The return of ABBA

FANS who followed the Swedish pop group ABBA in their heyday may have been introduced to them through their victory at the 1974 Eurovision Song Contest with the song “Waterloo.” For others, their introduction came through the popularity of “Dancing Queen” on the radio (1976) and their subsequent hits, or through the jukebox musical Mamma Mia! (1999), or the musical’s film adaptation of the same title (2008) and its sequel (2018), or through growing up hearing their parents’ favorite music. In a way, the music never disappeared — there are over 16 million global streams of ABBA songs weekly over music streaming platforms.

With songs written and produced by Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus and performed by Agnetha Fältskog and Anni-Frid “Frida” Lyngstad, ABBA sold nearly 400 million albums worldwide, with 17 No. 1 songs. In 2010, the group was inducted to the Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame.

Still, after the members of the quartet went their separate ways in 1982, there was no new music. Until now.

The members have reunited and will release a new album this year, and a digital concert set for 2022.

Last week, the group released the first two songs, “I Still Have Faith in You” and “Don’t Shut Me Down” from their upcoming album, Voyage — their first new album in four decades.

During the launch for ABBA Voyage in London which was streamed via the group’s official YouTube page on Sept. 2, Messrs. Andersson and Ulvaeus explained that the idea of creating more songs only came when they were already in production for the digital concert. At that point, they had only written the first two songs. This eventually led to the creation of a new album.

Messrs. Ulvaeus and Andersson, now 76 and 74 respectively, described that going back to the studio felt like no time had passed. “…[It] was so joyful to be together in the studio again,” Mr. Andersson said.

“Hearing Frida and Agnetha go for it again, not knowing really if it was still there. Five minutes before they came into the studio, I was thinking, ‘I should have asked if they can still sing!’,” he joked. “But they could, and they can.”

“They (Fältskog and Lyngstad) are such genuine musicians and creative souls that it is a privilege to hear them sing your music and words,” Mr. Ulvaeus said of his co-members.

“At our age, there is a certain depth to it, [I think] — to the whole thing musically and lyrically. And, of course, to the way they sing and the way they deliver. There is a lot of years and a lot of experience in that, that I hope people can feel,” he added.

“We went into the studio knowing that if we didn’t think it’s up to scratch, we would never release it,” Mr. Ulvaeus said of the record. “Also, there is an old saying in the music industry that you should not leave more than 40 years between albums,” he joked.

The new album, which will contain 10 tracks, will be released on Nov. 5 under Universal Music Group’s Capitol Records label.

Mr. Andersson said that the record remains loyal to their pop sound from the 1970s and 1980s. “I don’t understand what’s out there. I don’t understand what the ingredients in the songs that work today are. It’s impossible to emulate,” Mr. Andersson said, clarifying that they are not competing with the styles of modern pop artists.

But they utilized modern technology for recording the music since “it is at hand now.”

“It’s not really a question of finishing a song. It’s a question of abandoning [it] because you can work forever,” Mr. Andersson said, noting that doing changes in a track is easier nowadays.

Aside from the new album, the group will also stage a series of virtual concerts next year using digital avatars called “ABBA-tars.” The performance will include a 10-piece band and will be held at the ABBA Arena in London beginning May 27, 2022.

The virtual concert was created through performance capture technology that creates digital characters of the group which mimic the members’ physical features as they were in 1979.

Messrs. Ulvaeus and Andersson agreed in unison that they appreciate music today as much as they did when they were starting out.

“To be creative is, in itself, the drive. It pushes you and it gives you energy,” Mr. Ulvaeus said.

“And the other thing is, if you don’t know how to do anything else but write music, that’s what you wanna do,” Mr. Andersson added.

“It never goes away. The most fun thing you can do is to write songs.” Mr. Ulvaeus paused before finishing, “That is, as you said, the lifeblood.”

Tickets to the virtual ABBA concert are on sale today, and the new album, Voyage, is available for pre-orders. For more information on tickets and the new album, visit “I Still Have Faith in You” and “Don’t Shut Me Down” are available to stream on Spotify. — Michelle Anne P. Soliman

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.