The internationally beloved Swedish pop group brings the 1970s to life.
The triumphant return of Swedish pop group ABBA is marked by the release of their first album in 40 years. The album, titled “Voyage”, is a 37-minute escape from the nostalgia of the 1970s. Despite the group’s decades-long hiatus, they haven’t lost their iconic sound. When the quartet – consisting of Agnetha Fältskog, Björn Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson and Anni-Frid Lyngstad – debuted almost 50 years ago, their music was an instant international success, providing the soundtracks for the hit “Mamma Mia! ” franchise.
On “Voyage”, ABBA pays homage to their classics. Christmas-themed “Little Things” shares the same sentimentality as “Slipping Through My Fingers”, while the sinister “Keep An Eye On Dan” flows with a piano melody identical to that of “SOS”. Additionally, “Just A Notion” is essentially the band’s 21st century “Waterloo”, characterized by its upbeat jive, highlighting how young the quartet’s voices still sound.
Much like ABBA’s previous work, “Voyage” strikes the perfect balance between calming ballads and energetic pop anthems. Some songs are a harmonious blend of the two. “Don’t Shut Me Down” features a dreamlike lullaby-like verse before a vocal slide kicks the song off in a catchy and upbeat chorus. And while it doesn’t have quite the same contagious energy as “Mamma Mia” or “Dancing Queen,” the track contains a vitality that comes through as they go around, “And now you see another me, I’ve been recharged, yeah / I’m excited, don’t shut up.
As well as being a tribute to ABBA’s past, the cover for the new album features an image of an eclipse, a nod to the futuristic aesthetic of the space odyssey. The final piece, “Ode To Freedom”, is recognized as a composition in the style of a classical waltz, but it includes grandiose interludes reminiscent of science fiction film music. Additionally, “Keep An Eye On Dan” features retro-sounding synths evoking a galactic landscape as the quartet chants the warning “Keep an eye on Dan / Promise me you can / He gets out of hand if you let him.” between the beats of what looks like a clock counting down.
One of the album’s distinguishing features is its eclectic mix of sounds and themes. Their peaceful eighth track, “Bumblebee”, evokes a national anthem, opening to a high-pitched, flowing flute melody as the group reflects on the delicate state of the earth. They hum, “It’s pretty absurd this summer morning / Thinking we might be trapped / In a world where everything is changing / Too fast for bumblebees to adapt,” providing a gentle commentary on climate change.
What makes this new version so exceptional is ABBA’s refusal to exchange its sound signature for a more modern one. While the quartet has faced backlash for their outdated sounds, it would be foolish to expect a hyperpop dance album from a ’70s Swedish band, especially one with such an iconic and irreplaceable sound. But for those who yearn for more authentic ABBA music – perhaps enough to fuel a third “Mamma Mia!” movie – “Voyage” is sure to please.
Contact Candace Patrick at [email protected]