The Winner Takes It All

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"The Winner Takes It All"
Winner Takes It All.jpg
Single by ABBA
from the album Super Trouper
B-side "Elaine"
Released 21 July 1980
Format Single
Genre Pop
Length 4:54
Label Polar Records (Scandinavia) ; RCA Victor (South America, Central America, Caribbean and Oceania) ; Atlantic Records, WEA (North America) ; Epic Records (United Kingdom, Ireland, Italy) ; Polydor (Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Netherlands)  ; RCA Victor or WEA or Epic Records or Polydor (Africa and Asia)
Songwriter(s) Benny Andersson, Björn Ulvaeus
Producer(s) Benny Andersson, Björn Ulvaeus
ABBA singles chronology
"As Good as New"
"The Winner Takes It All"
"On and On and On"
"As Good as New"
"The Winner Takes It All"
"On and On and On"
Music video
"The Winner Takes It All" on YouTube
Super Trouper track listing
Side one
  1. "Super Trouper"
  2. "The Winner Takes It All"
  3. "On and On and On"
  4. "Andante, Andante"
  5. "Me and I"
Side two
  1. "Happy New Year"
  2. "Our Last Summer"
  3. "The Piper"
  4. "Lay All Your Love on Me"
  5. "The Way Old Friends Do"

"The Winner Takes It All" is a song recorded by the Swedish pop group ABBA. Released as the first single from the group's Super Trouper album on 21 July 1980, it is a ballad in the key of F-sharp major, reflecting the end of a romance. The single's B-side was the non-album track "Elaine".


"The Winner Takes It All", original demo title "The Story of My Life", was written by both Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson, with Agnetha Fältskog singing the lead vocal.

Ulvaeus denies the song is about his and Fältskog's divorce, saying the basis of the song "is the experience of a divorce, but it's fiction. There wasn't a winner or a loser in our case. A lot of people think it's straight out of reality, but it's not".[1] American critic Chuck Klosterman, who says "The Winner Takes It All" is "[the only] pop song that examines the self-aware guilt one feels when talking to a person who has humanely obliterated your heart" finds Ulvaeus' denial hard to believe in light of the original title.[2]

Fältskog has also repeatedly stated that though "The Winner Takes It All" is her favorite ABBA song and that it has an excellent set of lyrics, the story is not that of her and Ulvaeus: there were no winners in their divorce, especially as children were involved. Ulvaeus also wrote the lyrics for Fältskog's 1979 live number 'I'm Still Alive'.

In a 1999 poll for Channel 5, "The Winner Takes It All" was voted Britain's favourite ABBA song. This feat was replicated in a 2010 poll for ITV. In a 2006 poll for a Channel Five programme, "The Winner Takes It All" was voted "Britain's Favourite Break-Up Song."

The Societetshuset in Marstrand town, where the music video was filmed in the summer of 1980. Photography from 2013.

Music video[edit]

A music video to promote the song was filmed in July 1980 on Marstrand, an island on the Swedish west coast. It was directed by Lasse Hallström.


"The Winner Takes It All" was a major success for ABBA. It hit #1 in Belgium, the United Kingdom, Ireland, the Netherlands, and South Africa. It reached the Top 5 in Austria, Finland, France, West Germany, Norway, Switzerland and Zimbabwe, as well as ABBA's native Sweden, while peaking in the Top 10 in Australia, Canada, Italy, Spain and the United States (where it became ABBA's fourth and final American Top 10 hit. The song spent 26 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, more than any other ABBA single).[3] It was also the group's second Billboard AC #1 (after "Fernando").[4] "The Winner Takes It All" was also a hit in Brazil: it was included on the soundtrack of "Coração Alado" ("Winged Heart"), a popular soap opera in 1980, as the main theme.

The track was listed as the twenty-third most popular single on the Billboard US 1981 year-end charts.[5]

The song is featured in the ABBA-based musical and film, Mamma Mia!.

Uses in Pop Culture[edit]

The song was used on January 24, 1982 during the closing credits of the post game show of Super Bowl XVI between the San Francisco 49ers and the Cincinnati Bengals.

