Today: July 9, 2024

ABBA: Against the Odds

ABBA are one of those bands who have sadly never been able to shake their cheesy-pop reputation with many people over the last 50 years, despite their enormous success. I would say that, on the whole,  I’m met with far more cringes than nods of approval when I tell people I like them. A new BBC documentary, directed by the BAFTA-winning James Rogan and released back in May to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the Swedish foursome’s Eurovision triumph, is a must-watch for fans, but also could just bring the enlightenment that ABBA’s detractors and non-believers need.

Made up entirely of archive footage, ABBA: Against the Odds is a nostalgic journey through the band’s career and continuing legacy. While it’s unashamedly entry-level and hardly an exhaustive critical analysis, the film does touch upon the hardships the band faced over their rise to glory, while also talking about the challenges of balancing fame with family life. 

The overall tone of the film, though, is light. It is a celebratory tribute to the band in this milestone year, and if they had a new album or tour to plug, I’d say this was just a promotional puff piece. It’s put together confidently enough, and benefits enormously from having the rights to use the band’s enormous catalogue of music. Too many of these straight-to-TV/DVD docs struggle with their budget limitations and feel like glorified YouTube video essays, but this is a BBC product and feels like it.

ABBA: Against the Odds won’t fool anyone into thinking it’s anything more than a TV special. It’s hardly exhaustive and makes a few missteps with chronology, and could probably use a tighter edit. But it’s hard not to be swept up in this unassuming Swedish pop band’s triumphant journey to global fame. Thank you for the music. 

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