And then it hit me: I have been through all this before. Because, you see, I am an ABBA fan. I have CDs, DVDs and have seen Mamma Mia, The Musical three times and have plans to see it even more times. And I am forever having to explain myself, trying to convey the awesomeness of the band to deaf ears.
All of a sudden I realize that Romance Novels and ABBA have a lot in common. Both suffer from prejudice and misconceptions: in my experience Romance Novels seem to be seen as trash-bodice rippers-fantasy with a docile female who is overpowered by the alpha male hero and all of them are exactly the same, formulaic and with naked Fabios on the cover. ABBA is seen as camp, cheesy, commercial with horrendous trashy video clips and superficial songs. And yet both are also immensely popular – according to recent researches approx. 55% of all paperback books sold in the USA (in 2004) were romance novels and in case you didn’t know, ABBA is the second most successful band in the HISTORY of music, behind only, yes you guessed right, The Beatles.
So what makes them so popular in one hand and so misjudged in another? Is it because they speak of SIMPLE truths? Of falling in or out of love, of the things you go through in life until eventually finding happiness and earning a happy ending? I can see how this can appeal to many, including me – romance novels and ABBA have a direct conversation with my heart and this is why I like them. Lyrics such as Knowing Me, Knowing You or The Winner Takes it All both reflecting so well the heartbreak of a break up. Or Romance novels like A Kingdom of Dreams which talks about those dreams that exist deep in your heart and what you feel when they finally come true.
But for me, it goes beyond that. The arrangements of most of the ABBA songs are brilliant – catchy, emotional yes, but also musically well done. Bjorn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson were the writers, composers and producers of their songs and Agnetha and Anni-Frid, amazing singers and performers and I admire them so much. The same goes for Romance Novels, I love the stories and the happy endings but I also search for those who are particularly well written and well researched. I was awed when I first read Lord of Scoundrels and surprised to see that this book is never talked about beyond the walls of Romanceland. Because I really think it should.
I am probably generalizing too much and everyone is entitled to their opinion and obviously there are people that do not want to read about such things or to listen to Dancing Queen, and of course, I respect that. There are bad romance novels. Not all ABBA songs are perfect.