SOS (ABBA song)

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"SOS"
SOS - Man In The Middle.jpg
Single by ABBA
from the album ABBA
B-side"Man in the Middle"
ReleasedJune 1975 (Sweden)
8 September 1975 (US)
20 September 1975 (UK)
Format7" single
GenrePop
Length3:22
LabelPolar (Sweden)
Epic (UK)
Atlantic (US)
Mushroom/Warner Bros. (Oceania)
Songwriter(s)Björn Ulvaeus
Benny Andersson
Stig Anderson
Producer(s)Björn Ulvaeus
Benny Andersson
ABBA singles chronology
"Bang-A-Boomerang"
(1975)
"SOS"
(1975)
"Mamma Mia"
(1975)
Music video
"SOS" on YouTube

"SOS" was the third single from Swedish pop group ABBA's self-titled 1975 album, their third for Polar Music and their second for Epic and Atlantic. It was released with "Man in the Middle" as the B-side. Agnetha Fältskog, who sang lead, recorded the song in Swedish on her 1975 solo album Elva kvinnor i ett hus. "SOS" was ABBA's first major worldwide hit since "Waterloo".

History[edit]

"SOS" (working title; "Turn Me On") was written by Benny Andersson, Björn Ulvaeus and Stig Anderson and was recorded at Glen Studio in Långängen, Sweden on 22–23 August 1974.[1] The title itself was coined by Stig, though the lyrics he provided were re-written by Ulvaeus. "SOS" was among the first of three songs recorded for the group's 1975 album, ABBA.

The song is unique among pop songs of the period, opening with an unaccompanied classical keyboard in a subdued D-minor key. Unlike most ABBA tracks that preceded it, the vocal begins with an emotional solo performance by Fältskog. The descending chords and ominous Minimoog synthesizer melody line of the introduction set the tone for Fältskog’s vocals, sounding almost as if she were breaking down in tears. The song then transitions to a rock chorus in a major key, dominated by a distorted electric guitar and full vocals.

Despite the song's catchiness, it was passed over as the lead single from the album; the track "So Long" was chosen instead. "So Long" was chosen primarily because it had the same uptempo beat as their 1974 hit single, "Waterloo".

Lyricist Ulvaeus has said that, after three years of trying to figure out what style would define them, ABBA found its identity as a pop group with the release of "SOS".[2]

The song was the subject of one of the first pioneering music videos produced by director Lasse Hallström for the band. Much of the video is filmed from an overhead camera, as if from a tower or lighthouse, with the bandmates' faces sometimes distorted, as though shot through a prism.[3]

During the band's first visit to the United States, ABBA performed "SOS" on the long-running television program American Bandstand on 15 November 1975.[4]

ABBA performs the song live in the concert film ABBA: The Movie, Hallström's first English-language feature film, filmed during the band's tour of Australia in 1977.

ABBA performed the song on its 1979 tour of Europe and North America. While the track does not appear on the filmed record of that tour—released on DVD as "ABBA in Concert"—it is featured on the 2014 audio release, Live at Wembley Arena. For the first time on that tour, vocalists Fältskog and Lyngstad traded the line "when you're gone" responsively at the song's climax.

Music video[edit]

The promotional video was directed by Lasse Hallström and released in the same year, along with the single.[5] The music video features the quartet miming to the song outside and utilizes distortion effects achieved by mirrors. It was later uploaded to YouTube on 8 October 2009 under the channel AbbaVEVO, and has more than 49.7 million views as of October 2018.[6]

Reception[edit]

"SOS" marked a huge turnaround in ABBA's fortunes, most notably in the UK and Ireland, where it returned the group to the Top 10 for the first time since "Waterloo". Reaching #6 and #4 respectively, "SOS" started a run of 18 consecutive Top 10 hits for ABBA in the UK and Ireland.[7][8] "SOS" reached #1 in Australia, Belgium, France, West Germany (where it spent 7 weeks at the top), New Zealand and South Africa, and was a Top 3 hit in Austria, the Netherlands, Norway, Italy (where it became ABBA's most successful hit), Mexico, Rhodesia and Switzerland. The song also became ABBA's second Top 20 hit in the United States, peaking at #15 (due to the single charting in the U.S. before "I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do", whereas elsewhere "SOS" charted afterwards).[9]

Chicago radio station WLS, which gave "SOS" much airplay, ranked the song as the 61st biggest hit of 1975.[10] It peaked at number six on their survey of 22 November 1975.[11]

"SOS" is one of the most-covered of ABBA's songs. It has been recorded and performed in concert by several prominent artists, including John Frusciante, Peter Cetera, Chris deBurgh, Cher and Portishead.

