All Abba's UK singles – ranked!

To mark the release of new film Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, we rate the Swedish pop band’s greatest hits

27. Under Attack (1982)

Last place for the band’s last single, taken from recording sessions for a ninth album that never came to fruition. And maybe that’s for the best: the dissonance between the robotic verses and a bizarrely jaunty chorus about being at one’s wit’s end over a stalker is too jarring to work. LS

26. I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do (1975)

Throughout their career, Abba would offer occasional proof that they were a far from an infallible singles band. This was one such piece of evidence. Benny and Björn combined their loves of German schlager music and the American bandleader Billy Vaughn in a single that Melody Maker concluded was “so bad it hurts”. MH

25. Thank You for the Music (1983)

“Without a song or a dance what are we?” A poignant rhetorical question to which the answer is, of course, nothing. Still, there are better songs with which to prove it than this cloying number, to which one almost certainly cannot dance. LS

24. Fernando (1976)

A favourite for terrace chants – “He was awesome in the air tonight, his hair looked nice, Fernando!” as Liverpool fans once sang – the original Abba song is, somewhat improbably for a 70s chart topper, about two war veterans recalling the Mexican revolution of 1910. Regardless, it became one of their biggest-selling singles. TJ

Abba on red background

23. Chiquitita (1979)

A tale of trying to help a friend through heartbreak, Chiquitita offers up the perfect lyrical fit for Abba’s inimitable Nordic melancholy. Inspired by the Peruvian folk song El Cóndor Pasa, it was deemed so strong by the band that it replaced the excellent If It Wasn’t for the Nights as lead single pick from their disco album Voulez-Vous. TJ

22. Waterloo (1974)

A piece of glam-pop indebted to Wizzard’s 1973 hit See My Baby Jive (itself in thrall to classic Phil Spector) that transcends its influences at a stroke. From the pile-driving rhythm through those piano crashes to its brilliant opening line, Waterloo’s irresistibility is sealed within 15 seconds – and it remains the best-ever Eurovision winner. JH

21. I Have a Dream (1979)

A simple, gospel-tinged song that borders on the saccharine yet still contains some subtle Abba mastery thrown in – note that hanging pause after “I believe ...” I Have a Dream features a children’s choir, making it the only Abba single to feature vocalists outside the band. It reached No 2 in the UK charts, though Westlife’s rubbish cover went one better. TJ

20. Ring Ring (1974)

The history book on the shelf could have read quite differently: rock wobbler Ring Ring was put forward for Eurovision consideration 12 months before the band made a more successful attempt with Waterloo. Worth noting that Ring Ring was penned in an era when a tinkling phone signalled potential romance, rather than a speculative PPI claim call. PR

19. Head Over Heels (1982)

The Visitors found Abba clacking towards their 40s with a mindset that was 80% meditative and 20% divorcees-on-the-lash. The dizzying Head Over Heels exemplified the latter. In the video we saw Frida sporting a post-divorce scarlet mullet, which kind of said it all. PE

18. Mamma Mia (1975)

Abba in colour

Mamma Mia is a showcase for Abba’s musical inventiveness, from the way the opening xylophone playfully shifts from on-beat to off-beat to the cruising Beach Boys harmonies towards the end. Then, of course, there’s the way Björn and Benny drop everything for the chorus, bar Frida, Agnetha, that xylophone and a tiny, tinkly piano, creating one of the quintessential Abba moments. AN

17. Does Your Mother Know (1979)

A rarity in Abba’s catalogue in every sense: Björn takes the lead on vocals, rock rules over disco and then there’s the unusually troubling lyrics, about a man who definitely knows better contemplating his attraction to a girl who’s “only a child”. The raucous chorus has weathered better than the message. LS

16. Summer Night City (1978)

Previously titled Dancing in the Moonlight, the title of a 1972 hit by King Harvest, Abba’s 1978 UK No 5 pays delirious homage to nightlife, sexual attraction and the era’s disco boom. Oddly, the band have never been overly enamoured with it: our critics disagree. DS

15. You Owe Me One (1982)

As Abba entered their twilight years they got fascinatingly weirder. You Owe Me One, the B-side to 1982’s Under Attack, was a case in point: a snaking Middle-Eastern riff that sounded more Selda Bağcan than Summer Night City, Frida and Agnetha pitch-shifted upwards into Disney-fied adolescence and a breakup lyric that rode into white wine o’clock with a cackle. PE

