The public parts of my notebook.
This song was written by Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson and sung by Agnetha Fältskog. They all deny that the words are about Ulvaeus’s and Fältskog’s divorce, saying the words describe any divorce.
It is sort of tempting to delight in the magical brutality of an ex-husband writing a song from the perspective of his ex-wife about their divorce, and then getting her to sing it. But, this temptation comes from a desire to see life as harsher and more beautiful and more coherent than it really is.
It seems more likely that Ulvaeus took the fact of his own divorce and emphasised it to produce an exquisitely beautiful pain.
The words are sometimes laughable (“Their minds as cold as ice”) and occasionally meaningful (“Building me a fence. Building me a home.”) They serve chiefly to give you a few emotional reference points. The music takes these and develops them into something far bigger and more moving. Especially the last chorus where Fältskog sings “The winner takes it all” in the ordinary way, and then sings it again, one tone higher.