Join 3,512 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)

Tags:

ABBA spelled backwards...
August 14, 2010 5:37 PM   Subscribe

(TYLM) There are actually many ABBA fans who believe their songs sound good even played backwards (and ABBA haters who think they sound better backwards). So, of course, there are now Backwards ABBA music videos on YouTube*: "eM nO ecnahC A ekaT", "emaC uoY erofeB yaD ehT", "emaG ehT fO emaN ehT", "llA tI sekaT renniW ehT", "sleeH revO daeH" "suoV-zeluoV", "yenoM yenoM yenoM"

Backwards song w/o original video: "neeuQ gnicnaD" (sorry, no "oolretaW" or "uoY gniwonK eM gniwonK"). Thanks to YouTubist mozpiano2 who uploaded lots of other stuff from ABBA, as well as Beethoven, Vivaldi and "Keeping Up Appearances"

*to date, NO satanic messages have been found. I'm as surprised as you are.
posted by oneswellfoop (67 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite

 
rood ralleC
posted by gilrain at 5:40 PM on August 14, 2010


Most catchy music still sounds good backwards, because it still has the patterns that made it catchy forwards. The only weird part is that, when you play a song that swells in intensity over time backwards, it ends up sounding depressing.
posted by LSK at 5:41 PM on August 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


And wow, hey... maybe it's just the buzz, but neeuQ gnicnaD actually sounds really good. I'm going to have to listen to all of these, now.
posted by gilrain at 5:42 PM on August 14, 2010


I feel like I know ABBA, but sometimes, my arms bend back.
posted by SPrintF at 5:44 PM on August 14, 2010 [4 favorites]


Thanks. We just found a new way to torture terrorists.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 5:48 PM on August 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


How is it that it sounds basically the same? Especially in neeuQ gnicnaD.
posted by amethysts at 5:54 PM on August 14, 2010


Ooooh, I liked "yenoM yenoM yenoM" a lot. The video was so staged that up until the end, where she was out on the street, you couldn't really tell it was backwards; it was just like they were singing in a strange language.
posted by Gator at 5:57 PM on August 14, 2010


Oh come one... You go to the effort of reversing all those song names, and then can't be bothered to reverse the name of the group.

Poor show I say, poor show...

On preview, I actually bothered to read the title of the post...
posted by sodium lights the horizon at 5:59 PM on August 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


Benny Anderson layered a beautifully dense, reedy sound, topped off with the girls' chiming voices. Playing it backwards abstracts the tone package from the rhythm and meaning, and turns it all into some strange Swedish pump organ.
posted by Faze at 6:03 PM on August 14, 2010 [2 favorites]


Snark all ya want, this still blows, backward or forward. As an arranger I work with (with an M.A. in composition) said: at best, they were just slightly better at bubblegum music than others of their ilk.
posted by Seekerofsplendor at 6:10 PM on August 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


As an arranger I work with (with an M.A. in composition) said: at best, they were just slightly better at bubblegum music than others of their ilk.

Oh, M.A. in composition huh? Let me revise my own opinions then. I kid, I kid.

Seriously though, that's a terrible opinion, just flat wrong.
posted by drjimmy11 at 6:17 PM on August 14, 2010 [9 favorites]


I had expected more ABBA hostility at MeFi, although Resident Rock & Roll Authority jonmc likes 'em.
posted by oneswellfoop at 6:26 PM on August 14, 2010


LSK: The only weird part is that, when you play a song that swells in intensity over time backwards, it ends up sounding depressing.

No kidding. The already plenty heartbreaking song The Winner Takes It All is possibly even harder to take backwards.

Meanwhile, here's one of my favorite covers ever, Icelandic goth rock band Ham's version of Voulez-Vous.
posted by Kattullus at 6:32 PM on August 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's Fun to Smoke Marijuana.
posted by yhbc at 6:33 PM on August 14, 2010


Also - HAHAHAHAHA * falls over *
posted by yhbc at 6:38 PM on August 14, 2010 [6 favorites]


As an arranger I work with (with an M.A. in composition) said: at best, they were just slightly better at bubblegum music than others of their ilk.

I'm no ABBA fan but that sounds dangerously close to an argument from authority. So with that in mind allow me to enquire, was he wearing a beret and ascot while smoking with a cigarette holder?
posted by nola at 6:39 PM on August 14, 2010 [10 favorites]


The backward playing really messes with the ADSR waveforms of the instruments; as Faze mentions it moves everything out of sync since the attacks were synchronized but since the decays and releases vary in length by instrument they're not.
posted by localroger at 6:41 PM on August 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


As an arranger I work with (with an M.A. in composition) said: at best, they were just slightly better at bubblegum music than others of their ilk.

