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You can dance, you can jive, having the time of your life
Huh, "time of your life," eh? Where have we heard that before?
If the opening line of "Dancing Queen" sounds familiar, that's because there have been a slew of songs since 1976 that make use of some form of the phrase "having the time of your life."
First there was Dirty Dancing's "(I've Had) the Time of My Life" in 1987, then Green Day's "Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)" in 1997, and 2010's "The Time (Dirty Bit)," by the Black Eyed Peas, which samples the 1987 song in its chorus.
ABBA was the first band to really have the time of their lives out on the dance floor, though.
You come to look for a king
Today, ABBA's more than just pop royalty. One of them is actual royalty.
While "Dancing Queen" wasn't officially released to the public until August 1976, ABBA performed the song for a variety show celebrating the Swedish royal wedding in June of that year as a tribute to the future Queen Silvia.
16 years later, ABBA singer Anni-Frid Lyngstad ended up marrying Prince Heinrich Ruzzo Reuss of Plauen—childhood friend of Queen Silvia's husband, King Carl XVI Gustaf—and becoming a princess in her own right.
You are the dancing queen, young and sweet, only 17
If popular music history is any clue, then this dancing queen acts more like she's 16 than 17.
16 and 17 are popular ages for songwriters to reference. 16 is almost always coupled with the word "sweet." See everything from Chuck Berry's 1958 hit "Sweet Little Sixteen" to MTV's show My Super Sweet 16.
But 17 is usually...not. 17 is usually associated more with a transition to adulthood.
In 2008's "All Summer Long," Kid Rock played with the transitional nature of 17 and suggested that kids aged quickly once they hit the magical birthday. "She was 17 and she was far from in-between," he sings.
Meatloaf used the age in much the same way in 1977's "Paradise By the Dashboard Light." He sings about a young couple who are "doubly blessed, cause we were barely 17, and we were barely dressed."
The trope preceded these more recent songs, though. When Lennon and McCartney first sang "I Saw Her Standing There" in 1964, they began by explaining that, "Well, she was just 17, you know what I mean," and listeners did.
But in "Dancing Queen," 17 is used more innocently. And we totally approve.
There's recognition that the age is loaded with adult possibilities—"You're a teaser, you turn 'em on"—but ABBA and their dancing queen move quickly away from the salacious possibilities that—big surprise—Kid Rock and Meatloaf embrace. Their 17-year-old leaves "them burning and then you're gone."
Maybe because the song was meant to be a simple celebration of dance, maybe because 17 has three syllables, or maybe because they were ABBA and they could do what they wanted, the 17-year-old dancing queen in "Dancing Queen" behaves more like a sweet 16.