Swedish pop superstars return after a 4-decade absence. But do people still care?
ABBA was Stockholm’s biggest pop music import and was one of the biggest acts of the 70’s. And even though the quartet released their last album “The Visitors” in 1981, ABBA – Bjorn, Benny Anna-Frid and Agnetha has since been discovered and rediscovered by every music-loving generation since.
Some have gone so far to credit the band as having helped invent goth music with Rolling Stone writing “you can’t imagine Joy Division or The Cure or Berlin-era Bowie without ‘S.O.S.’” It also mentioned that “They taught Kurt Cobain how to write hooks.”
So, it’s no coincidence that decades after their last release, pop culture still manages to recycle ABBA’s hits and in effect introduce a younger generation to the music of ABBA through the “Mamma Mia” movies of 2008 and 2018.
So the question now is, does the new album , titled “Voyage” live up to the legend?
Sonically, “Voyage” picks up where ABBA left off. The voices of Anni-Frid Lyngstad and Agnetha Fältskog have aged but pretty much intact. But the traces of age dissipate when Anni-Frid and Agnetha start singing in unison. “Voyage” opens dramatically with “I Still Have Faith In You.” The song according to songwriter Benny Anderson is “about us and the bonds we have, about the loyalty we have to each other, and celebrating the fantastic career that we’ve gone through.” The tune is one of two songs that started Anderson and co-writer Björn Ulvaeus into composing new music for ABBA. The two latter called on their former partners if they’d be interested to do some songs. Suffice to say that Frida and Agnetha were all for it.
The folky and Nordic strains that open “When You Danced With Me” sound rootsy comes next and draws up images of quaint villages which is exactly what it’s about. Meanwhile, the gentle pianos that open “Little Things” is a timely new Christmas themed song for the upcoming holidays
The inevitable references to the ABBA of old doesn’t come until “Don’t Shut Me Down,” with its disco sound references, with Agnetha and Frida’s vocal-game hitting its stride and echoes of “Dancing Queen” come to mind. Then cue up the retro pop sounding of “Just A Notion” which, according to Anderson is a song from 1978 that has been recorded and only released now.
Ditto “No Doubt About It,” harken back to the classic synth sounds of the 80’s (it really left didn’t it?). Frida and Agnetha take us from the upbeat highs and the half-time drama of a husband-wife fighting. Is it a reference to the partner’s previous relations? Could be.
“I Can’t Be That Woman” is a fine example of ABBA’s heavy tele-drama vibes. This ballad is about a couple arguing over another woman named “Tammy” who is actually a dog, who watches as the couple’s relationship crumbles. Is that Frida or Agnetha singing “I’m aware of how far I’ve sunk /And the dog is the first to feel it / there’s a shimmer of hope in your eyes / you can’t believe it / but you’re close to tears / Oh God, I’m sorry for the wasted years.” Likewise for the Eurovision-level drama that “Keep An Eye On Dan” exudes. A song about little child Dan who is torn between his divorced parents. It’s the kind of heavy middle-aged drama that ABBA specializes in.
So is the whole exercise up to par with classic ABBA? Just you wait until they figure out how to stuff all these songs into Mamma Mia 3. And do people still care about ABBA? Well ask the 2 million plus who follow them on TikTok.