Friday, 10 May 2013

Starring: Steps, Tina Cousins, Cleopatra, B*Witched and Billie 'Thank Abba For The Music'

Chart Peak: 4

Knowing Me, Knowing YouTube
This sensational collaboration of pop's hottest young stars - Steps, Tina Cousins, Cleopatra, B*Witched and Billie - was revealed at the 1999 Brit Awards, when this fantastic medley was performed as a tribute to one of pop's greatest ever groups - the legendary Abba.
Apparently the video of that performance is still on Youtube, but blocked in the UK due to the recent intervention of the BPI, who've taken down a lot of unofficial Brits uploads now they have their own channel.  So I've had to make do with an unofficial upload that's oddly synced to pictures of the real Abba, though fortunately the below is still available:

You almost have to wonder whether somebody saw that and didn't think it was a joke, don't you? Mind you, even as late as 1995 such a medley might have been an odd thing for such acts to be associated with - it really seemed like the social acceptability of Abba built during the 1990s, from the band nobody would admit to liking to the one nobody could admit to not liking. 1999 was the year that saw the 25th anniversary of their Eurovision and thus their British chart debut, and was duly marked by such promotional activities as a repackage of Abba Gold (which returned to the top of the chart), ITV's ABBAmania TV special and its accompanying charity album and the UK premiere of the musical Mamma Mia, which as we now know proved to be one of the biggest phenomena in theatre in recent years and spawned countless imitators, though only Queen's We Will Rock You really succeeded.

The teen oriented stars gathered here are sometimes billed as the Supertroopers, though this name wasn't used on the single cover (maybe there was some contractual issue?). Instead they're billed under their separate names  - in order of appearance, in case you're wondering how Tina Cousins gets second billing. Between them they (and some uncredited backing singers) work through 'Take A Chance On Me', 'Dancing Queen', 'Mamma Mia' and of course 'Thank You For The Music', of which this is technically the highest-charting version ever. It's not so much a medley as bits of four songs being sung in sequence, though, with no attempt to join the parts together beyond the fact that they're all being played on the same cheap-sounding keyboards. In fact, with the rushed production and anonymous singing, this sounds more like one of those "soundalike" versions that get thrown onto cheap compilations and lurk on download stores to trick the unwary. It does provide a sort of tribute to Abba, if not the one intended - it certainly emphasises how much effort went into the sound of the original Abba singles, and the fact that this isn't painful to listen to says something for the quality of the original songwriting. Just ask Jeremy Hardy.

Steps also appear on: Now 39, 40, 41, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 51
Tina Cousins also appears on: Now 43, 44
Billie also appears on: Now 40, 41, 46, 47
Available on: Thank Abba for the Music

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