The Jason Hahn Files: Let's Talk About The Music Of ABBA...

"‘All your Christmases happening at the same time would be if Cher and Barbra Streisand did a duet of ‘I Will Survive’ and Bette Midler was singing back-up,’ I said reaching for another tile of kaya toast."

News that Cher is about to drop an album of ABBA covers has been greeted by my friend Barney Chen with the kind hysteria one normally reserves for the sighting of, say, Cher’s first scene in Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again

“September 28!” he said the other day at Toast Box. Fresh from a two-hour work out at the gym, he was looking impossibly buff as set down a bowl of 10 eggs that he then proceeded to crack open, carefully separating the whites from the yolks. 

“How are you eating that stuff?” Amanda said frowning.“Honey, you don’t think I look like this…” he paused to clumsily gesture one hand, currently clutching half an egg shell, up and down his torso, “…by eating that, do you?” 

With his head, he nodded towards her stack of kaya toast. “It’s all about the protein, my darling!” He noticed Saffy watching his biceps bounce up and down beneath his tight black T-shirt. 

“You can touch them, if you like.” Saffy shook herself out of her hypnotised state. 

“It’s just such a shame I’m not your type,” she sighed. Barney leaned over and laid a hand the size of a Subway sandwich over Saffy’s. 

“Yes, it’s a shame you’re not Bradley Cooper… Speaking of, oh my God, have you seen the new trailer for A Star is Born?...”

“Seriously,” Amanda exclaimed, “have you always been like this? It’s like you’re on speed or something! Rewind, rewind! What’s this about September 28?”

Barney sucked in his breath and put down his bowl of 10 egg-whites. “That’s when Cher’s new album is being released! Can you imagine it? ABBA covers! Cher and ABBA! It’s like all my Christmases are happening at the same time!”

“All your Christmases happening at the same time would be if Cher and Barbra Streisand did a duet of ‘I Will Survive’ and Bette Midler was singing back-up,” I said reaching for another tile of kaya toast. 

“That would just kill me,” Barney promised.

Later that day, back in our apartment, Amanda put on the soundtrack to the new Mamma Mia!, which was basically just an excuse for her and Saffy to dance and sing at the top of their lungs in the middle of our lounge. 

Eventually, they collapse onto the sofa, eyes shining, faces flushed, and voices hoarse from the multiple key changes in ‘Dancing Queen’.

“You know,” Amanda said, breathing heavily, “they just don’t write songs like that anymore.”

“Nope,” Saffy said, her face a bright shade of pink.“I mean, I tried listening to this guy Troye Sivan the other day? Because Apple Music said I should? All I could think of was, what is going on? What is he saying?”

Saffy turned her head to look at Amanda. “What do you mean? It wasn’t in English?”

“I have no idea! I couldn’t understand a word he was singing. All I kept hearing was ‘seventeen’ and everything else sounded like mumbo jumbo!”

“Well, Sharyn’s kids introduced me to this guy called Blac Gangsta?”“Black gangster?” Amanda said. 

“No. Blac as in black with no ‘k’, and gangster but spelt with an ‘a’!”Amanda closed her eyes to work out the spelling. 

“It was so rude and full of swearing! All I could think of was,” Saffy went on, “do you talk like that to your mother? Seriously, I would be mortified to play that song in public!”Amanda nodded. 

“Whereas you could play ‘Waterloo’ at your aunt’s funeral and it would be perfectly appropriate!” Sharyn, when Saffy told her about her children’s inappropriate song choices, barked out a laugh. 

“Not Blac Gangsta lah, aiyoh! Is call Blac Youngsta!”“Oh my God, you’ve heard him?!” Saffy shrieked. “Aiyah, nowadays ah, my chil-ren oh-nee listen to this kind of music!” 

“But he’s so… so rude!” Sharyn shrugged. “What to do? They say they like, so they listen lor! Early on when I complain, my mudder say, when she young dat time, she love the Beatle, but her mudder say, why must listen to ang moh with long hair and take drug? So I tink, yah hor… every generation sure got people sing song that their parent dohn-like, one. Is liddat lah! As long as dey go to university and become doctor can orredi. Who care if they like Blac Youngsta!”

Saffy’s bosom puffed up. “Well, I don’t get it,” she said firmly. “I had to have a shower after listening to two tracks! And not in a good way!”

This story first appeared in 8 DAYS issue #1456 (Sept 13, 2018).

Photo: UIP

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