Everyone’s favorite Swedish band is back. Forty years after releasing their last album, legendary band ABBA – named Agnetha Fältskog, Benny Andersson, Björn Ulvaeus and Anni-Frid Lyngstad – have reunited to produce their latest album “Voyage”.
Why now? Does any member of ABBA suddenly need more fame and fortune? Was their heritage in doubt? Endless royalties from their hit single “Dancing Queen” and their hit musical “Mamma Mia!” not enough?
Rather, “Voyage” was the result of Benny and Björn (the band’s songwriters) deciding to add a few more tracks to a virtual “ABBAtars” concert (yes, their genius apparently extends to puns as well as ‘to pop hooks) which they were planning in 2016. Agnetha and Anni-Frid agreed to record until they had to promote the album.
A return at the right time
Thus, “Voyage” was produced by already rich and famous musicians with no real need or desire to continue making music. It was just a fun thing to do that people might like.
And that’s perfectly fine. In terms of melodies and hooks, ABBA’s discography lives up to the Beatles, Beach Boys and Michael Jackson. The band never had to go through any reinvention because their songs were so good.
There is something auspicious about the time of “Voyage’s” release this year as well. While it comes across as unusually retro and cheesy in the ’80s and’ 90s, let alone the 2000s and ’10s, it kind of fits into today’s pop music landscape that spans the entire spectrum. musical genres and styles. With bands like Tennis, TOPS, and Weyes Blood lovingly preserving and refreshing many of ABBA’s patterns and hooks, ABBA itself can continue doing its job without looking like a bunch of desperate baby boomers completely out of touch with the world. time.
Some great successes and several good ones
With this in mind, we can correctly judge their new album. And how is “travel” going? It’s good, not great. It’s certainly not the same level as “Visitors”, “Super Trouper”, “The Album” or “Arrival” (to be fair, most albums would not be, regardless of the band) but it does fit. to the quality of their previous albums, with some amazing tracks, several decent tracks and one terribly bad track.
Among the best songs is the opening track, “I Still Have Faith in You,” which will likely elicit strong feelings from fans, as it plays the lonely voice of Anni-Frid and Benny’s piano. to a triumphant choir with Bjorn and Agnetha, all expressing a sincere exuberance in coming together. (There’s little point in quoting ABBA’s lyrics, which are almost always meant more to convey a general mood than to say something specific.)
It is on this solid basis that the rest of the album is built. The other two notable songs are “Don’t Shut Me Down” and “Keep an Eye On Dan”. Not only are these pieces catchy, but their complexity and their achievement deserve repeated listening.
Then there are the moderately good tracks (songs that you don’t skip or skip) that fill the rest of the album: “When You Danced With Me”, “Just a Notion”, “I Can Be That Woman, ““ No Doubt About It, ”“ Bumblebee, ”and“ Ode to Freedom. ”As with their previous albums, ABBA sets itself apart with its lineup. The band doesn’t stop at creating stereotypical dance numbers or moving ballads; they can do anything, and do it well.
Except for that sweet lullaby that ABBA never fails to deliver at least once per album. In this case, that song is “Little Things,” a Christmas-themed song that even includes a children’s choir. Sure enough, this song was released as a single for the Christmas season and will likely end up playing for years to come, despite being the worst song on the whole album.
ABBA had nothing to prove in “Voyage”
Despite being well over 70 years old, Anni-Frid and Agnetha’s vocals hold up incredibly well – all apparently without the help of autotune and other electronic filters. In fact, their middle age even helped soften some of the excessive brightness that might be shocking in their previous albums.
As for Benny and Bjorn, their line-up and production hold up as well, but not quite as well. We could hope to see them add at least some innovations in their sounds or their arrangements, but they are totally reluctant to risk. They have in them to breathe current acts, to make the most of their maturity and to restore some integrity to current pop music just by modernizing a little. But, perhaps because of their advanced age, they remain rather nostalgic and waste their last chance for relevance.
Again, that was never the point because there was never anything to prove. And it would have been weird, if not grotesque, to see ABBA betray themselves with a more recent style or collaborate with a new pop star or a new rapper in the hope of keeping fresh. Rather, they decided to have fun and make music for their fans.
“Travel” could have been something more, but then again, it could have been a lot worse. All in all, it’s good pop, a nice escape from the noise of everything else on the radio, and a nice reminder of the special genius of ABBA.