BBA returns with a new album after 40 years of hiatus

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ABBA’s Bjorn Ulvaeus (right) and Benny Andersson appear on the anniversary show Wetten, dass … in Nuremberg, Germany on Saturday. Photo: AFP

Swedish pop sensation ABBA made a comeback on Friday with their new album Voyage, nearly 40 years after their split, delighting fans but leaving critics divided.

Agnetha, Bjorn, Benny and Anni-Frid – forming the acronym ABBA – haven’t released any new music since their split in 1982, a year after their last album The Visitors.

Voyage went live on Thursday at midnight in different time zones, much to the delight of longtime fans around the world.

“We’re just in disbelief … that this is something we might relive in our lifetime,” said Jeffrey de Hart, 62, a longtime ABBA fan, at a listening party. in Stockholm for the long-awaited release of the Swedish group.

At the ABBA museum in Stockholm, enthusiastic fans had also arrived, hoping to relive the magic of the group.

“I grew up with ABBA so for me the music and the band were important, for my growth,” Malin, a 50-year-old fan, told AFP while her mother, who had just turned 80 and had accompanied her to the museum, nodded. in agreement.

The criticisms were however divided on the return.

The American magazine Rolling Stone hailed it as “worth the wait”, while the British Guardian newspaper dismissed it with a “no thanks for the music”, a play on the title of one. of the group’s most famous songs.

‘ABBAtars’

After years of speculation and several dropped hints, the band finally announced the reunion and the new album in September, and released the singles “I Still Trust You” and “Don’t Shut Up”.

The 10 Travel Titles isn’t all the band will be releasing.

They will also unveil digital avatars – dubbed “ABBAtars” – at a concert in London in May, looking like themselves in 1979.

The holograms are the product of a multi-year project, designed in partnership with a special effects company of Star Wars creator George Lucas.

Delayed several times by technical difficulties, then by the COVID-19 pandemic, they will finally be unveiled in May.

The group first imagined the idea of ​​avatars, then the music followed suit.

In 2018, ABBA confirmed rumors that they were back in the studio and that at least two new songs were being recorded.

But great efforts have been made to keep the music a secret.

“First there was only two songs, then we said, ‘Well maybe we should do a few more’, what do you girls say and they said ‘Yeah'”, a Benny Andersson, 74, explained when the album was announced.

“Then I asked them ‘why don’t we do a full album?’” He added.

He and Bjorn Ulvaeus, 76, have been promoting the album in recent weeks, with Agnetha Faltskog, 71, and Anni-Frid Lyngstad, 75, choosing to spare themselves from busy promotional programs.

All promotion was halted for 24 hours this week after two people died at a tribute concert in northern Stockholm on Tuesday night.

“The sound of ABBA”

In addition to the two songs released in September, a third track from the album was released in October, a modernized version of “Just A Notion”, originally recorded in 1978 but never released before.

Newly released songs cannot escape comparison with hits like “Waterloo”, “Dancing Queen”, “Mamma Mia”, “The Winner Takes It All” and “Money, Money, Money”, but the band members do. not afraid to disappoint. Fans.

“We don’t have to prove anything, what if people think we were better before?” Andersson told Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter.

For record stores, the release was a welcome boon.

“I have been working at the store for 10 years and have never seen anything like it. So I am really delighted to be a part of it,” Samuel Hagglund, manager of the Bengans record store in Stockholm, told AFP. .

For Swedish fan Peter Palmquist, the new album struck the right note between the old and the new.

“It’s true to the sound of ABBA, but it’s not nostalgia, staying where they are but for the people they’ve become,” he said.

According to Jean-Marie Potiez, one of the group’s best-known international experts, age has given some singers a new edge.

“Agnetha and Anni-Frid’s voices lost their highs, which is normal considering their age, but they gained depth and sensitivity.”

“When they sing together, the two of them, like on ‘Don’t Shut Me Down’, that’s ABBA’s sound.”

Despite two divorces – Bjorn and Agnetha and Benny and Anni-Frid had both been married for several years – the four have remained good friends.

But Voyage, the group’s ninth studio album, will indeed be their last, confirmed the group’s two B’s in an interview with The Guardian at the end of October.

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