Dancing Queen is an ode to a young girl on the brink of womanhood. It is not a love story but rather a poetic invocation of a certain moment in time. She’s come “to look for a king” and yet, the very next line states that “anybody could be that guy.” In this song, she is frozen in time, poised on the brink of womanhood, like the two lovers that Keats writes about who are about to embrace on that Grecian urn.
The song opens with a majestic piano glissando and hummed vocals. Agnetha Fältskog and Anni-Frid Lyngstad, sharing lead vocals and therefore giving the narrative an omniscient point of view, tell us that it’s “Friday night and the lights are low.” If someone’s life were a weekend, then our Dancing Queen is Friday Night. Just as Friday is still part of the week, DQ is still a girl. “Only seventeen”. She is still in school. She still lives at home. (Her parents are probably up late waiting for her to return home or maybe they think she’s sleeping over a friend’s house?) She is going out to dance. In the real world, a girl of seventeen is low on the totem pole. She has little money of her own and inhabits a world where adults call the shots. But on the dance floor, our heroine is the Queen. Her newly found beauty makes her the center of attention. She literally rules. She is not looking for love. “Anyone will do”. She is looking for subjects.
What makes this a classic disco song is that our protagonist isn’t at a particular dance or party. She is “where they play the right music.” It’s as if she is in a large city, going from bar to bar, club to club in search of action. She’s not at a sock hop hoping to run into that cute guy from her biology class. She is looking for something a little more dangerous with strangers. And just as those lovers in the Keats poem never actually embrace, our heroine never meets a guy.