I'm no ABBA fan but that sounds dangerously close to an argument from authority. So with that in mind allow me to enquire, was he wearing a beret and ascot while smoking with a cigarette holder?


I think what is going on now is a project by contemporary music critics to rehabilitate ABBA's lightweight cultural reputation, which has previous been thought of as hopelessly "square".

Musical geniuses, yes; but square, or whatever the kids say theses days.
posted by ovvl at 7:07 PM on August 14, 2010


!wow dna wow
posted by kitchenrat at 7:09 PM on August 14, 2010


The extent to which the backmasked tracks are a jumbled and incomprehensible cacophony despite their haunting familiarity is a study in how the brain hears not single notes and beats but vast interconnected conversations of melody and harmony.
posted by tapesonthefloor at 7:22 PM on August 14, 2010 [2 favorites]


As an arranger I work with (with an M.A. in composition) said: at best, they were just slightly better at bubblegum music than others of their ilk.

Oh, an M.A. !! That's what Beethoven had, right?

Since it's so easy to achieve that kind of success (and never have to score a video game or commercial again), he should just pop off a couple of international top-3 hits, then. Then buy that nice villa atop the ocean bay and get into the HUH serious stuff. Like Xenakis.
posted by Twang at 7:25 PM on August 14, 2010 [7 favorites]


Oh, and a dude with a MA in comp who can't fathom ABBA's near-perfect pop economy? Shit's called "envy".
posted by tapesonthefloor at 7:25 PM on August 14, 2010 [8 favorites]


As an arranger I work with (with an M.A. in composition) said

Your favourite band sucks? Wow - nice to see all those years in college weren't wasted.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 7:45 PM on August 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


From the YouTube comments:
Crazycatperson66: Hi, I am just curious, how did you record the songs backwards. I love ur ABBA selections backwards, they add so much more. Keep posting!

mozpiano2: Its actually quite a complex process, but I will make more of them for you all :)
posted by stbalbach at 7:47 PM on August 14, 2010 [2 favorites]


I would like to see ABBA fight one of those Indian Pole Dancing guys.
posted by storybored at 7:56 PM on August 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


You'd think an MA in composition would at least equip one to say something witty about how a bubblegum pop band sounds like a bubblegum pop band...
posted by randomkeystrike at 7:59 PM on August 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


Tons reviled, Abba deliver snot.
posted by abcde at 8:15 PM on August 14, 2010 [9 favorites]


ABBA spelled inside out would be BAAB. I'd like to hear how that sounds.
posted by grounded at 8:20 PM on August 14, 2010


@grounded:

A rhyme scheme with either is the same;
the pattern simply is inverted,
and the rhythm is perverted,
but either way, bubblegum is tame.
posted by LSK at 8:35 PM on August 14, 2010


aww, I was looking forward (backward?) to hearing "emmig emmig emmig", but it hasn't been done. Guess I'll just have to open Audacity and do it my self...
posted by luvcraft at 8:40 PM on August 14, 2010


As an arranger I work with admire (with an M.A.) said:

"In the 70s, no one would admit that they liked Abba. Now it's fine. It's so kitsch. Kitsch is an excuse to defend the fact that they feel a common emotion. If it is kitsch. you put a sort of frame around something – to suggest you are being ironic. Actually, you aren't. You are really enjoying it. I like Abba. I did then and I didn't admit it. The snobbery of the time wouldn't allow it. I did admit it when I heard 'Fernando'; I could not bear to keep the secret to myself anymore and also because I think there is a difference between Swedish sentimentality and LA sentimentality because the Swedish are so restrained emotionally. When they get sentimental it's rather sweet and charming. What we really got me with "Fernando" was what the lower singer was doing, I don't know her name. I spent months trying to learn that. It's so obscure what she's doing and very hard to sing. And then from being a sceptic I went over the top in the other direction. I really fell for them."
-Brian Eno
posted by Threeway Handshake at 8:43 PM on August 14, 2010 [21 favorites]


kitchenrat: “!wow dna wow”

!wow dna wow
posted by koeselitz at 8:58 PM on August 14, 2010


As an arranger I work with (with an M.A. in composition) said:

who cares? - what's he written? - he's either come up with a better pop song or he hasn't

and a m a in composition is probably irrelevant to that - did he study pop songs in college?
posted by pyramid termite at 9:20 PM on August 14, 2010


Seekerofsplendor: “Snark all ya want, this still blows, backward or forward. As an arranger I work with (with an M.A. in composition) said: at best, they were just slightly better at bubblegum music than others of their ilk.”