The track has a number of music industry devotees. The Who guitarist Pete Townshend has said "SOS" is one of the best pop songs ever written,[1] adding that when he first heard the song he "was transported by it".[12]

Ray Davies of The Kinks said that he was taken with the song after seeing the group perform it on the BBC television show Seaside Special.[13]

American singer-songwriter and former Czars frontman John Grant has called "SOS" "one of the greatest pieces of music ever made", adding that Agnetha Fältskog's "perfect" lyrical interpretation and emotional delivery is "a beautiful thing".[2]

British conductor and producer Charles Hazlewood called the song's "supersonic" transition from an acoustic D-minor key to an electric rock motif "absolutely genius".[2]

ABBA's performance of "SOS" on American Bandstand in 1975 has been included on lists of the most significant performances in the show's 31 seasons by several reviewers and critics. Bill Lamb put the song at number five,[14] as did Alicia Diaz Dennis[15] and Andres Jauregui.[16]

To date the song is the only Hot 100 single (or #1 single in Australia[17]) in which both the title and the credited act (and also the musical genre) are palindromes.[18]

Chart performance[edit]

Weekly singles charts[edit]

Agnetha Fältskog version[edit]

Agnetha Fältskog's version was the second single from her fifth Swedish solo-album Elva kvinnor i ett hus (Eleven Women In One House). It was the only song from this album not to have been composed by Fältskog herself. Despite the fact that Fältskog never promoted the single in Sweden, it peaked at No. 4 on the singles chart on 1 January 1976 during a 20-week chart run, and it also became Fältskog's third No. 1 on radio chart Svensktoppen, entering the chart on 22 November 1975 and spending a total of eleven weeks on the listing. The B-side of the single, "Visa I Åttonde Månaden" (Song In The Eighth Month) was a song written from a very personal perspective, as it was composed during Fältskog's pregnancy with daughter Linda Ulvaeus in 1973.

Cher version[edit]

"SOS"
Cher - SOS - Single.png
Single by Cher
from the album Dancing Queen
ReleasedAugust 23, 2018
Recorded2018
GenrePop
Length3:22
LabelWarner Bros.
Songwriter(s)
Producer(s)Mark Taylor
Cher singles chronology
"Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight)"
(2018)
"SOS"
(2018)
"One of Us"
(2018)
Music video
"SOS" on YouTube

American singer Cher's version was the second single from her 2018 album Dancing Queen. It was released on August 23, 2018.[37] The song peaked at number 56 in the Scottish singles chart in August of that year.

Critical reception[edit]

Writing for Rolling Stone, Brittany Spanos felt that "working with producer Mark Taylor who helped seal Cher’s legacy with the game-changing "Believe" in the late Nineties, she finds subtle changes that update ABBA classics without totally stripping them of the catchiness that made those songs beloved hits well beyond their heyday. "Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight)," “SOS” and “Mamma Mia” are given just enough of a knob turn that they’re transformed from upbeat FM radio pop into club bangers, pulsating with every beat."[38]

Music video[edit]

An accompanying music video for "SOS" was directed by Jake Wilson, and was premiered through Cher's official YouTube channel on September 18, 2018. The video features a slew of women like actress Rumer Willis, singer Betty Who, Transparent star Trace Lysette, comedian Sabrina Jalees, Elena of Avalor voice cast Aimee Carrero and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend cast member Vella Lovell, styled by fashion director William Graper in a similar style to the original ABBA video.[39]

Live performances[edit]

Cher appeared on The Ellen Show on September 7, 2018, to promote her ABBA tribute album, Dancing Queen. During her appearance on Ellen, Cher also performed her rendition of ABBA’s “SOS” and discussed her upcoming world tour.[40] During her Here We Go Again Tour she performs "SOS" together with "Waterloo" and "Fernando".[41] On October 31, 2018 "The Shoop Shoop Song (It's in His Kiss)" and "Take Me Home" were cut from her concert residency Classic Cher and "Waterloo", "SOS" and "Fernando" were added.[42]

Track listings and formats[edit]

Digital download[edit]

  • "SOS" – 3:22

Charts[edit]

Chart (2018) Peak
position
Russia Airplay (Tophit)[43] 688
Scotland (Official Charts Company)[44] 56
UK Singles Sales (Official Charts Company)[45] 78

