"The Winner Takes It All" is a song recorded by Swedish pop group ABBA. Released as the first single from the group's Super Trouper album on 21 July 1980, it is a ballad in the key of F-sharp major, reflecting the end of a romance. The single's B-side was the non-album track "Elaine".
Abba never performed The Winner Takes It All live.
History[edit source | edit]
"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: she was no loser in their divorce. Ulvaeus also wrote the lyrics for Fältskog's 1979 live number 'I'm Still Alive'.
In a 1999 poll for Channel Five, "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."
Music video[edit source | edit]
A music video to promote the song was filmed in July 1980 on Marstrand, an island on the Swedish west coast.
Reception[edit source | edit]
"The Winner Takes It All" was yet another major success for ABBA. It hit #1 in Belgium, Great Britain, Ireland, the Netherlands, and South Africa. It reached the Top 5 in ABBA's native Sweden, Austria, Finland, France, West Germany, Norway, Switzerland and Zimbabwe, while peaking in the Top 10 in Australia, Canada, Italy, Spain and the United States (where it became ABBA's fourth and final American Top 10 hit. The song spent 26 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, more than any other ABBA single). It was also the group's second Billboard AC #1 (after "Fernando"). "The Winner Takes It All" was also a hit in Brazil: it was included on the soundtrack of "Coração Alado" ("Winged Heart"), a popular soap opera in 1980, as the main theme.
"The Winner Takes It All" is featured in the ABBA-based musical and film, Mamma Mia!.
Chart placings[edit source | edit]
|Charts (1980/1981)||Peak position|
|Australian Singles Chart||7|
|Austrian Singles Chart||3|
|Belgian Singles Chart||1|
|British Singles Chart||1|
|Canadian Singles Chart||10|
|Dutch Singles Chart||1|
|Finnish Singles Chart||2|
|French Singles Chart||5|
|German Singles Chart||4|
|Irish Singles Chart||1|
|Italian Singles Chart||7|
|Japanese Singles Chart||33|
|New Zealand Singles Chart||16|
|Norwegian Singles Chart||3|
|South African Singles Chart||1|
|Spanish Singles Chart||10|
|Swedish Singles Chart||2|
|Swiss Singles Chart||3|
|U.S. Billboard Hot 100||8|
|Zimbabwean Singles Chart||4|
Cover versions[edit source | edit]
- In December 1980, French singer Mireille Mathieu covered the song in French with lyrics by Alain Boublil (but on Mireille Mathieu's album "French Collection" it's Charles Level who is credited with these lyrics), called "Bravo, Tu As Gagné" (translated as "Bravo, You've Won"). The recording uses a slightly remixed version of the original ABBA backing track & the lead as well as backing vocals (by Mathieu, Anni-Frid Lyngstad, Benny Andersson & Björn Ulvaeus) were recorded in the Polar Studios.
- In 1980, Czech singer Helena Vondráčková released a cover called "A ty se ptáš co já" with Czech lyrics by Zdeněk Borovec.
- In 1980, German singer Marianne Rosenberg released a German version called "Nur Sieger steh'n im Licht".
- In 1981, The Shadows did an instrumental version on their album Hits Right Up Your Street.
- In 1984, Turkish singer Nilüfer Yumlu covered the song in her native language as "Yalnızlığımla Başbaşa" on her album named Nilüfer 84.
- In 1988, British singer Sandra Edwards released a Hi-NRG version on the Bolts label, available on 12" single only.
- In 1990, Mexican singer Pedro Fernández recorded his Spanish version called "El Ganador"
- The 1992 compilation ABBA: The Tribute (released through Polar Records) contained a cover by Swedish band Freda.
- In 1993, British singer-songwriter Beverley Craven recorded her own light pop version for her album Love Scenes. It was also released as a single.
- In 1993, Argentine duo Pimpinela recorded a Spanish version of "The Winner Takes It All" titled "Solo Hay Un Ganador" for their album Hay Amores Que Matan.
- In 1993, the K&K Studio Singers released the song in Polish as "Nie Chcę Mówić Już".
- In 1996, singer Hazell Dean released a dance-oriented cover of the song as a single. It was also available on her album The Winner Takes It All: Hazell Dean Sings ABBA released that same year & later on the 1999 compilationABBA: A Tribute – The 25th Anniversary Celebration.
- Russian black metal band Trizna recorded a cover of the song for their 1996 album Need for Speed. The track was also later included on the double album Pesni Dlya Radio (translated as "Songs for the Radio"), which was recorded with band Black Obelisk and released in 2000.
- In 1997, the song was used as the theme tune on the short lived ITV comedy programme Blind Men.
- In 1997, Swiss/German eurodance group E-Rotic included a version on their ABBA tribute album Thank You for the Music.
- In 1999, Irish pop/rock band The Corrs recorded a version of the song for the Abbamania compilation. For the 2004 follow-up compilation ABBAMania 2, the song was covered by TV actress Bernie Nolan.
- In 1999, Croatian singer Tereza Kesovija covered the song in Croatian under the title Tko gubi, gubi sve.
- The late American pop singer Laura Branigan recorded several dance remix covers of the song. Audio samples can be heard on her official website.
- An electronica cover of the song by Mitchell Sigman can be found on The Electronic Tribute to ABBA compilation, with vocals by Deena Noroian.
- American singer-songwriter Pamela McNeill covered the song on her Tribute to ABBA album, which was produced by her husband Dugan McNeill.
- In 2000, the Swedish band The Black Sweden recorded 2 versions for their ABBA tribute album Gold; one in soft rock style, the other acoustic.
- In 2000, German pop singer Jeanette Biedermann recorded a cover of the song.
- In 2001, German power metal band At Vance released a version on their album Dragonchaser.
- In 2001, American indie singer/songwriter Hannah Fury included a cover of the song on her EP Meathook.
- In 2001, Belgian singer Dana Winner covered the song in English for her album Unforgettable.
- In 2001, stage musical singer Michael Ball recorded a version for his album Centre Stage.
- In 2001, Brazilian ska-core band Randal Grave covered the song on their album Like to Do Girlie Stuff Sometimes.
- In 2002, Synthpop group Queen of Japan covered the song on their album Headrush.
- In 2002, British singer Martine McCutcheon covered the song on her album Musicality.
- In 2003, German singer Uwe Kröger included a cover of the song on his solo album From Broadway to Hollywood.
- In 2004, British singer Samantha Fox recorded a cover for the German ABBA Mania compilation, as well as performing it on the coinciding TV special.
- On the 2004 compilation Abbalicious performed by various American drag queens, the song is covered by Cashetta.
- A dance version by Japanese dance act GTS (featuring Robbie Danzie on vocals) was included on their 2004 compilation Cruising.
- In, 2006, Swedish opera singer Anne Sofie von Otter covered the song on her ABBA tribute album I Let the Music Speak.
- American stage actress/singer Jan Gelberman recorded a cover of the song for her album With Love to Share.
- A cover of the song by German pop band Sweetbox featuring Jade Villalon can be found as a hidden track on the European edition of their 2006 album Addicted. The song was played for the FIFA World Cup of that year.
- Polish singer Lidia Kopania recorded an English cover of this song for her 2006 album Intuicja.
- In 2006, German AC/DC tribute band Riff Raff covered the song in AC/DC style for their album Rock 'N' Roll Mutation Vol. 1: Riff Raff Performs ABBA.
- In 2006, Korean singer Moony (not to be confused with the Italian artist of the same name) recorded an English cover for her album Whispering Of The Moon.
- In 2006, Finnish a cappella choral ensemble Rajaton released the song on their ABBA tribute album Rajaton Sings ABBA With Lahti Symphony Orchestra.
- In 2006, a lounge music style cover of the song by Trombo Combo was included on their album Trombo Combo: Swedish Sound Deluxe.
- A cover of the song by Swedish performers Gladys del Pilar and Dave Nerge from a stage show entitled "ABBA: The True Story" was recorded and released as a single.
- In 2008, the song was covered in a jazz/lounge music style by American group BNB on their album Bossa Mia: Songs of ABBA.