Anyone who can listen to "Dancing Queen" and not recognize it instantly as absolute genius should not be trusted as a musician, and probably not as a human being, either. If you've suppressed your ability to enjoy beautiful melodies, accomplished musicianship, and fine arrangement so effectively that you are not moved by that song, it's a strong indication that you've so buried yourself in "serious" music that's not meant to be listened to that you've forgotten the reason you liked music in the first place, and you have only two choices: keep going with that idea and become a devotee of Schoenberg, or give excellently-written, perfectly-executed pop music a genuine try, keeping your ear open all the while for the strong legacy of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
posted by koeselitz at 9:21 PM on August 14, 2010 [13 favorites]


I've always wondered why it is that it's so easy to tell when a song is being played backwards, but lacked the ability to explain what is actually happening to the sound that makes the effect so distinct. I assume that some of it has to do with my brain picking up traces of (incomprehensible) language in the reversed lyrics, but there's also a very distinctive distortion of the beat that seems common to all backmasked songs.

Is there anyone here with the technical knowledge to explain what's going on there? I lack the vocabulary and background to even describe the phenomenon in any detail, and yet the phenomenon itself is immediately obvious to my ear.
posted by Scientist at 9:23 PM on August 14, 2010


I'm no scientist, but I imagine it's simply the abrupt ending of sound. Sound normally starts abruptly, then fades out. When it's the other way, it sounds "wrong".

Also, as someone mentioned above the harmonic attacks and changes get terribly out of sync. If I play a 4 count of a harmony backwards, the melody is reaching places my harmony hasn't got yet, or vice versa. Music isn't symmetrical that way. Think of something simple like "Row, Row, Row Your Boat". Backwards, you be singing "merrily merrily merrily merrily" while the harmony is still unwinding from the "Life is but a dream" phrase.

Melodies work fine, though. Fun fact: the beautiful 18th variation on a theme by Paganini from Rachmaninov is in fact Paganini's original theme played almost note for note upside down on the piano, and backwards.
posted by hincandenza at 9:56 PM on August 14, 2010


well, when you've got the beat going forward, the drum sounds have what you'd call a quick attack and then a decay - the main sound is right on the beat (or the intended groove) and pushes the song along nicely

when you reverse the music, instead of going BAPpppppp - the drums are going ppppppPAB - and one hears the beat as beginning just a bit before the loudest part of the beat - that, along with all the other instruments having their attack/release time reversed, changes the groove to something else entirely - as if the drummer and the rest of the band are hitting things just a bit prematurely

these videos are kind of fascinating - because along with the grooves being reversed, all the tension/release traditions of harmonic progression and melody are being reversed, too - instead of IIm to V, you've got V to IIm - which can be done, but isn't quite as common and strikes the ear as different
posted by pyramid termite at 10:00 PM on August 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


I've got an MA in thinking you're dumb.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 10:03 PM on August 14, 2010 [3 favorites]


I suddenly have this strange, compelling urge to go join the navy.
posted by Flashman at 10:19 PM on August 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


As a bored teenager, I taped several records backwards and enjoyed listening back to the tapes. I recall Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band being particularly good backwards listening.
posted by stinkycheese at 10:51 PM on August 14, 2010


Benny Andersson lives in my neighborhood. I was really pleased to be standing behind him at the butcher, clutching my queue slip, and seeing that he received the same laconic service as everyone else. I says to him (in Swedish) "You'd think the co-writer of Dancing Queen could get some service here." He looks at me with a half smile and says "Why?"

He's been on my top 10 list since then.
posted by three blind mice at 11:23 PM on August 14, 2010 [20 favorites]


koeselitz: you have only two choices: keep going with that idea and become a devotee of Schoenberg, or give excellently-written, perfectly-executed pop music a genuine try

Surely one can cherish both.
posted by Kattullus at 11:29 PM on August 14, 2010


I have always liked Abba, and I have spent many futile hours defending them to people who cannot understand how I can do so when I also like The Boredoms, Throbbing Gristle and Trout Mask Replica. Anyone who likes pop music (not indie, rock, soul, funk, hip hop, R & B but POP) and who also truly gets what makes pop music good will like Abba.

Backwards? Eh... I'm not really getting the point.
posted by Decani at 12:11 AM on August 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


sodium lights the horizon: Oh come one... You go to the effort of reversing all those song names, and then can't be bothered to reverse the name of the group.

Heh. I'd like to hear "S.O.S." backward -- one very useful fact I remember from my days working at Billboard is that it was the only Top Ten hit where both the band name and the song name were palindromes. (Also, I love "S.O.S.")
posted by lisa g at 12:21 AM on August 15, 2010


The next step is to slow it down by 8% and juggle it between turntables.
posted by fuq at 12:41 AM on August 15, 2010


By the way, I have a PhD in Being Totally Goddamned Right About Everything so, you know.
posted by Decani at 1:12 AM on August 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


I gots myselves one of those "M" degrees, and ABBA gives me an erection. So there.
posted by bradth27 at 4:58 AM on August 15, 2010


To elaborate on what I said earlier...

