ABBA’s “SOS” Lyrics Meaning

In our most recent analysis of an ABBA song, which was their 2021 track “No Doubt About It“, it was argued that in the band’s lyrics, as far as those centered on heartbreak goes, the female is often presented as the one who is the guilty or regretful party after a breakup, argument or what have you. 

And such a thematic recurrence is particularly notable since for a time the band consisted of two married couples that actually went on to divorce, though the unit staying intact (for a period) throughout.

But now we see that narratives based on ideas such as mentioned above sorta became ABBA’s standard a considerable time before said divorces transpired. However, what is different between “SOS” and some of the similar ABBA tunes that came later is that in this case there are no gender pronouns used whatsoever. 

In other words, since the vocalists of this group are in fact females, then dropping a song like this, in which no allusions to gender are made, by default gives it a general applicability as far as both sexes are concerned.

“SOS”

That said, “SOS” has been pointed out as one of the most important songs in ABBA’s catalog, i.e. helping the quartet to establish their musical identify. And verily, it features the type of straightforward lyricism the band has, throughout the years, become known for.

The term S.O.S., as you likely already know, is a distress call of maritime origins. Also in terms of more artistic and general usage, it is meant to point to the notion of a person being in some type of trouble or needing help. 

And in this scenario, said individual would be the vocalist. The trouble she is in is that apparently she and her sweetheart have broken up. Therefore it would be him that she is sending out the “SOS” to, which, all lyrics considered, is another way of asking him to come back in her life. She needs him desperately because her heart is broken in such a way that she cannot perceive ‘carrying on’ without him.

Lyrics to "SOS" by ABBA

When did ABBA release “SOS”?

“SOS” was introduced by ABBA to the public during June of 1975. This track originally came out as part of ABBA’s third album. The album itself is entitled ABBA. It was released by their long-standing supporter, Polar Music.

Song’s Success

“SOS” is one of the big hits of ABBA’s early goings. The track charted in nearly 20 countries, reaching number one in a handful of these nations in the process. It also broke the top 20 of the Billboard Hot 100. As for the UK Singles Chart, it broke the top-10. This is in addition to eventually being certified platinum in Japan and silver in the UK. 

Indeed what made this song’s success so important, as alluded to above, is that it was a massive success in the United Kingdom. The U.K. is the most important country in Europe as far as the music industry is concerned. ABBA was so fortunate because at the time this song became a hit in the UK, their popularity in that region was waning. So in other words, the song helped in reviving the group’s career there.

Credits

As usual Benny Andersson alongside his songwriting partner Björn Ulvaeus is credited for the production and the writing duties of “SOS”. That said, it must be noted that in producing this song, the pair worked alongside Stig Anderson (1931-1997). Stig was one of the two founders of Polar Music.

SOS

More Facts about “SOS”

When this track was issued, on its B-side was another ABBA song entitled “Man in the Middle”. 

Agnetha Fältskog serves as the lead vocalist of “SOS”, which she recalls was not an easy task. Concurrently she was also holding down a solo career while being involved with ABBA, and therefore a Swedish version of “SOS” was featured on her 1975 solo album, “Elva Kvinnor i Ett Hus”.

The working title of this track was “Turn Me On”.

Despite being released way back in 1975 there is an actual music video to this song, as Europeans were up on that trend prior to Americans. And it was directed by Swedish filmographer Lasse Hallström.

One notable live performance of this tune came via American Bandstand in mid-November 1975, with that occasion marking the first time ABBA came to the US.

The term ABBA, which is actually an acronym of the first names of the members of the crew (Agnetha Fältskog, Björn Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson and Anni-Frid Lyngstad) is what is called, in literary circles, a palindrome, i.e. a term that spells the same forward as it does backwards. 

And so is the title of this song, “SOS”. As such, said track’s appearance on the Billboard Hot 100 marks the only time a song whose title is a palindrome by a band whose moniker is also a palindrome appeared on said list.

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