The 'ABBAtars' make a comebackImage: picture alliance/dpa/PA Media
ABBA is back
November 5, 2021
After almost 40 years, the four members of ABBA are reappearing in a new album, touted as the comeback of the decade. Will the iconic Swedes delight new generations, too?
ABBA fans have never really stopped loving the group's music in the almost 40 years since it split up in 1982. The four Swedes are even revered as icons in queer communities; ABBA parties are held in clubs around the world, an homage to the pop perfectionists.
On November 5, ABBA releases its new album, "Voyage." Will the four Swedes fulfill the fans' expectations? After all, the group's comeback is already celebrated as the most spectacular of the decade.
It's certainly a comeback that has been planned down to the smallest detail, and perfectly staged. "The journey is about to begin. ABBA. 'Voyage'," the band's official website announced beginning in August, virtual invitations were sent out, a live event on September 2 was announced.
The advertising machine was on high speed, international attention guaranteed. The virtual world tour started on September 2, with fans around the world sharing what ABBA meant to them, singing their songs, holding up to the cameras signs printed with messages to the band.
270,000 people followed the livestream
Sydney Harbour Bridge was lit in ABBA's honor, Kylie Minogue sent a greeting, a BBC radio news broadcast was postponed to introduce two of the 10 new songs. The new single "I Still Have Faith in You," is an ode to friendship that sums up the band's past 40 years, despite musical and personal splits. "Do I have it in me? I believe it is in there / For I know I hear a bittersweet song / In the memories we share (...) The crazy things we did / It all comes down to love." A melodic, dreamy song, Agnetha Fältskog's and Anni-Frid Lyngstad's voices are still as clear as a bell — an ABBA song through and through, a catchy pop and folk song.
"Don't Shut Me Down," which was also released in September, begins with a quiet vocal part by Agnetha that turns into a driving rhythm after a few bars, backed by piano and strings. The melody and lyrics are catchy: Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus stayed true to the ingredients that helped the band to world fame. The third single, "Just a Notion," was released at the end of October, with an opening sequence somewhat reminiscent of "Waterloo," the hit that won the band the 1974 Eurovision Song Contest and launched an unprecedented global career.
Back then, Andersson recalled during the September 2 show, the four Swedes were believed to be one-hit wonders thanks to the Eurovision Song Contest. A big mistake: The band sold 400 million albums, sang 17 chart-topping hits, featured in a musical successfully performed for 20 years, and in two feature films.
A special hall is under construction in London for the "Voyage" concerts, where digital "ABBAtar" holograms of the band will "perform" twice a day next year to audiences of about 5,000.
Ulvaeus, Andersson, Fältskog and Lyngstad were wired up for five weeks last year, moving around the stage 11 hours a day. From what Andersson called this "digital thing," their digital '70s doubles were created — "forever young," at least for the show.
Agnetha and Anni-Frid stay in the background
Agnetha and Anni-Frid were not present in London for the concert and album press launch. Anni-Frid was seriously ill for a long time and Agnetha suffers from fear of flying. "They should have been here," Björn said half-joking, "but they don't enjoy this [publicity] as much as Benny does."
The pianist said he was nervous before the first recording session. "Five minutes before they [Agnetha and Anni-Frid] came into the studio, I was thinking, 'I should have asked if they can still sing,'" he said. "But they could, and they can, and you will hear it when you listen to the records."
For the new album, it's back to the roots for ABBA. "We never looked at what the charts look like today," Björn said. "We just decided from the word go just to write the best songs we could."
The Swedes, all four of them over 70 years old, keep up with the times all the same, skillfully using social networks to promote their comeback. It seems they have are doing a good job managing the balancing act between old and new — the song "Just a Notion" was liked about 1.8 million times within a week. ABBA not only reactivated their old fans, but managed to get new ones on board.