Most musical instruments can be modeled by a four-part power curve called Attack, Decay, Sustain, Release: ADSR. For most instruments a harmonic profile and ADSR curve are all you need to make a passable imitation from say a Moog synthesizer. (It is of course a bit more complicated for something like a piano, but you'd recognize such a cheap imitation of a piano as at least sounding like a piano, if not a good one.)

When music is played forward, the attacks are synchronized to the beat, but because the instruments all have different decay, sustain, and release times they fade out separately. When you play the music backward, the ADSR curve is reversed, so the instrument notes start off weak and end strong; and because they're different lengths they start at different times, ramping up to a final synchronized attack.

Suffice it to say there aren't any real instruments that sound like that, and it would be very hard to play them to synchronize the note-ending attacks if they did, so that's why backward music has such a distinctive sound.
posted by localroger at 5:41 AM on August 15, 2010 [5 favorites]


It's interesting how there are certain bands whose work is recognisably theirs even backwards. I haven't tried this extensively, but ABBA are obviously in this class. Blur are, too - something about the mix of instruments and the rhythm marks a song as unmistakeably one of theirs, even if it's going the wrong way.

Haven't found any secret messages, though. Sadly.
posted by ZsigE at 6:24 AM on August 15, 2010


In the video for Take a Chance on Me, I keep expecting a porn movie to break out.
posted by Trochanter at 7:30 AM on August 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


As an arranger I work with (with an M.A. in composition) said ...

Leave ABBA alone!!!
posted by bwg at 7:46 AM on August 15, 2010


Excellent explanations, y'all. Thank you!
posted by Scientist at 8:00 AM on August 15, 2010


Anyone who can listen to "Dancing Queen" and not recognize it instantly as absolute genius should not be trusted as a musician, and probably not as a human being, either.

Dammit, I suspected I was a human-like robot in a secret mission to destroy the earth all along.
posted by Dr Dracator at 8:11 AM on August 15, 2010


Snark all ya want, this still blows, backward or forward. As an arranger I work with (with an M.A. in composition) said: at best, they were just slightly better at bubblegum music than others of their ilk

Obviously, your musical opinions are worth more than ours.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:32 AM on August 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


A pair of sleepy red moose. That is all.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:46 AM on August 15, 2010


Dammit, I suspected I was a human-like robot in a secret mission to destroy the earth all along

No, that's Kraftwerk. They didn't get no respect back in the day either.
posted by ovvl at 8:47 AM on August 15, 2010


"There are actually many ABBA fans..."
I have always found and continue to find this completely flabbergasting. But then, very few purveyors of pop cultural offerings have gone broke underestimating the taste of the American public.
posted by txmon at 10:18 AM on August 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


As someone with a DOCTORATE IN MUSIC, a beret, an ascot and a monocle, I swear that "yenoM yenoM yenoM" sounds a lot like Eastern European folk music. Is the inverse true -- does Eastern European folk backwards sound like ABBA?

Hold on, I'm about to find out.
posted by speicus at 10:19 AM on August 15, 2010


The answer is: Sort of. Not really. Disappointing.
posted by speicus at 10:42 AM on August 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


In the video for Take a Chance on Me, I keep expecting a porn movie to break out.

posted by Trochanter at 3:30 PM on August 15


You fool no one with your coy use of "expecting... to" instead of "hoping... will"
posted by Decani at 10:59 AM on August 15, 2010


I must be horribly backwards. I cannot abide most ABBA (and "Dancing Queen" makes my skin crawl), but I can't get enough of Chess. Here's the song you might know.
posted by pxe2000 at 2:00 PM on August 15, 2010


ABBA rocks! 'nuff said.
posted by Vindaloo at 4:48 PM on August 15, 2010


But pxe2000, I bet that sounds awful backwards.
posted by localroger at 5:00 PM on August 15, 2010


There are certain charms that can only be conveyed in forward performance. Murray Head's rapping is high on that list.
posted by pxe2000 at 5:37 PM on August 15, 2010


That backwards version of The Winner Takes It All is absolutely hypnotic.
posted by smartyboots at 8:34 PM on August 15, 2010


I never knew, until clicking on one of these at work just now, how much ABBA videos resemble porn.
posted by DU at 8:40 AM on August 16, 2010


Hm. We have yooouuutuuube and tube dubber. Can someone make me an auto youtube backwardsifier, plz?
posted by Galaxor Nebulon at 9:13 AM on August 16, 2010


« Older True Blood: The First 21st Century Vampires....  |  The Language of Food is a blog... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments