ABBA released their first album in nearly 40 years on Friday, Nov. 5. The album “Voyage” consists of 10 tracks, including, “Just A Notion.” The track was recorded in 1978 but not released until Oct. 22, according to the ABBA Voyage website.
Their return includes a concert that uses motion capture technology to project holograms of aged-down versions of the members.
The members of ABBA have all been up to various things since the group’s split. Agentha Fältskog took leave from the spotlight to focus on her family but returned in 2008. Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson have produced music together for West End and Broadway musicals. Anni-Frid (Frida) Lyngstad was married to Prince Heinrich Ruzzo of Reuss in 1992 before his passing in 1999.
“Voyage” is ABBA’s first album release since “The Visitors” in 1981. On Sep. 2, 2021, Fältskog, Ulvaeus, Andersson and Lyngstad released “Don’t Shut Me Down” and “I Still Have Faith In You” as a dual-single. The group also released “Just A Notion” on Oct. 22, two weeks before the album.
They produced their classic ABBA sound for this album. Not all of the tracks are reminiscent of well-known songs in “Mamma Mia!” or the group’s later albums. Many of the tracks sound as though they would better fit in with ABBA’s earlier albums.
The album feels as though it ignores the group’s development and is instead reliant on nostalgia. Many lyrics reference other works by the group. The most notable aspect of the album is perhaps its production. The newly recorded music is crisp, clear and benefits from Fältskog and Lyngstad’s matured voices.
Songs like “Don’t Shut Me Down” and “Just A Notion” are energetic and have a distinct “ABBA” feel. Both songs were released prior to the album, so I had just enough time to get used to those tracks and begin to enjoy them. “Don’t Shut Me Down” has also inspired a TikTok trend that I see and hear frequently.
It feels very much that the ABBA “Voyage” era is stuck trying to recreate their past fame. “Rather than reflecting poignantly on the past, much of the rest of “Voyage” feels terminally stuck there,” said The Guardian’s Jude Rogers in a review. While Rogers is referring to the predictable nature of the songs, I feel as though this statement can also be applied to the group’s concert in the upcoming year.
The technologically aided regression of the band feels wrong to me. I understand trying to reclaim a certain energy, but I am sure that ABBA fans would appreciate the real life musicians playing through their new music just as much. The inauthentic CGI versions of ABBA are offputting and feel painfully novel.
The more times I listen through “Voyage,” the more I think I like it. The problem is that I did not originally enjoy the album because it didn’t feel like ABBA. It just felt like another random song on my Spotify Daily Mix. The music is good but underwhelming for what I would have expected for a reunion album after 40 years.
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