Abba – The Winner Takes It All

Music video by the Swedish pop group ABBA performing The Winner Takes It All, which released as the first single from the group’s Super Trouper album on 21 July 1980.

“The Winner Takes It All”, original demo title “The Story of My Life”, was written by both Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson, with Agnetha Fältskog singing the lead vocal. The lyrics to the song were thought to mirror the divorce between Ulvaeus and Fältskog in 1979, similar to the 1981 song “When All Is Said and Done”, in which Ulvaeus deals with the divorce between Anni-Frid Lyngstad and Benny Andersson in 1981.

Ulvaeus denies the song is about his and Fältskog’s divorce, saying the basis of the song “is the experience of a divorce, but it’s fiction. There wasn’t a winner or a loser in our case. A lot of people think it’s straight out of reality, but it’s not”. American critic Chuck Klosterman, who says “The Winner Takes It All” is “the only pop song that examines the self-aware guilt one feels when talking to a person who has humanely obliterated your heart” finds Ulvaeus’ denial hard to believe in light of the original title.

Fältskog has also repeatedly stated that though “The Winner Takes It All” is her favorite ABBA song and that it has an excellent set of lyrics, the story is not that of her and Ulvaeus: there were no winners in their divorce, especially as children were involved. Ulvaeus also wrote the lyrics for Fältskog’s 1979 live number ‘I’m Still Alive’.

In a 1999 poll for Channel 5, “The Winner Takes It All” was voted Britain’s favourite ABBA song. This feat was replicated in a 2010 poll for ITV. In a 2006 poll for a Channel Five programme, “The Winner Takes It All” was voted “Britain’s Favourite Break-Up Song.”

Lyrics

I don’t wanna talk
About things we’ve gone through
Though it’s hurting me
Now it’s history
I’ve played all my cards
And that’s what you’ve done too
Nothing more to say
No more ace to play

The winner takes it all
The loser’s standing small
Beside the victory
That’s her destiny

I was in your arms
Thinking I belonged there
I figured it made sense
Building me a fence
Building me a home
Thinking I’d be strong there
But I was a fool
Playing by the rules

The gods may throw the dice
Their minds as cold as ice
And someone way down here
Loses someone dear
The winner takes it all
The loser has to fall
It’s simple and it’s plain
Why should I complain?

But tell me does she kiss
Like I used to kiss you?
Does it feel the same
When she calls your name?
Somewhere deep inside
You must know I miss you
But what can I say?
Rules must be obeyed

The judges will decide
The likes of me abide
Spectators of the show
Always staying low
The game is on again
A lover or a friend
A big thing or a small
The winner takes it all

I don’t wanna talk
If it makes you feel sad
And I understand
You’ve come to shake my hand
I apologize
If it makes you feel bad
Seeing me so tense
No self-confidence
But you see
The winner takes it all
The winner takes it all…

Sources