14. One Of Us (1981)

Divorces are grisly and bad, but One of Us, recorded after both Abba’s couples had separated, is next level: a despondent tale of loneliness and empty beds with Agnetha’s protagonist “wishing she had never left at all” in a song written by her ex-husband. Which puts arguing over a lawnmower in perspective. PR

13. Money, Money, Money (1976)

Money, Money, Money suffers from being no one’s favourite Abba single. But the pizzicato intro is brilliant and the sinister guitar line underneath the chorus is terrific. The sentiment – find a rich man to shack up with – might be timeless, but it does feel a bit icky: the patriarchy is not being smashed. MH

12. Voulez-Vous (1979)

Abba on both autopilot and at the peak of their powers. As so often, the lyrics treat seduction as a transaction (the cynicism in much of the Abba catalogue is rarely remarked on). The faintly Arabic guitar refrain adds a touch of exoticism, the Earth, Wind and Fire-style horns in the chorus are fabulous. It’s just not quite perfect. MH

Abba on stage

11. Angeleyes (1979)

Decades before Dua Lipa issued three rules for dealing with the troublesome ex you’re not quite over, Abba issued just one: “Don’t look too deep into those angel eyes.” Passed over for Abba Gold inclusion, this has the potential to be the surprise hit of Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again. Make of that what you will. PR

10. The Name of the Game (1977)

With its Stevie Wonder-influenced funk intro and slinky, soulful chorus, this 1977 No 1 is written from the viewpoint of a young, vulnerable person struggling with unfamiliar feelings, unsure if they are mutual or misplaced: “If I trust in you, would you let me down?” DS

9. Take A Chance on Me (1978)

The unusual a cappella intro of Abba’s seventh British No 1 originated in a rhythmic mantra that Björn hummed to himself while running. The lyrics are a classic tale of as-yet-unrequited longing: “If you’re all alone when the pretty birds have flown / Honey I’m still free, take a chance on me.” DS

8. Super Trouper (1980)

Abba’s final UK No 1 was a marvel: a spun-sugar melody with vocal harmonies so tightly arranged and recorded they sound barely human. You might think it’s a nursery rhyme but for the dread and horror in the lyrics, in which only the presence of a lover can distract Anni-Frid from her horror at the charade of being a pop star (one has to assume the song was written with Agnetha, who found fame extremely hard, in mind). A perfect single. MH

7. Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight) (1979)

The peak of Abba’s disco adventures and an instant gay anthem, complete with a beguiling tension: in the throes of divorce from Björn, Agnetha sings a hymn to desire and sexual freedom with lyrics by her former husband. That aside, the central riff and pulsating arrangement are deliriously great – as confirmed when Madonna nicked them both for 2005’s Hung Up. JH

6. Lay All Your Love on Me (1981)

Anyone who ever called jealousy an ugly emotion clearly hadn’t spent enough time listening to the rapturous Lay All Your Love on Me, whose clipped, defensive verses about perceiving every woman as a potential threat give way to pure, unfiltered id: a demand for attention that sounds both luxurious and genuinely threatening. LS

Together on stage for the first time in 30 years during the opening of Mamma Mia! The Party in Stockholm, Sweden, January 2016.
Together on stage for the first time in 30 years during the opening of Mamma Mia! The Party in Stockholm, Sweden, January 2016. Photograph: Anders Westin/Westin Promotion/TT/TT News Agency/Press Association Images

5. The Winner Takes It All (1980)

Writing about divorce is one thing; asking your ex-wife to sing it quite another. Björn would always declare The Winner Takes It All to be a work of fiction – although the song’s original working title, The Story of My Life, suggests otherwise. Whatever, the combination of uplifting pop balladry (those descending piano lines!) and despairing lyrics has been much imitated but never bettered. TJ

4. Dancing Queen (1976)

Not just Abba’s most joyous song, but arguably pop music’s itself. Dancing Queen is a hymn to youthful dancefloor euphoria that launches listeners straight into the middle of the chorus and doesn’t let up from there. It’s so perfect, in fact, that it made Frida cry on first hearing it, “out of pure happiness that I would get to sing that song”. TJ

