If someone asked you to make a playlist of classic ABBA tunes, there’s one simple place you’d start: with the Gold. That 1992 compilation, which has served as the go-to collection of greatest hits from the iconic Swedish pop stars for nearly thirty years, went six times platinum in the U.S. (and is among the best selling albums of all time, globally) for a reason. Namely, it’s filled top-to-bottom with some of the most commercially successful songs the group ever released.
The foursome—Agnetha Fältskog, Björn Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson, and Anni-Frid Lyngstad—had already achieved some success in their native country by 1974. But it was that year, when the group became Sweden’s first victors at the Eurovision Song Contest (with “Waterloo,” notably sung in English rather than their native tongue), that ABBA found the international acclaim it had been seeking. Here in the States, that meant 20 singles in the Billboard Hot 100 during their decade of activity, nearly all of which were subsequently put together for the release of Gold.
But for a band that’s released more than 100 songs (and with the release of new album Voyage, that number is growing), any greatest-hits compilation is bound to leave some of the best material behind. Releases like 2012’s 39-track The Essential Collection goes some way toward rectifying this, but that’s still more than half the group’s discography that remains unknown to the vast majority of listeners. As a result, The A.V. Club has decided to put together an “essential ABBA” playlist, one that blends the instantly recognizable hits—you now, the songs that can entice even your reticent aunt to the family reunion dance floor—with an amalgam of the best music from the Swedes that rarely sees the light of day.
For every top-ten hit, we’ve paired it with a lesser-known number that showcases not only more great music from ABBA, but highlights the band’s penchant (soon to be followed by the cavalcade of ABBA-influenced Swedish acts over the years) for blurring genres with aplomb. While some acts have remained forever associated with disco (those poor Bee Gees just can’t seem to escape always and forever being seen as a disco band), ABBA’s reputation has evolved over the years to include its multifarious, hybrid-style music making. The following songs emphasize that point; whether getting asses on the dance floor or breaking hearts with ballads, ABBA’s talent for tuneful perfection remains singular.