ABBA Felt They Needed to Wear 'Outrageous' Outfits to 'Be Seen' — and It Ended Up Backfiring, New Doc Reveals

The "Mamma Mia" singers, who won Eurovision Song Contest in 1974, were also accused of "selling out"

<p>Siegfried Pilz/United Archives via Getty</p> ABBA in the 1970s

Siegfried Pilz/United Archives via Getty

ABBA in the 1970s

While ABBA is beloved for their catchy tunes and flashy outfits, there was a point in their career where they criticized for it.

In ABBA: AGAINST THE ODDS, a documentary on the Swedish band that premiered on Saturday, May 11, the band opens up about the backlash they faced as they tried to make a name for themselves after winning Eurovision Song Contest in 1974.

"ABBA was seen as total outsiders. A lot of [the press] seemed to turn on the band," a narrator says, adding that they would call the band "tacky."

"On first seeing ABBA, you know, I must admit I wasn't sold on the fashion at the time. I found it a bit cringey seeing the outfits that they all wore," Judd Lander of Epic Records adds. "I think the outfits were the contributor that made them look a little bit cheesy."

Related: How ABBA's Agnetha Fältskog and Björn Ulvaeus Turned Their 'Difficult' Divorce into a Chart-Topping Hit

To the band, the eccentric outfits were merely a fun tactic to be noticed — but they quickly learned the plan backfired.

"We weren't taken seriously. I think it's because we were wearing such strange clothes," Björn Ulvaeus, 79, says in the documentary.

He continues, "We thought we needed to be more outrageous than anyone else to be seen and then we thought it was great fun to. It was never any plan that this is going to be our image. The kitsch. We really suffered from that."

Then, in addition to the outfits, ABBA faced backlash from people in Sweden who accused them of "selling out."

<p>Olle Lindeborg/AFP via Getty</p> ABBA in February 1974

Olle Lindeborg/AFP via Getty

ABBA in February 1974

"Everyone thought ABBA was just a manager who decides, 'Let's take two good-looking women, two skilled musicians, put them together, and make a group that will make hits just doing this for the money,'" Ingmarie Halling, who did their hair and makeup, says.

"There was protests. People were marching in the streets," Leif Schulman, a journalist, says. "The band was accused of selling out and having no more soul than a can of tin herring."

While the band understood that criticism came with the territory — it still wasn't easy.

Related: ABBA's New Doc Recalls Agnetha Fältskog Being 'Talked About as a Body Part' at Height of Band's Fame

"It has been very draining many times," Anni-Frid Lyngstad, 78, says. "I felt very overwhelmed."

Benny Andersson, 77, adds. "Many people think that there is a formula or there is a calculation behind it. It's not. It's just that Bjorn and I write the music that we enjoy the most."

In 1982, the band parted ways after both couples got divorced: first Agnetha Fältskog and Ulvaeus then Lyngstad and Andersson. Forty years later, the band reunited to release a studio album called Voyage and they made a rare red carpet appearance together for the premiere of their virtual concert series.

ABBA: AGAINST THE ODDS, which explores the journey of love, struggle, fame and epic songs that is ABBA, is out now on The CW.

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