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ABBA "voyages" into new musical territory


     On August 26, 2021, the internationally famous but long-retired musical group ABBA made a major announcement: they were back! For the first time in nearly 40 years, they were releasing new music in the form of two singles and an album, Voyage.

     Originally formed in Sweden in 1972, ABBA consists of four members: Agnetha Fältskog, Björn Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson, and Anni-Frid “Frida” Lyngstad. The group first gained worldwide prominence with the success of their early single “Waterloo,” which won the Eurovision Song Contest in 1974. Following this success, the group went on to release 8 studio albums and 55 singles (includings hits such as “Dancing Queen,” “Mamma Mia,” and “Fernando”) and became what is widely regarded as one of the most successful musical groups of all time, selling an estimated 150 million records globally. Their 1992 compilation album ABBA Gold: Greatest Hits became one of the best-selling albums of all time upon its release, selling an estimated 30 million copies worldwide. 

     Despite ABBA’s determination to remain beloved in the musical world (as evidenced by the fact that ABBA Gold has recently entered its 1009th week in the UK Album Charts), it would be an understatement to say that I was merely surprised by their unexpected announcement in


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2018 that they were creating new music again for the first time in decades.

     Though technological difficulties and the COVID-19 pandemic both delayed the impending debut of their new songs, ABBA finally released two singles, “I Still Have Faith in You” and “Don’t Shut Me Down” on Sep. 2, 2021. They additionally announced that a complete, 10-track album titled Voyage will be released on Nov. 5. 

     Though it has been nearly 40 years since they last stepped foot in a studio together, I am glad to say that ABBA’s music still has the same classic quality that it always has. The first song, “I Still Have Faith in You” serves as a quiet tribute to their past and their decision to reunite as friends despite the difficulties they have all faced, including divorce and loneliness. Lyngstad takes the lead in this song, singing about how “there was a union of heart and mind, the likes of which are rare and oh so hard to find,” and how she hears a “bittersweet song in the memories we share.” The song, though slow and reflective for a significant amount of its runtime, eventually reaches a sudden crescendo where the music rises as the rest of the band joins in, proclaiming that “we do have it in us” and that “we have a story, and it survived.”

     Much like their 1979 song “The Way Old Friends Do,” “I Still Have Faith in You” is a beautifully heartfelt reflection on their legacy as a group that truly conveys how they remained close despite all the hardships they’ve experienced. While I truly enjoyed it, I can definitely say that “Don’t Shut Me Down” is my favorite of the two.

     “Don’t Shut Me Down,” primarily voiced by Fältskog, is a much faster song than “I Still Have Faith in You,” and calls back to many of the upbeat songs ABBA produced during their original run, such as “Take a Chance On Me” and one of my personal favorites, “If It Wasn’t for the Nights.” The song is full of jazzy overtones and ABBA’s characteristic violins, and describes the singer’s attempt to restart a previously failed relationship. With lyrics like “I'm not the one you knew, I'm now and then combined, and I'm asking you to have an open mind,” it also seems to serve as assurance to ABBA’s fans that while they aren’t the people they used to be, they want their fans to have an open mind and accept them for who they are. I can confidently say that it’s a wonderfully exciting song that will definitely be residing at the top of my playlist for a while.

     All in all, I’m thoroughly enjoying ABBA’s new singles. For having stayed out of the limelight for so many decades, they’ve made a remarkable comeback that is sure to continue with the upcoming release of Voyage, as well as their long-awaited holographic concert residency that opens in London next May. As a diehard fan, this month truly has been a dream come true.

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