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Palm, C.M. (2002). Bright Lights, Dark Shadows. London: Omnibus
  2. ^ a b c BBC documentary "The Joy of ABBA", produced by Ben Whalley (2013).
  3. ^ "Abba - SOS". YouTube. 2009-10-08. Retrieved 2016-10-10.
  4. ^ AwardsShowNetwork. "American Bandstand". Abba On Tv. Retrieved 2016-10-10.
  5. ^ Sheridan, Simon. The Complete ABBA, London, England, Titan Books, 22 May 2012. Retrieved 30 September 2017. ISBN 9781781164983
  6. ^ AbbaVEVO (2009-10-08), Abba - SOS, retrieved 2017-06-18
  7. ^ "United Kingdom". Home.zipworld.com.au. 2015-09-04. Retrieved 2016-10-10.
  8. ^ "Ireland". Home.zipworld.com.au. 2015-11-09. Retrieved 2016-10-10.
  9. ^ "United States of America". Home.zipworld.com.au. Retrieved 2016-10-10.
  10. ^ "WLS : THE BIG 89 OF 1975". Oldiesloon.com. Retrieved 2016-10-10.
  11. ^ "WLS : MUSICRADIO SURVEY : NOVEMBER 22, 1975 VOL. 16, NO. 7". Users.qwest.net. 1975-11-22. Retrieved 2016-10-10.
  12. ^ Loder, K. (1982). "Pete Townshend: The Who's final days", in Rolling Stone (June 24, 1982)
  13. ^ A is for ABBA, TV documentary. BBC television, July 1993
  14. ^ Lamb, Bill. "American Bandstand - 10 Great Performances". Top40.about.com. Retrieved 2016-10-10.
  15. ^ Alicia Dennis (2012-04-19). "Remembering Dick Clark: The Best of 'American Bandstand' - Beyond the Charts". Zimbio.com. Retrieved 2016-10-10.
  16. ^ Andres Jauregui (2012-04-18). "'American Bandstand': Dick Clark's Greatest Moments (VIDEOS)". Huffington Post. Retrieved 2016-10-10.
  17. ^ "ABBA – Group". Last.fm groups. 11 February 2009. Retrieved 5 February 2012.
  18. ^ Whitburn, J. (2004) The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits, 8th ed. New York: Billboard Books
  19. ^ Dutch Charts Annual Reviews - Single 1975
  20. ^ Dutch Charts Annual Reviews - Single 1975
  21. ^ RPM Adult Contemporary, December 27, 1975
  22. ^ Dutch Charts Annual Reviews - Single 1975
  23. ^ "Songs from the Year 1975". Tsort.info. Retrieved 2016-10-10.
  24. ^ Dutch Charts Annual Reviews - Single 1975
  25. ^ Dutch Charts Annual Reviews - Single 1975
  26. ^ "SA Charts 1965–March 1989". Retrieved 1 September 2018.
  27. ^ Dutch Charts Annual Reviews - Single 1975
  28. ^ Whitburn, Joel (1993). Top Adult Contemporary: 1961-1993. Record Research. p. 11.
  29. ^ Downey, Pat; Albert, George; Hoffmann, Frank W (1994). Cash Box pop singles charts, 1950–1993. Libraries Unlimited. p. 1. ISBN 978-1-56308-316-7.
  30. ^ "Image : RPM Weekly - Library and Archives Canada". Bac-lac.gc.ca. Archived from the original on 6 October 2016. Retrieved 2016-10-10.
  31. ^ "Jaaroverzichten – Single 1975" (in Dutch). Single Top 100. Hung Medien. Retrieved March 13, 2018.
  32. ^ "Top 20 Hit Singles of 1975". Retrieved 2 September 2018.
  33. ^ Swiss Year-End Charts, 1975
  34. ^ "1975 Year End". Bullfrogspond.com. Retrieved 2016-10-10.
  35. ^ "Britain's best selling records of '75". Record Mirror. London: Billboard. January 10, 1976. p. 12. Retrieved August 29, 2016.
  36. ^ "Top Selling Singles of 1976 | The Official New Zealand Music Chart". Nztop40.co.nz. 1963-12-08. Retrieved 2016-10-10.
  37. ^ "Hear Cher Belt Out Emotional Version of ABBA's 'SOS'". Rolling Stone.
  38. ^ "Review: Cher Lovingly Updates ABBA's Hits on 'Dancing Queen'". Rolling Stone. October 13, 2018. Retrieved October 13, 2018.
  39. ^ "Betty Who, Trace Lysette, Rumer Willis, Vella Lovell, Lauren Weedman and More Lip Sync Cher's ABBA-esque 'S.O.S.' Video". towleroad.com. 12 October 2018.
  40. ^ "Ellen DeGeneres Trolls Cher With Cheesy Impersonation of 'If I Could Turn Back Time'". Rolling Stone. 12 October 2018.
  41. ^ Cashmere, Paul (September 24, 2018). "Cher Opens Here We Go Again Tour In Auckland And Then Heads Out For Gelato". Nosie11. Retrieved September 24, 2018.
  42. ^ Caulfield, Keith (February 9, 2017). "Cher Returns to the Concert Stage With Glitz & Hits (But No Politics)". Billboard. Retrieved February 9, 2017.
  43. ^ "Chart Search". Tophit for Cher. Retrieved October 25, 2018.
  44. ^ "Official Scottish Singles Sales Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 19 August 2018.
  45. ^ "Official Singles Sales Chart Top 100". Music Week. London. 31 August 2018. Retrieved 1 September 2018.

External links[edit]