Meaning of ABBA’s “The Winner Takes It All”

“The Winner Takes It All” is one of ABBA’s most-celebrated breakup songs.  The titular “winner”, whom the singer of the track is addressing, is supposed to be one who has emerged victorious from the couple’s disbanding, i.e. her ex. In other words, she seems to be congratulating him – albeit somewhat sarcastically – for moving on with his life while concurrently she is still reeling emotionally from their breakup.

This song marks an interesting time in the history of ABBA. It was written and recorded freshly after the divorce of its singer, Agnetha Fältskog from the song’s co-writer, Björn Ulvaeus in 1980. In fact the music video was recorded just 10 days after their divorce was finalized. This of course has led fans to speculate that the lyrics are actually about that event. It also put Agnetha in an emotional position to be tasked with singing a song specifically about a woman suffering from heartbreak (apparently from a divorce) and acknowledging her ex had found a new lady that was actually written by her ex-husband. However, Ulvaeus has vehemently denied that the song is mostly based on personal experience. And Fältskog supports his position, stating that there were no actual winners in their divorce.

Lyrics of "The Winner Takes It All"

“The Winner Takes It All” 

  • This single came out on the 21st of July 1980. It was co-written and co-produced by ABBA members B. Ulvaeus and B. Andersson.
  • The lyrics were influenced by Björn’s breakup with his wife, and fellow group member, Agnetha Fältskog.
  • “The Winner Takes It All” was added to the group’s album entitled Super Trouper, which was released in November 1980. This classic was also featured on many of the band’s other albums, including famous compilation album Gold: Greatest Hits.
  • A famous Brazilian soap opera of the 1980s, named, “Coração Alado” (“Winged Heart”) had this track feature on the movie’s soundtrack.
  • Over the years, “The Winner Takes It All” has been covered by a host of artists. They include: At Vance (in 2001), Susan Boyle (in 2012), The Vaccines (in 2012), Glee Cast (in 2015), and Cher (in 2018).
  • Meryl Streep did a version of this track in the 2018 movie Mamma Mia! That same year, a re-recorded edition (by Kylie and Dannii) of this song was used in Beautiful People, a comedy series in the United Kingdom.

Chart Performance

“The Winner Takes It All” hit #1 in the UK, Belgium, South Africa, and the Netherlands. In the United States, it peaked at number 8. The song also performed well in Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, Austria, France, and Finland. It entered into the top 5 on the charts of these countries.

Did “The Winner Takes It All” win a Grammy Award?

No. Despite the song’s enormous global success, it was never nominated for a Grammy. It therefore never won one.

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