The Winner Takes It All

1980 song by ABBA

"The Winner Takes It All"
Single by ABBA
from the album Super Trouper
Released21 July 1980 (1980-07-21)
  • 4:54 (album version)
  • 4:20 (US promo edited version)
Songwriter(s)Benny Andersson, Björn Ulvaeus
Producer(s)Benny Andersson, Björn Ulvaeus
ABBA singles chronology
"I Have a Dream"
"The Winner Takes It All"
"On and On and On"
Music video
"The Winner Takes It All" on YouTube

"The Winner Takes It All" is a song recorded by Swedish pop group ABBA. Released as the first single from the group's seventh studio album, Super Trouper (1980), it is a ballad in the key of G-flat major, reflecting on the end of a relationship. The single's B-side was the non-album track "Elaine". The song peaked at No.1 in several countries, including the UK, where it became their eighth chart-topper. It was also the group's final top 10 hit in the United States. It was written by Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson, with Agnetha Fältskog singing the lead vocal.

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."


Ulvaeus and Andersson started writing "The Winner Takes It All" in the summer of 1979 in a cottage on the island of Viggsö. According to Andersson, the idea for the song suddenly came up "from old ideas, from old small musical pieces" they had. The demo had an original title of "The Story of My Life" and the first arrangement for the song was uptempo with a constant beat. However, they felt their first effort "much too stiff and metrical", so they left the song for a few days while they worked on other songs. Four days later they returned to the song, and Andersson came up with the idea of using a French chanson-style arrangement with a descending piano line and a looser structure. Ulvaeus then recorded a demo using nonsense French words for lyrics, and took the recording home to write the lyrics for "The Winner Takes It All". According to Ulvaeus, he drank whiskey while he was writing, and it was the quickest lyric he ever wrote. He said, "I was drunk, and the whole lyric came to me in a rush of emotion in one hour." Ulvaeus said that when he gave the lyrics to Fältskog to read, "a tear or two welled up in her eyes. Because the words really affected her."[1]

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. 'Cause one thing I can say is that 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".[2] However, Ulvaeus admitted that the heartache of their breakup inspired the song, but noted that the words in the song should not be taken literally.[1] He said: "Neither Agnetha nor I were winners in our divorce."[3] 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.[4] The booklet for the double CD compilation The Definitive Collection states "The Winner Takes It All" is the song where Bjorn admits that the sad experience of his and Agnetha's divorce the previous year left its mark on the lyrics."


Record World said of it that "Gripping vocal drama is augmented forcefully by plush orchestration."[5]

Chart performance

"The Winner Takes It All" was a major success for ABBA, hitting No. 1 in Belgium, Ireland, the Netherlands, South Africa and the United Kingdom. It reached the Top 5 in Austria, Finland, France, West Germany, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and Zimbabwe, 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, peaking at No. 8; the song spent 26 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, more than any other ABBA single).[6] It was also the group's second Billboard Adult Contemporary #1 (after "Fernando").[7] "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 23rd most popular single on the US Billboard year-end chart for 1981.[8]

As of September 2021, it is the group's fifth-biggest song in the UK with 920,000 chart sales (including pure sales and streaming numbers).[9]

Music video

The Societetshuset in Marstrand town, where the music video was filmed in the summer of 1980

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. Appropriately, the video was shot ten days after the divorce of Björn Ulvaeus and Agnetha Fältskog was officially declared by the courts. It starts with a black-and-white photo montage of ABBA, then moves to the face of Agnetha singing the song. Interspersed in the video is footage of her walking alone, still photographs, and shots of other happier members of the band.[10]

Track listing

1."The Winner Takes It All"4:55


Additional musicians


Weekly charts

Chart (1980–1981) Peak
Argentina[11] 6
Australia (Kent Music Report)[12] 7
Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)[13] 3
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)[14] 1
Finland (Suomen virallinen lista)[15] 2[failed verification]
France (SNEP)[16] 5
Ireland (IRMA)[17] 1
Italy (Musica e dischi)[18] 13
Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)[19] 1
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[20] 1
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[21] 16
Norway (VG-lista)[22] 3
Spain (PROMUSICAE)[23] 10
Sweden (Sverigetopplistan)[24] 2
Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)[25] 3
UK Singles (OCC)[26] 1
US Billboard Hot 100[27] 8
US Adult Contemporary (Billboard)[28] 1
US Cashbox Top 100 Singles[29] 11
West Germany (Official German Charts)[30] 4
Chart (2018) Peak
Finland Airplay (Radiosoittolista)[31] 97

Year-end charts

Chart (1980) Position
Australia (Kent Music Report)[32] 56
Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)[33] 16
Belgium (Ultratop Flanders)[34] 1
Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)[35] 1
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[36] 9
South Africa (Springbok)[37] 9
UK Singles (OCC)[38] 18
West Germany (Official German Charts)[39] 31
Chart (1981) Position
Italy (FIMI)[40] 43
US Billboard Hot 100[41] 23
US Cash Box Top 100[42] 74

Certifications and sales

Region Certification Certified units/sales
Brazil (Pro-Música Brasil)[43] Gold 300,000[43]
Denmark (IFPI Danmark)[44] Gold 45,000
France 250,000[45]
Germany (BVMI)[46] Gold 250,000
Italy (FIMI)[47] Gold 50,000
Kenya 10,000[48]
Netherlands (NVPI)[49] Gold 100,000^
Portugal 20,000[50]
Spain (PROMUSICAE)[51] Gold 30,000
United Kingdom (BPI)[53] Platinum 847,000[52]

^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.
Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.


