Six reasons why you shouldn’t go to an ABBA singalong with your ex

Lazlo Barclay
3 min readMar 29, 2022
A photo from the night in question

Last year, Nina and I went through a difficult, emotional break up.

Six months later, by invitation of a mutual friend, we find ourselves in a stuffy karaoke booth in Berlin. The whole night is ABBA themed. It’s our first shared social event since breaking up.

Four TVs hanging from the centre of the room broadcast lyrics to a circle of boozed expats. I’m stood slap bang opposite Nina, and we’re both looking up at our respective teleprompters with sculptor-like focus.

The playlist kicks off.

1. Knowing me, knowing you
“Breaking up is never easy I know but I had to go”

I gulp. Eek. Keep those eyes up, lad.

It’s OK. The odd sorrowful lyric won’t hurt — let’s crack on to Abba’s chiefly joyful, uplifting catalogue. Roll on, sir, roll on!

2. One of us
“And so I dealt you the blow
One of us had to go”

Ah. That one. Yes. I steal a glance at Nina, hoping we can break the ice with a shared grin. It seems she’s busy breaking the ice in her drink, resolutely staring up at the screen.

3. SOS
“Whatever happened to our love?
I wish I understood
It used to be so nice
It used to be so good”

OK SOS, you really blind-sided me there. As a child I’d belt you out thinking I was using morse code to attract help from a distant lighthouse or something. What’s with the relationship metaphor?

I take a long sip from my vodka tonic. Something leaves a bitter aftertaste.

4. Chiquitita
“Chiquitita, you and I know
How the heartaches come and they go
And the scars they’re leaving”

C’mon now Bjorn. Listen here Benny. There’s more to life than this. How many miserable relationships could you have possibly racked up between you?! It’s that depressing little cabin by the lake where you write all your songs! The isolation is getting to you!

I scan the booth for items I might reasonably use to give myself a good bludgeoning.

5. Lay All Your Love On Me
“I’ve had a few little love affairs
They didn’t last very long and they’ve been pretty scarce”

Sick little song-writing genius Swedes.

Nina leaves the booth to find another drink. Understandable. I take a solo song: “I have a dream, a song to sing // To help me cope, with anything”.

6. The Winner Takes It All
“I don’t want to talk about things we’ve gone through”

“Somewhere deep inside
You must know I miss you”

I am slain. Helpless. I knew it was coming, but it doesn’t hit any softer: the break up song of all break up songs. The Destroyer of Hope. The song to bring a tear to any emotionally repressed baby boomer’s eye.

Nina comes up to me and does a wonderfully gracious thing. “Can you believe this? Every single song!” We laugh about it together, which is very relieving.

I picture bashing Bjorn and Benny’s heads together with a satisfying clunk. “Jikes, Bjorn!”

That night I realised two things. Firstly — I might actually have to consider breaking up with Abba.

Secondly — it was the first time in my life I can safely say I was not thankful for the music.