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2024 marked the 50th anniversary of the Eurovision Song Contest in which a then-unknown Swedish quartet took the world by storm singing about Napoleon. And, over the (nearly) five decades that followed, generations of people—and let’s face it, particularly queer people—have rushed to the dance floor as soon as the opening synth notes of one of ABBA’s many mega-hits start to play.

ABBA’s albums are an essential part of our record collections. Their songs and lyrics are imprinted on our collective memories, sparkling with glitter and disco strobe lights. Their legacy lives on in Broadway musicals, record-smashing movies, and live shows.

But what is it about ABBA that has kept them relevant in culture for this long, especially among the LGBTQ+ community? What makes ABBA one of the gayest bands that has ever lived? Well, here are 25 reasons that prove why:

1. Eurovision

ABBA broke into the scene by winning the Eurovision Song Contest in 1974. The competition is consistently one of the queerest cultural events in Europe, with its dramatic and flamboyant performances and penchant for catchy pop tunes. In other words, the band couldn’t have chosen a gayer way to make their entrance onto the world stage.

2. Their costumes

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If you picture ABBA, one of the first things that probably comes to mind is their outrageous disco-inspired outfits—covered in glitter, sparkle, and sequins. These were all the work of famed gay costume designer Owe Sandström, who clearly understood the assignment of making memorable costuming, rather than just performance clothes.

3. Their love affairs

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It’s known that “ABBA” stands for the initials of each of their members: Anni-Frid Lyngstad, Benny Andersson, Björn Ulvaeus ,and Agnetha Fältskog. The amalgamation of their names was not just for the brand, as the two couples dated, married, and eventually divorced each other through their career. This never created too much drama (cough, cough, Fleetwood Mac), and it usually influenced the songwriting in beautiful ways. And that’s pretty queer!

4. Their videos

Probably just as iconic as their outfits is some of the imagery of their music videos. The vast majority of them were directed by Lasse Hallström, who would later become an Oscar-nominated Hollywood director behind films like The Cider House Rules, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape and Chocolat. We can thank him for popularizing the ‘ABBA shot’: with two people in the frame, one looks sideways while the others looks forward.

5. Their bittersweet lyrics

Although many have dismissed ABBA for having frilly, shallow music, they ignore the often deeply melancholic lyrics to their songs. Underneath all the synth and pop, they talk about heartbreak, separation, longing and anxiety; and in some cases, issues like war and refugees. It’s not all dancing under a disco ball!

6. “Dancing Queen”

“You can dance, you can jive, having the time of your life”… how can anyone resist singing along to those lyrics? “Dancing Queen” is ABBA’s biggest song, and it has served as the soundtrack for enough Pride parades, diva cover performances, and themed disco nights to earn its rightful place as a queer anthem.

7. Gender equity

ABBA didn’t have a leading man, or a leading woman. They were equally split into two men and two women. In most cases, the men wrote and played the music while the women took lead in vocals. But the boys did sing a couple of the songs, and Agnetha penned a couple of lyrics. The band was meant to showcase every member.

8. Mainstream disco

ABBA’s discography mostly came out in the ’70s and early ’80s—when disco was considered an outcast genre, led mostly by people of color and the queer community. ABBA’s songs (especially towards the middle and latter part of their career) helped disco beats get integrated into popular mainstream stations that otherwise wouldn’t play it.

9. Gay airplay

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Eventually, audiences and wider music world moved away from disco by the 1980s, and so did the radio stations. However, it wasn’t uncommon for gay-friendly stations or DJs to keep playing ABBA’s songs long after they left the mainstream play, or to play extended versions of their new singles, proving that the community wanted to keep listening to them.

10. Sparkling relief

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But why was ABBA’s music so embraced by the gay community then? Their upbeat tunes, (mostly) carefree lyrics, and glittery demeanor were a welcome breath of fresh air among the doom of the AIDS epidemic throughout the ’80s and beyond. ABBA was always looked down for having escapist music; for many it was lifesaving.

11. Late bloomers

Although their presence was constant and widespread as they were releasing albums and singles, ABBA’s popularity didn’t really reach its highest peak until the release of their greatest hits album, ABBA Gold, in 1992, long after they separated. It became one of the best-selling albums of all time, and put them not only back on the map, but made them bigger than they had been.

12. Film classics

Just as this re-appreciation was happening, their songs appeared in two 1994 films that would quickly become classics in the queer film canon. Muriel’s Wedding is all about a young woman (Toni Collette) finding her own worth through their music, and The Adventures of Priscilla Queen Of The Desert follows three drag queens (played by Terence Stamp, Hugo Weaving, and Guy Pearce) through a cross-desert trip that perform several of their songs. What a better way to become immortal than through drag!

