The Winner Takes It All

Song Review by

By the final ABBA albums, the growing ambitions of their songwriters Bjorn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson led them to shift from the sunshine-y Europop of their early efforts to a more adult contemporary sound. As a result, both Super Trouper and The Visitors leaned toward ballads with a serious lyrical edge. The ultimate example of this trend is "The Winner Takes It All," a somber but compelling song that became one of ABBA's biggest worldwide successes. Partially inspired by the real-life divorce of members Ulvaeus and Agnetha Faltskog, "The Winner Takes It All" presents a first-person account of the inevitable, painful feelings of loss that follow the end of a romance. The lyrics that weave the tale have a no-nonsense tone of dark emotion, a feel that is further enhanced by an almost gothic melody that constantly descends from high notes to low notes to enhance the finality of the words. ABBA's recording pushes it into the realm of the truly unforgettable thanks to a heartrending lead vocal from Faltskog and a sophisticated arrangement that builds from soft piano lines and background vocals to a grand operatic coda subtly driven by mid-tempo but insistent drum work. This stylish production makes "The Winner Takes It All" one of the most stunning items in ABBA's catalog but the song itself is strong enough that any adult contemporary could have had (or could still have) a big hit with it.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Super Trouper 1980 PolyGram 4:55
No Image 1980 Montery / IVE
No Image 1982 Polydor
Best of ABBA 1984 Silver Eagle Records
25 Years of Rock 'N' Roll 1980 1988
Various Artists
No Image 1991 4:54
Gold: Greatest Hits [Video] 1993 Polydor
Gold: Greatest Hits 1993 Polydor / PolyGram 4:54
No Image 1994
Various Artists
triple d records 4:48
Thank You for the Music [1995] 1995 Polydor
Thank You for the Music [Box] 1995 Polygram 4:54
Master Series 1997 Universal Distribution
Collection [Polygram] 1998 Polydor / Polygram 4:52
Forever Gold 1998 Polydor / Polygram 4:55
Love Stories 1998 Polygram 4:57
Singles Collection 1972-82 1999 Polygram 4:56
25th Anniversary Singles Collection 1999 Polar Records 4:55
Millennium Edition 2000 Polydor 4:52
36 Svenska Klassiker: 1980-1989 2000
Various Artists
Diesel Records 4:55
Complete Golden Collection 2000 Polygram 4:54
20th Century Masters-The Millennium Collection: The Best of ABBA 2000 Polydor / Dolvador 4:53
Talents du Siecle 2000 Polygram / Universal International 4:52
The Definitive Collection 2001 UTV / Polygram 4:56
No Image 2001 Polar Records 4:56
The Songs of ABBA 2002 K-Tel Distribution 5:10
Real ABBA Gold [Musicbank] 2002 Musicbank
Super Sweet: For Lovers Only 2003
Various Artists
Sony Music Distribution
Amour [Universal] 2003
Various Artists
Universal Distribution
The ABBA Story 2004 Polar Records 4:56
The Last Video 2004 Polydor
Todo ABBA: Sus Grandes Exitos 2004 Universal / Polar 4:54
Super Troupers: From Waterloo to Mamma Mia! [DVD] 2004 Universal International
Love Songs [Universal International] 2005
Various Artists
Universal International 4:58
Waterloo [DVD] 2005 Universal International
The Complete Studio Recordings 2005 Universal / Universal International 4:56
No Image 2005 Universal Distribution 4:55
No Image 2006 United Recordings
18 Hits 2006 Universal International 4:56
Number Ones 2006 Polar Records 4:56
S.O.S.: Best of ABBA 2007 Polar Records
Golden Years 2007 PHV
No Image 2007 Polydor
ABBA Gold 2009 Universal Distribution 4:57
Classic ABBA [Spectrum Audio] 2009 Spectrum Music 4:56
They Sold a Million [EMI] 2009
Various Artists
Virgin 4:55
Magic Ballads 2009
Various Artists
Sony Music
Icon 2010 Polar 4:53
Collected 2011 Universal 4:56
The Essential Collection 2012 Polar / Polydor 4:56
De Pre Historie: 1980, Vol. 1
Various Artists
Eva 4:51
Hits, Vol. 3 Pickwick 4:51
No Image Universal 4:56
Warm Aanbevolen Uit 25 Jaar Top 40
Various Artists