I Still Have Faith in You” from the album Voyage. No member of the band or ABBA is listed among the “100 Greatest Artists of All Time” by Rolling Stone.