Chart performance[edit]

Cover versions[edit]

  • In December 1980, French singer Mireille Mathieu covered the song[11] in French with lyrics by Alain Boublil (but on Mireille Mathieu's album "French Collection" it's Charles Level who is credited with these lyrics), called "Bravo, Tu As Gagné" (translated as "Bravo, You've Won"). The recording uses a slightly remixed version of the original ABBA backing track & the lead as well as backing vocals (by Mathieu, Anni-Frid Lyngstad, Benny Andersson & Björn Ulvaeus) were recorded in the Polar Studios.
  • In 1980, Czech singer Helena Vondráčková released a cover called "A ty se ptáš co já" with Czech lyrics by Zdeněk Borovec.
  • In 1980, German singer Marianne Rosenberg released a German version called "Nur Sieger steh'n im Licht".
  • In 1981, The Shadows performed an instrumental version on their album Hits Right Up Your Street.
  • In 1984, Turkish singer Nilüfer Yumlu covered the song in her native language as "Yalnızlığımla Başbaşa" on her album named Nilüfer 84.
  • In 1990, Mexican singer Pedro Fernández recorded his Spanish version called "El Ganador"
  • In 1993, British singer-songwriter Beverley Craven recorded her own light pop version for her album Love Scenes. It was also released as a single.
  • In 1993, Argentine duo Pimpinela recorded a Spanish version of "The Winner Takes It All" titled "Solo Hay Un Ganador" for their album Hay Amores Que Matan.[12]
  • In 1996, singer Hazell Dean released a dance-oriented cover of the song as a single. It was also on her album The Winner Takes It All: Hazell Dean Sings ABBA released that same year & later on the 1999 compilation ABBA: A Tribute – The 25th Anniversary Celebration.
  • Russian black metal band Trizna recorded a cover of the song for their 1996 album Need for Speed. The track was also later included on the double album Pesni Dlya Radio (translated as "Songs for the Radio"), which was recorded with band Black Obelisk and released in 2000.
  • In 1997, Swiss/German eurodance group E-Rotic included a version on their ABBA tribute album Thank You for the Music.
  • In 1999, Irish pop/rock band The Corrs recorded a version of the song for the Abbamania compilation. For the 2004 follow-up compilation ABBAMania 2, the song was covered by TV actress Bernie Nolan.
  • In 1999, Croatian singer Tereza Kesovija covered the song in Croatian under the title Tko gubi, gubi sve.
  • The late American pop singer Laura Branigan recorded several dance remix covers of the song.[13]
  • American singer-songwriter Pamela McNeill covered the song on her Tribute to ABBA album, which was produced by her husband Dugan McNeill.
  • In 2000, German pop singer Jeanette Biedermann recorded a cover of the song.[14]
  • In 2001, German power metal band At Vance released a version on their album Dragonchaser.
  • In 2001, American indie singer/songwriter Hannah Fury included a cover of the song on her EP Meathook.[15]
  • In 2001, Japanese singer MELL from I've Sound released a cover of this song in a trance style.
  • In 2001, Belgian singer de:Dana Winner covered the song in English for her album Unforgettable.[16]
  • In 2001, stage musical singer Michael Ball recorded a version for his album Centre Stage.[17]
  • In 2001, Brazilian ska-core band Randal Grave covered the song on their album Like to Do Girlie Stuff Sometimes.
  • In 2002, synthpop group Queen of Japan covered the song on their album Headrush.
  • In 2002, British singer Martine McCutcheon covered the song on her album Musicality.
  • In 2003, German singer Uwe Kröger included a cover of the song on his solo album From Broadway to Hollywood.
  • In 2004, British singer Samantha Fox recorded a cover for the German ABBA Mania compilation, as well as performing it on the coinciding TV special.
  • On the 2004 compilation Abbalicious performed by various American drag queens, the song is covered by Cashetta.[18]
  • A dance version by Japanese dance act GTS (featuring Robbie Danzie on vocals) was included on their 2004 compilation Cruising.[19]
  • In 2004 US singer Laura Branigan had recorded a cover version that was released on her final album Remember Me, three months after her untimely death from a brain aneurysm.
  • In, 2006, Swedish opera singer Anne Sofie von Otter covered the song on her ABBA tribute album I Let the Music Speak.