3. Knowing Me, Knowing You (1976)

Written well before Abba’s own breakups, this 1977 No 1 is sung in the mournful words of a couple who have nothing left for one another. The gossamer chorus and pinch of kitsch gave Steve Coogan a readymade theme tune and catchphrase (“A-ha!”) for his comic character, Alan Partridge. DS

2. The Day Before You Came (1982)

A sparse, sprawling, electronic spookpop masterpiece. Fans have speculated for decades over the identity of the titular “you”, whose arrival marks a change in Agnetha’s mundane life – theories range from a new lover, to a stalker, to even suicide – but the song is about finality in more ways than one: it was the last one Abba ever recorded. Until now … PR

1. SOS (1975)

There’s Abba gold, and then there’s Abba platinum. The ultimate pop band’s ultimate pop song went on to inspire hits for the Sex Pistols, Girls Aloud and countless songwriters in between – including Abba, with Björn later identifying this 1975 single as fundamental in forging their musical identity. And it’s all here: the pathos and drama of intense romantic despair delivered via a peerless melody and a minor-to-major chorus explosion, a collision of sonic euphoria and lyrical gloom so potent and disorientatingly bleak that Portishead’s downbeat 2015 cover arguably cheered the song up a bit. PR


Actors playing nightmarish versions of themselves in cinema - ranked!
Michael Caine's best films - ranked!
The 10 best Glenn Close movies - ranked!
Tom Cruise - top 20 movies - ranked!
Judi Dench - every film - ranked!
Jane Fonda's 10 best films - ranked!
Ryan Gosling movies - ranked!
10 best Hugh Grant films - ranked!
Every Angelie Jolie film performance - ranked!
Nicole Kidman’s top 10 films - ranked!
The best and the worst Jennifer Lopez films - ranked!
All Helen Mirren's 61 movies - ranked!
Robert Redford's greatest screen roles - ranked!
Winona Ryder's 20 best films - ranked!
Movie Santa Clauses - ranked!
Maggie Smith's 20 best films – ranked!
Jason Statham - every film - ranked!
Emma Thompson's best films - ranked!


Wes Anderson movies - ranked!
The Coen brothers’ films - ranked!
Stanley Kubrick's best films - ranked!

Movie genres

Biopics trashed by families, friends and fans - ranked!
Purr evil: cats in movies with hidden agendas - ranked!
Dog weepie movies - ranked!
Top 20 J-horror films - ranked!
Movies that have grossed more than $1bn - ranked!
Palme d'Or winners - ranked!
The scariest horror films ever - ranked!
The best Shakespeare films - ranked!
The 10 best movie shark performances - ranked!
The best Stephen King movies  - ranked!
From Trolls to Transformers: toy films – ranked!
Worst holidays in cinema - ranked!

Studios & franchises

Aardman's 20 best films – ranked!
James Bond on film – 007's best and worst movies - ranked!
The 20 best Marvel films - ranked!
Top 10 Merchant Ivory films - ranked!
Pixar - every film ever made - ranked!
Planet of the Apes - the best and worst of the movies - ranked!
Star Wars - every film - ranked!

TV & award shows

The 20 best music documentaries - ranked!
The weirdest Brits performances - ranked!
Game of Thrones - every episode - ranked!
Oscar nominees - the weirdest ever - ranked!
Oscar snubs - the 20 greatest ever - ranked!
The biggest Rock & Roll Hall of Fame snubs ever - ranked!
Super Bowl half-time shows - the 10 greatest - ranked!
The best X Factor finalists - ranked!
From Niall Horan's toast to Russell Crowe’s jockstrap: celebrity auction items - ranked!


All Abba's UK singles - ranked!
The Beatles' singles – ranked!
Kate Bush – every UK single - ranked!
Every one of Madonna's 78 singles - ranked!
Missy Elliott's solo singles – ranked!
Prince's 50 greatest singles – ranked!
Queen's 50 UK singles - ranked!
Taylor Swift's singles - ranked!
The Who: their UK singles - ranked!