13. On stage

Part of the huge cultural renaissance of ABBA in the ’90s was also thanks to the phenomenon that was Mamma Mia!, a jukebox musical inspired by their songs about a young girl who invites her three possible fathers to her Greek wedding. Opening first in the West End (where it’s still running), and soon transferring to Broadway (where it ran for 16 years), it reignited the audience’s love affair with the band.

14. One word: Chess

Mamma Mia! may be the Broadway musical that most people associate with ABBA, but two of its members were also behind the music and lyrics of the much lesser-known Chess. A musical about, well… chess! (And, sure, also the Cold War and a love triangle.) It’s not the tightest musical, but some of its songs—particularly “Nobody’s Side” and “I Know Him So Well”—have stood the test of time.

15. A*Teens

Many people (particularly millennials) probably heard their first ABBA songs through the A*Teens, the Swedish pop quartet that was formed as a tribute band with CW-style heartthrobs at the center. While they also had their own original songs (“Upside Down,” anyone?), their biggest contribution is perhaps imprinting the timeless lyrics onto a whole new generation.

16. “Hung Up”

In 2005, Madonna was about to mount one of the biggest comebacks of her career with the release of the Confessions On A Dance Floor album. The lead single that kickstarted this new era was “Hung Up,” which sampled the iconic synth beats from ABBA’s “Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight)”. Madonna personally wrote a letter to Benny and Björn to get their permission to use it, and the rest is history.

17. On screen

If Mamma Mia! the stage show was a phenomenon, the movie adaptation was a worldwide sensation. Becoming the highest-grossing movie musical of all time shortly after it was released, the film starred Meryl Streep, Amanda Seyfried, and an ensemble for the ages, quickly becoming a staple among millennial moviegoers, and confirming the ever-present power of ABBA across generations.

18. On screen, again!

With the success of Mamma Mia!, a sequel was the next logical step, even though it took a decade to put it together. Bringing back the original cast, plus a new class of younger versions and the inclusion of thee Cher, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again become a box office hit just as big, with even bigger critical acclaim. Now, where’s the third one?!

19. Cher

After the massive success of the Mamma Mia! sequel, Cher decided to continue her expressed love for the band (and her personal friends) by recording an entire album of ABBA covers and going on tour. Although it included some songs from the film, she puts her own spin on classics like “Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!,” “SOS,” and “The Winner Takes It All”. If you’re lucky, you can still hear her versions at the club.

20. Immortality

ABBA’s latest venture quite literally makes them immortal. After the release of their reunion album Voyage in 2021, they announced a live show where audiences can go and experience them in hologram form—a concert of their biggest hits, with the band at their peak—so that fans can keep experiencing their magic long after they are gone. And yes, it is magical.

21. Awards attention, finally

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It may be surprising to hear but, up until the release of Voyage a few years ago, ABBA had never received a single Grammy nomination in their career. Luckily, they know a thing or two about making a comeback, and their latest album finally got them five well-deserved nominations, including Album and Record Of The Year. Sadly no wins, but that’s beside the point.

22. They transcend language

Although most of their music was recorded in English, the global reach of ABBA only grew as they branched out into other languages. They obviously started out in Sweden with Swedish music, but they also recorded many of their songs (and even full albums) in Spanish, German, and French. “Chiquitita” just hits different in Spanish.

23. They connected generations

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Few bands throughout history can claim that they are not only known and admired by multiple generations, but are actively acquiring new fans as time goes on. ABBA is beloved equally by fans that were purchasing their albums and attending their concerts as they were coming out, and people discovering them now. And everyone is just as welcome.

24. They credit the gays

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While making their comeback press tour for their new album and live show, ABBA was asked why they thought they have stayed relevant for decades, and they credited a lot of their staying power to the LGBTQ* community: “We found out quite early that ‘Dancing Queen’ had become an anthem and we were very proud that we’ve been chosen by the community.”

25. Pure unbridled joy

At the end of the day, the thing that makes ABBA a favorite band for the queer community is that, underneath their music, their imagery, their legacy, and their fandom… it’s nothing but pure, unbridled joy.

No matter if you’re listening to “Dancing Queen” on an old vinyl, watching Mamma Mia! for the hundredth time, or seeing their holograms dance in London, there’s a shared sense of pure pleasure (nothing of that “guilty” crap) that emanates through their work. Across nations, mediums, and generations. And that resilience—to be joyful above all the noise, no matter what, is the queerest sentiment of all.

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