Voulez-Vous (pronounced [vule vu]; French for "Do you want?") is the sixth studio album by the Swedish group ABBA, released in 1979. It features a number of hits such as "Chiquitita", "Does Your Mother Know" and "I Have a Dream" and showed the group embracing disco music, which was at its peak at the time. The album topped the charts in a number of countries and was one of the top five-selling albums in the UK for that year.
It was the first ABBA album to be mainly recorded at Polar Studios in Stockholm, and the only ABBA album to include a studio recording made outside Sweden: the instrumental backing track for the title track was partly recorded at Criteria Studios in Miami.
Voulez-Vous was first released on CD in 1984. The album has been digitally remastered and reissued four times; first in 1997, then in 2001 and in 2005 as part of The Complete Studio Recordings box set, and yet again in 2010 for the Voulez-Vous Deluxe Edition.
In early 1978, ABBA were at the peak of their success and having just completed promotion for their latest album and theatrical film release, thoughts were turned to the next album, which was planned to be released in time for Christmas. Sessions however proved to be difficult and after starting on 13 March 1978 with the ultimately unreleased track "Dr Claus von Hamlet", a number of compositions were demoed and rejected. Indeed, after six months, only two songs that would end up on the finished album ("The King Has Lost His Crown" and "Lovers (Live a Little Longer)") were completed.
During this time the group opened their own recording studio, Polar Studios in Stockholm, which was among the most advanced in the world at the time and would be where ABBA would work from here on. Two songs recorded at this time were "Lovelight" and "Dream World". However, neither song would appear on the Voulez-Vous album ("Lovelight" would be used as the B-side to the single "Chiquitita", while "Dream World" would remain unreleased until 1994; both songs are now featured as bonus tracks on re-issues of the Voulez-Vous album). Other tracks started but subsequently scrapped included "Crying Over You", "Free as a Bumble Bee", "Rubber Ball Man" and "Just a Notion".
By September 1978, ABBA had been silent in the charts for some months, and so a song from the recording sessions, "Summer Night City", was released as a single. Never happy with the finished song, members Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus regretted the release and lamented the fact that it peaked lower than previous singles in the charts, not being released at all in the US. They considered the UK to be their most important market, and there it had ended a run of No. 1 hits by stalling at No. 5 - their smallest hit for three years. A full-length version was however still planned for the upcoming album, but ultimately never used. By this time, tensions were growing within the group due to the low productivity of the period, as member Agnetha Faltskog commented; "I can tell from the look in Björn's eyes when he gets home how the day's work has been. Many times the boys have been working for ten hours without coming up with one single note". Andersson talked to a reporter at the time saying; "The prospects are not good. It’s worse than ever...We have no idea when we’ll be finished". It became obvious that the album wouldn't be completed by the end of the year and the deadline was extended into 1979. In late 1978, further indication of internal struggles became widely known when it was announced that married couple Ulvaeus and Faltskog were to divorce. Rather than spelling the end for the group however, this freed up a lot of the tensions between the two and in late 1978, work suddenly took off apace for the album.
In October, two tracks were completed: "Angeleyes" and "If It Wasn't for the Nights". Although seen as an archetype ABBA track, the former of these was deemed dated by Andersson, labelling it "back to the sixties". The second track however featured an all-out contemporary vibe, being quite disco-orientated and considered the strongest song that had been recorded for the album. It was intended to be not only the next single but also the song that ABBA would perform at the Music for UNICEF Concert in January 1979. This plan was changed however when an even-better song came along in December. With the original title of "In the Arms of Rosalita", "Chiquitita" was the song the band performed. Although rather more schlager in style, Andersson considered it the best of their new songs, despite the feeling that it was very out of style with the rest of the acts performing that night. "It was pretty strange, but we felt it was the best song we had and that's why we chose it, however wrong it may have been", he said. In early 1979, "Chiquitita" became one of ABBA's biggest hits around the world, reaching No. 1 in many countries, although just being clipped by Blondie's "Heart of Glass" in the UK at No. 2.
At the end of January, Andersson and Ulvaeus left Sweden and rented an apartment in the Bahamas where they felt they could get some inspiration by listening to American music and experiencing a whole different vibe to the rather conservative Stockholm. Two songs emerged from this time; "Voulez-Vous" and "Kisses of Fire". Excited by the former, they went to Criteria Studios in Miami to record the backing track with the disco band Foxy — the only time they recorded a song outside Sweden. Upon returning to Sweden to finish the songs, another track, "Does Your Mother Know", was recorded - a song that was to be the next single, and also the only mainstream release to feature Ulvaeus on lead vocals. The single would not become as big a hit worldwide as "Chiquitita", but was the most successful release from the album in the US.
At the end of April the album, titled Voulez-Vous, was finally ready for release and to emphasize the shift towards a disco sound, the album cover shot was taken at Alexandra's night club in Stockholm. The album was released on 23 April 1979, and in the following months of its launch, ABBA released a number of other singles from it. The title track was released as a double A-side with "Angeleyes", while "I Have a Dream" was belatedly released in December 1979 following their recent world tour. A track recorded in August 1979 (four months after the release of the album), "Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight)", was released as a single in October and was later included as a bonus track on CD versions of Voulez-Vous.
The album received favorable reviews from music critics. Bruce Eder from AllMusic website gave the album three and a half stars out of five and noted that "about half of Voulez-Vous shows the heavy influence of the Bee Gees from their megahit disco era" but it also "had a pair of soft, lyrical Europop-style ballads" which according to him sounds like "popular folk music during the mid- to late '60s". Sean Egan from BBC gave the albuma favorable review in which he wrote that th album "was an effort that saw Agnetha, Benny, Björn and Anni-Frid put their dancing shoes on to join in with the dominant disco craze" and also that the album ballads "are able to provide a pocket of air on a disco floor that would otherwise get sweaty and stultifying".
Voulez-Vous topped the charts all over Europe (including the UK, where it entered the charts at No. 1 and remained there for a month), and was a Top 10 success in countries including Canada, New Zealand and Australia. In the US, Voulez-Vous became ABBA's third album to reach the top 20 (peaking at No. 19).