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.

5 Responses

  1. Etienne says:

    It should be awarded a Grammy in the end, because of it’s global influence

  2. Anonymous says:

    BJorn admitted on air on an interview that it was most about their divorce. He WAS the winner. When they were going to record; he didn’t discuss it with Agnetha in private, he furtively put it on a desk. He didn’t tell her anything, just where the sheet music was.
    In front of the entire studio, blindsided her with it, for maximum effect. Suspecting nothing, she went over and looked at it. She burst into tears, as he would hope for.
    Like a good trooper, she sang it with great emotion. He damaged her unmercifully, and has never mentioned it anywhere. She immediately had to seek psychiatric support. So I think there was.a winner (BJorn) and a loser (Agnetha). So he then made it worse by driving it home with a surprise shock attack.
    I can only think either he is a psychopath (only an unsupported theory) or maybe just mean (sorry if I’m wrong). The above events are actual documented facts. (Check the literature). These actions are hard to explain. They certainly are possible mental cruelty ( refer to her reaction and resulting damage) and even long term PTSD.
    BJorn, why not show some humanity and provide this lovely, talented, warm lady with whatever support she needs to recover. You will always be responsible for her; you acquired her when she was too young to make big long term decisions.
    You then had her under your control; until you discarded her with prejudice.

  3. Anonymous says:

    It’s been called one of the greatest ballads ever. That ought to be worth something.

  4. Anonymous says:

    While I enjoy the music of ABBA. I totally agree with comment 2. Both men , Bjorn and Benny used the women, Agnetha and Anni-Frid for their purposes , and when then were through using them, kicked the women to the curb.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Agnetha was the true committed artist; she performed this with brilliant control despite the obvious underlying emotion. Her presentation was probably her best vocal of all.
    As a winner she will always have beaten Bjorn ‘hands down’ – as it is her that will always be remembered and thought of when this song is plated – not the group and certainly not him as co-writer.

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