I’ve seen over a dozen movies in theater this year, and over a dozen times I have almost happy-cried when they played the Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again trailer. I was so unexpectedly moved by this 2-minute blip of a movie franchise I had only ever thought of as My Big Fat Greek Wedding but with singing and dancing. I didn’t understand the plot of this movie, but when they set those nostalgic flashbacks of the characters then vs. now to Dancing Queen, I was on board. I had to see this movie.
I won’t go into detail about the movie, because I feel like everyone has already seen it, but ugh, it was so perfect and fun. I was so charmed by Meryl Streep, the three dads, everything. Then I started listening to ABBA, urged on by a friend who’s a super-fan, and I’ve listened to nothing else in the past 10 days. I love the ridiculous costumes, the fanfare, the relentless optimism that pervades so much of their music. I’ve been listening to them while at work and I feel like they’re making me a couple notches too excited for the workplace. It’s almost embarrassing to be at this level of energy while editing spreadsheets and sending emails. How did I miss out on this cultural phenomenon?
I wouldn’t consider myself musically adventurous. Music is an area that I’ve never felt comfortable speaking to, since I’ve listened to much of the same music over and over again for years. I don’t know the difference between a soprano and a contralto or what exactly timbre is. I have never meaningfully contributed to the music round of any trivia event. I don’t know who half the people on the radio are anymore, and it comes less from a weird anti-establishment hipster pride and more from the fact that I will listen to the same 2006-2012 pop and alt-rock trash every single day of my life. I couldn’t intellectualize music or write true criticism if I tried. It’s one of those things I will assume is magic and call it a day.
And music is also just intensely personal to me. I can’t disentangle a song from the circumstances in which I first listened to it. And while I repeat these songs because I obviously love them, it’s like being taken on the same ride all over again. I don’t always want to be reliving the emotions I felt as a teenager, stuck in a recursive loop of introspecting, reflecting, and soul-searching. Wishing I was here, wishing I was there. This can’t just be a “me” thing, so I’m also posting this as a way to shout into the void and see if anyone returns my call.
I’ve spent so much time in my head, especially in these last few months, that it has been refreshing to listen to music without emotional baggage or built-in opportunities to re-litigate my life. Eventually, I’ll get tired of ABBA, or maybe it’ll become part of my regular rotation of like 6 artists, as their music comes to represent this moment in life. I’ll hear “Waterloo” or “The Day Before You Came” a year later or 20 years later in a grocery store and think about who I was then, reminiscing about the person I am now.
But I’m glad that now, while my life is in the upswing, I can listen to ABBA’s inspirational, poppy ballads and relish in this new ability to look forward instead of backward. This weekend, I’m planning on watching ABBA: The Movie and possibly a couple documentaries, because my obsession knows no boundaries. Maybe I’ll get one of those sparkly jumpsuits too. Who can really say?