Black Sabbath - every album - ranked!
David Byrne – (almost) all of his albums - ranked!
Miles Davis's 20 greatest albums – ranked!
Lil Wayne's albums - ranked!
Every Mercury prize-winning album - ranked!
Joni Mitchell's albums – ranked!
The Rolling Stones – every album - ranked!
10 best Paul Simon albums - ranked!
Bruce Springsteen's albums - ranked!
Kanye West – every album - ranked!
Stevie Wonder's albums - ranked!


20 greatest breakup songs ever - ranked!
Aphex Twin's best songs - ranked!
Barry Manilow – all his greatest songs - ranked!
Björk – her 20 greatest songs ranked!
Cher's 30 greatest songs - ranked!
The 30 greatest Disney songs – ranked!
Elton John's 50 greatest songs - ranked!
From Drake to Wet Wet Wet: songs with 10 weeks at No 1 - ranked!
From MC5 to Jeff Mills: the greatest Detroit tracks ever - ranked!
PJ Harvey's 50 greatest songs – ranked!
Giorgio Moroder's 20 greatest songs - ranked!
Nirvana's 20 greatest songs - ranked!
The best songs from teen movies - ranked!
The best UK garage tracks - ranked!
The greatest banned songs of all time - ranked!
The greatest ever female rap tracks - ranked!
The greatest pop music dance crazes - ranked!
All 43 Spice Girls songs - ranked!

Artists & bands

The 30 best boyband members - ranked!
The greatest Scottish indie bands - ranked!
Quincy Jones's greatest ever moments - ranked!

• This article was amended on 16 February 2019 to remove incorrect dates from picture captions.


Priya Elan, Michael Hann, Tim Jonze, John Harris, Peter Robinson, Alex Needham, Dave Simpson and Laura Snapes

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Taylor Swift's singles – ranked!
From the teen romance of her 2006 debut single to Me!, released today, we rate them all, charting her transformation from teenage country sensation to all-conquering pop titan

Alexis Petridis

26, Apr, 2019 @10:00 AM

Article image
Queen's 50 UK singles – ranked!
Following the release of Bryan Singer’s Freddie Mercury biopic, we run the rule over the band’s British releases

Dave Simpson

26, Oct, 2018 @9:00 AM

Article image
Missy Elliott's solo singles – ranked!
Honoured at the MTV VMAs this week, the Virginia rapper has just surprised fans with a new EP, Iconology. We rank her 22 singles, from her 1997 debut to 2017’s I’m Better

Alexis Petridis

29, Aug, 2019 @12:25 PM

Article image
The Beatles' singles – ranked!
As Abbey Road turns 50, we rate the Fab Four’s 22 UK singles, which dominated the charts in the 1960s – and changed pop for ever

Alexis Petridis

26, Sep, 2019 @12:00 PM

Article image
Kylie's 30 greatest singles – ranked!
Over a career of more than 30 years, she’s been Indie Kylie, Moody Kylie and Mature Kylie – but who comes out on top?

Alexis Petridis

24, Sep, 2020 @2:07 PM

Article image
Prince's 50 greatest singles – ranked!
As a remastered and expanded version of classic album 1999 is announced, we rate the Purple One’s finest funk hits

Alexis Petridis

12, Sep, 2019 @3:11 PM

Article image
The Who: their UK singles – ranked!
As the band prepare to release their first new studio album in 13 years, we rate all their UK singles – from 1960s mod chaos to majestic rock opera

Alexis Petridis

17, Jan, 2019 @4:23 PM

Article image
Mariah Carey's 30 greatest singles – ranked!
With All I Want for Christmas Is You on the cusp of claiming the UK No 1 for the first time in 26 years, what better time to celebrate one of the great R&B repertoires?

Alexis Petridis

03, Dec, 2020 @12:30 PM

Article image
The greatest banned songs of all time – ranked!
Thirty years on from 2 Live Crew being banned by the Beeb, we pick 20 foul-mouthed, orgiastic outings deemed too scandalous for public consumption

Laura Snapes

14, Feb, 2019 @1:02 PM

Article image
The 20 greatest breakup songs ever – ranked!
On the 40th anniversary of Gloria Gaynor’s I Will Survive topping the charts – and as the UK blunders towards its own acrimonious divorce – here’s the definitive list of tear-stained stonkers

Alexis Petridis

14, Mar, 2019 @3:16 PM