- In 2008, a cover was recorded by the group Eden, and is featured on two compilations: Euro Football Party Hits and Olympic Dreams: China.
- In 2008, Australian singers Kylie Minogue and Dannii Minogue recorded the song for the soundtrack of a UK comedy series, Beautiful People with the BBC orchestra. The soundtrack was released on 20 October of that year.
- In 2008, the song is performed by Meryl Streep in the film adaptation of Mamma Mia!, and is included on the soundtrack album.
- In 2008, a Spanish language cover version was included on Il Divo's album The Promise, as The Winner Takes It All (Va Todo Al Ganador).
- In 2008, Scottish Steven McLachlan released his version on 10 November to raise money for eating disorder charity Beat. It reached No. 2 on the UK independent music charts.
- In 2008, British pop punk band McFly performed "The Winner Takes It All" and recorded an acoustic version of the song, which was featured on their "Lies" single.
- Several hi-NRG/eurodance cover remixes by Abbacadabra were released in the late 1990s through Almighty Records. It was most recently included on the 2008 compilation We Love ABBA: The Mamma Mia Dance Collection.
- Over the years, several dance covers of the song have been recorded by various artists including: Angeleyes on their 1999 ABBAdance album, Crown Twister on the Lay All Your Love On ABBA compilation, Euphorica on their 2003ABBA Dance album, Frodo Project, Wildside (in 2002), DJ Ensamble for the ABBA tribute album Trancing Queen in 2006, and Tom Del Sar (in 2006).
- In 2009, Andrew Bain (who rose to fame in the British media as the "singing dentist" from London, England) recorded an operatic style cover of the song for his debut album Andrew Bain Presents Modern Classics.
- In 2010, Liverpudlian singer Tor James Faulkner covered the track on his album The Reflection to raise money and awareness for eating disorder charity Beat.
- In 2010, John Barrowman covered the song on his self-titled third studio album, John Barrowman.
- In 2011, Norwegian jazz singer Solveig Slettahjell covered the song on her album Antologie.
- In 2012, Susan Boyle covered the song on her album Standing Ovation.
- In 2012, Union J covered the song on the The X Factor UK.
- In 2013, fellow Swedish singer Sarah Dawn Finer covered the song as the interval act of the Eurovision Song Contest 2013
Live cover performances[edit source | edit]
- Swedish singer/musician Tommy Körberg has performed the song in various live performances.
- Australian singer-songwriter Tina Arena performed the song live during the Night of the Proms tour in 2006.
- American singer-songwriter Jade Villalon performed the song live during the FIFA World Cup in 2006.
- American singer Faith Hill covered the song during her Soul2Soul 2007 Tour. She reprised her performance for ABBA's induction into the Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame in March 2010.
- The song is performed in second act of the Mamma Mia! musical by the character of Donna. In the context of the musical, the song is used when Donna professes how much she loves Sam, but she cannot forgive entirely for what he did. She also, believing him still married, says "the rules must be obeyed" meaning she couldn't be with a married man.
- The song was sung on Australian Idol season 6 by Thanh Bui during Abba week.
- McFly performed the song at the VISA London 2012 Olympic Visa Party in front of Buckingham Palace in London on 24 August 2008.
- Arianna Afsar sang the song on American Idol season 8 in the third group of the Top 36.
- Icelandic singer Yohanna sung the song as an interval act for Söngvakeppni Sjónvarpsins 2010
- Australian singer Laura Clark performed the song live in the Strathfield Musical Society's Songs From Stage To Screen.
- In 2010, pianist and composer, Avi Amon, recorded a jazz cover of the song with vocalist Allie Myers as a part of the CIRCLE collaborative art project. The cover appears as a bonus track on their first album, "Winter of Creativity".
- In 2012, English band The Vaccines covered the song on their live acoustic EP album; Please, Please Do Not Disturb.
- In 2012, English boy band Union J covered the song in week 8 of the live shows of the ninth series of The X Factor.
- In 2013, Greek singer Natassa Bofiliou covered the song during the run of her show "The Passage of the Magicians".
- In 2013, Swedish singer Sarah Dawn Finer covered the song during the final of the Eurovision Song Contest 2013 in Malmö.