  • A cover of the song by German pop band Sweetbox featuring Jade Villalon can be found as a hidden track on the European edition of their 2006 album Addicted. The song was played for the FIFA World Cup of that year.
  • Polish singer Lidia Kopania recorded an English cover of this song for her 2006 album Intuicja.[20]
  • In 2006, German AC/DC tribute band Riff Raff covered the song in AC/DC style for their album Rock 'N' Roll Mutation Vol. 1: Riff Raff Performs ABBA.
  • In 2006, Korean singer Moony (not to be confused with the Italian artist of the same name) recorded an English cover for her album Whispering Of The Moon.[21]
  • In 2006, Finnish a cappella choral ensemble Rajaton released the song on their ABBA tribute album Rajaton Sings ABBA With Lahti Symphony Orchestra.[22]
  • In 2008, Australian singers Kylie Minogue and Dannii Minogue recorded the song for the soundtrack of a UK comedy series, Beautiful People with the BBC orchestra. The soundtrack was released on 20 October of that year.
  • In 2008, the song is performed by Meryl Streep in the film adaptation of Mamma Mia!, and is included on the soundtrack album.
  • In 2008, a Spanish language cover version was included on Il Divo's album The Promise, as The Winner Takes It All (Va Todo Al Ganador).
  • In 2008, British pop punk band McFly performed "The Winner Takes It All" and recorded an acoustic version of the song, which was featured on their "Lies" single.
  • In 2009, Andrew Bain (who rose to fame in the British media as the "singing dentist" from London, England) recorded an operatic style cover of the song for his debut album Andrew Bain Presents Modern Classics.
  • In 2010, John Barrowman covered the song on his self-titled third studio album, John Barrowman.
  • In 2011, Norwegian jazz singer Solveig Slettahjell covered the song on her album Antologie.
  • In 2012, Susan Boyle covered the song on her album Standing Ovation.
  • In 2012, Argentine songwriter Vicentico covered the song in his album Vicentico 5
  • In 2015, Glee covered the song in their final episode "Dreams Come True" performed by characters Will Schuester and Sue Sylvester, played by Matthew Morrison and Jane Lynch respectively.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ McLean, Craig (13 July 2008). "Knowing Mia knowing you". The Guardian. London. 
  2. ^ Klosterman, Chuck (2009). Eating the Dinosaur. New York: Scribner. pp. 170–71. ISBN 978-1-4165-4421-0. 
  3. ^ "United States of America". Retrieved 2014-03-29. 
  4. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2002). Top Adult Contemporary: 1961–2001. Record Research. p. 15. 
  5. ^ {}
  6. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. pp. 383–4. ISBN 1-904994-10-5. 
  7. ^ 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. 
  8. ^ David Kent's "Australian Chart Book 1970-1992" Archived 5 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine.
  9. ^ "Top 100 Hits of 1981/Top 100 Songs of 1981". Retrieved 2016-10-17. 
  10. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 4 October 2015. 
  11. ^ Oldham, A, Calder, T & Irvin, C: "ABBA: The Name of the Game", page 209. Sidgwick & Jackson, 1995
  12. ^ "El Ganador". YouTube. 15 November 2007. Retrieved 5 February 2012. 
  13. ^ "The Official Laura Branigan Website – Media Features". 3 July 2006. Retrieved 5 February 2012. 
  14. ^ "Jeanette Biedermann – Tschechische fanpage". Archived from the original on 20 February 2012. Retrieved 5 February 2012. 
  15. ^ "Buy Indie Music | Music Download Store | CDs and MP3s". CD Baby. Archived from the original on 9 March 2009. Retrieved 5 February 2012. 
  16. ^ "楽天が運営するポータルサイト : 【インフォシーク】Infoseek". 2000-01-01. Retrieved 2014-03-29. 
  17. ^ [1] Archived 23 March 2010 at the Wayback Machine.
  18. ^ [2] Archived 24 October 2008 at the Wayback Machine.
  19. ^ [3] Archived 25 February 2008 at the Wayback Machine.
  20. ^ "Intuicja - debiutancka płyta". Archived from the original on 16 February 2009. Retrieved 1 February 2009. 
  21. ^ [4][dead link]
  22. ^ Sitefactory. "Lauluyhtye Rajaton – Etusivu". Retrieved 5 February 2012. 

External links[edit]

Preceded by
"Use It Up and Wear It Out"
by Odyssey
UK number one single
9 August 1980
(for two weeks)
Succeeded by
"Ashes to Ashes"
by David Bowie