ABBA: T-F dichotomy laid bare

Why you can’t reheat a soufflé

ABBA: T-F dichotomy laid bare

ABBA endure, for sure. The music itself endures, we’ve had the musical, the films, the new incredible avatar stage show, but it is all just repositioning the same things that made them magical, the great and enduring songs, sure, of course, but also the association with a certain time, fashion, zeitgeist, attitudes, flamboyance, fixed forever in people’s memories. It’s not lost on us that whenever there is a ‘1970s’ night their music, and their image, preponderates. So, why have they never got back together? Well, they don’t need to, they keep on being successful and making money, all off the back of their previous success. Also, as personalities, they are so different and would have different viewpoints as to what constitutes ‘success.’

Benny, an ENFP, loved performing, Frida, an ESFJ, loved performing and Bjorn, an INTP, loved being successful and being the best. For Agnetha, an INFP, shy, private, introspective, it was difficult, as she said herself: “I just want to live in peace and quiet,” and, “I'm a country bumpkin. I'm not a showgirl.” Their relationship, very much their own business and not for us to pick over, nevertheless, from their own lyrics and quotes, demonstrate the wide Jungian differences between Thinkers and Feelers.

Seeing Bjorn and Agnetha’s marriage breakup real-time in the painful and emotional lyrics of a song, must have been tough for Agnetha. In her autobiography she said, “It has always felt like a failure that Bjorn and I couldn't keep our family together. You never get it back, but to this day I don't regret splitting up. The reason behind our separation is one of those things I definitely don't want to go into!” Bjorn’s take was far more ‘T’ like and logical, “We have come to an agreement that was satisfying for both of us. The children will stay with Agnetha, but I will be able to see them whenever I have the time or need.” Ouch so cool, … “whenever I have the time or need!” And we can see the success vs failure motif in the lyrics of the song which Agnetha says was written about their divorce, ‘the winner takes it all:’

“The winner takes it all, The loser's standing small, Beside the victory, That's her destiny.

The winner takes it all, The loser has to fall, It's simple and it's plain, Why should I complain?

Somewhere deep inside, You must know I miss you, But what can I say? Rules must be obeyed.

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.”

Wow, she is apologising to him! Aren’t they the saddest of lyrics? The theme of winners and losers pervade Bjorn’s lyrics, for example: “My, my, at Waterloo Napoleon did surrender, and I have seen my destiny in quite a similar way…” We can see the same motif from the year after ‘The winner takes it all,’ in ‘One of us:’

“One of us is crying, one of us is lying, In a lonely bed

Staring at the ceiling, Wishing she was somewhere else instead

One of us is lonely, one of us is only, Waiting for a call

Sorry for herself, feeling stupid, feeling small, Wishing she had never left at all.”

There are winners and there are losers. To understand how Agnetha felt, we can see from her autobiography: “When you love someone, and you've lost that one, then nothing really matters.” ABBA are one of the most enduring bands that ever graced the world, amazing songs, that brought them incredible success, and wealth, but as Agnetha says, “Abba's last tour was a success, but awful for me.” There is a reason for the fact that the T-F preference is often the cause of so many misunderstandings. They became a product, Benny and Frida seemed happy to ride that wave and enjoy it, Bjorn seems to have seen it as an opportunity to do something special. But for Agnetha, shy, understated, simpler and more emotional in her needs, it was not worth giving up who she was for the ‘product:’ “I am uninterested in appearing in newspapers and on television. Many people think I am striking a pose - that I want to create a sense of shyness. But it's just not something I want to do.” There is almost a far deeper calling for Feelers, it goes to the heart, which transcends logic and is why so many Thinkers struggle. Everyone wants to be a success, right? Erm, no: “When I'm living in the world of luxury and celebrity, which is where I found myself for a large part of my life, it's a walk-on part,” and, “I must be allowed to be as I am.” But if they got back together, to record and tour, they could be successful all over again, make even more money, be even more famous, yes? No, “This idea of trying to repeat a success doesn't interest me. It's only really done to make money.” That ethic and view may be difficult for a large section of the population to understand.