Bjorn Ulvaeus

'Mamma Mia!' lighter than air, but it remains irresistible

Only cool-tempered Swedes could take a hot-blooded Italian expression like "Mamma mia" (imagine Anna Magnani saying it) and use it without any syllabic stress in a light, snappy song, as if the value of the two words derived from their alliterative appeal alone. But Bjorn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson knew just what they were doing in generating that song, and a whole bunch like it, for their famed group ABBA.

The way those guys could match any string of words to magnetic melodic hooks proved magical in the 1970s and early 1980s, leading to a pop music phenomenon of global proportions. ABBA disbanded 27 years ago, but you'd never know it.

"Mamma Mia!" is...