  • Mireille Mathieu covered the song (sung in French) for her 1981 album Bravo Tu as Gagné.
  • Cher covered the song for her 2018 album Dancing Queen, inspired by Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, in which she starred.[54]
  • Beverley Craven covered the song for her 1993 album Love Scenes.[55][56]
  • E-Rotic covered the song on their 1997 album Thank You For The Music.
  • Carla Bruni covered the song in her 2017 album French Touch.
  • Susan Boyle covered the song for her 2012 album Standing Ovation: The Greatest Songs from the Stage.[57]
  • At Vance covered the song for their 2001 album Dragonchaser.
  • The song is covered in the finale of TV series Glee by Jane Lynch and Matthew Morrison as Sue Sylvester and Will Schuester respectively.
  • In 2010, Liverpudlian singer Tor James Faulkner covered the track on his album The Reflection to raise money and awareness for eating disorder charity Beat. "The Reflection" hit #4 on iTunes UK. [58] [59] [60]
  • In 1980, a Czech version (A ty se ptáš, co já – "And you are asking what about me") was recorded by Czech singer Helena Vondráčková, with the lyrics by Zdeněk Borovec.[61]
  • In September 2021, Rick Astley performed a stripped-back piano cover version of this song.[62]
  • The song is featured as a number in the ABBA-based musical Mamma Mia!. In the film adaptation, it is performed by Meryl Streep as Donna Sheridan.
  • On 19 July 2022, English singer Megan McKenna released a country version of the song.
  • Kylie Minogue and her sister Dannii Minogue covered the song for the soundtrack of the TV series Beautiful People.
  • In Eurovision A Little Bit More, the song was covered by 2023 Greek contestant Victor Vernicos.

In popular culture

  • The song is featured in the episode "Winner" in season four finale of Better Call Saul; a karaoke version is sung by characters Jimmy McGill and Chuck McGill, played by Bob Odenkirk and Michael McKean respectively. The episode's title is most likely a reference to the song as well.[63]
  • In season 1 of The Trip, Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan discuss the lyrical intent of the song in episode 5, and then give a fulsome and lusty rendition of the number whilst driving on the motorway in episode 6.
  • The song was used for the closing montage for CBS's broadcast of Super Bowl XVI.

See also

  • List of Billboard Adult Contemporary number ones of 1981


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  9. ^ UK Official Charts ABBA's Official Top 20 biggest songs
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  11. ^ "Cash Box - International Best Sellers" (PDF). Cash Box. 15 November 1980. p. 34.
  12. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970-1992. St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
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  33. ^ "Jahreshitparade Singles 1980". Retrieved 18 November 2021.
  34. ^ "Jaaroverzichten 1980". Ultratop. Retrieved 18 November 2021.
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  37. ^ "Top 20 Hit Singles of 1980". Retrieved 2 September 2018.
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  44. ^ "Danish single certifications – ABBA – The Winner Takes It All". IFPI Danmark. Retrieved 15 September 2021.
  45. ^ Syndicat National de l'Édition Phonographique (SNEP). Fabrice Ferment (ed.). "TOP – 1980". 40 ans de tubes : 1960–2000 : les meilleures ventes de 45 tours & CD singles (in French). OCLC 469523661. Archived from the original on 8 October 2021. Retrieved 31 May 2022 – via
  46. ^ "Gold-/Platin-Datenbank (ABBA; 'The Winner Takes It All')" (in German). Bundesverband Musikindustrie. Retrieved 8 June 2023.
  47. ^ "Italian single certifications – ABBA – The Winner Takes It All" (in Italian). Federazione Industria Musicale Italiana. Retrieved 2 May 2023.
  48. ^ "ABBA the World - Kenya". Billboard. 8 November 1979. p. ABBA-18. ISSN 0006-2510. Retrieved 3 November 2020.
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  63. ^ Sepinwall, Alan (9 October 2018). "'Better Call Saul' Season Finale Recap: Winner Takes It All". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 3 January 2019.

External links

  • Video from official Vevo channel on YouTube
  • v
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  • e
Ring RingWaterlooABBA
Greatest Hits
  • "Fernando"
ArrivalABBA: The Album
Greatest Hits Vol. 2
Super Trouper
The Visitors
The Singles:
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Studio albums
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Collaboration albums
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  • "Promise Me"
  • "Woman to Woman"
  • "Holding On"
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  • "Mollie's Song"
  • "The Winner Takes It All"
  • "I Miss You"
Related articles
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Studio albums
  • I Dreamed a Dream
  • The Gift
  • Someone to Watch Over Me
  • Standing Ovation: The Greatest Songs from the Stage
  • Home for Christmas
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  • I Dreamed a Dream: The Susan Boyle Story
  • Susan Boyle: An Unlikely Superstar
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