Sunday, December 5

New songs: This is how ABBA sounds 39 years later | Culture

We can attribute it to the Nordic character, to an excessive commercial zeal or to an absence of the feeling of nostalgia; Whatever the reason, ABBA’s legacy is a rare treasure in the history of the music industry. Apart from their accurate songs, much of what the mythical quartet represents is explained by their break of almost four decades: for those who did not experience their success, they are an entelechy. For the most veteran, the memory of a happy past, not clouded with doubtful returns. Knowing how the business spends them, it would have been easy to run into a fake reincarnation with young singers or some sad reunion tour, if not with some song hastily composed to thicken compilations, but it has not happened. Up to now. This September 2, ABBA has released two new songs, the first in 39 years.

And yet the initials of their names (Agnetha, Björn, Benny and Anni-Frid) have not stopped being pronounced. With special emphasis on 2008, when the film was released Oh mama!starring Meryl Streep, Pierce Brosnan and Colin Firth (the musical had been released three years earlier). In all this time they have not stopped publishing records. Gold-Greatest hits (1992) was number one of sales in the United Kingdom; In this century six compilation albums have seen the light, the last of them, Live at Wembley Arena (2014), recorded live. But it seems that Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson (composers of the material) are among those who do not get up from the couch if there is no good reason. They had no need to get to work together again, but at the same time it is surprising that they have not.

In its heyday, ABBA was the sum of two married couples, Agnetha and Björn, Frida and Benny. Their respective divorces affected the coexistence in the group and precipitated its end. Fältskog, who was married between 1971 and 1980 to Ulvaeus, stated four years ago that “we at ABBA were all very tired, and after our divorces there was no reason to stay together.” When they stopped recording as a band in 1982, Ulvaeus and Andersson stepped out of the spotlight and focused on composing musicals (and keeping their copyrights under lock and key). For their part, Agnetha and Frida, about whom he planned a supposed rivalry that they always denied, obtained discreet solo repercussions, and that despite the fact that they surrounded themselves with enlightened collaborators, such as Phil Collins, Peter Cetera (Chicago), Eric Stewart ( 10cc) or Jon Lord (Deep Purple). ABBA’s shadow, even in dry dock, was more intense than their four separate personalities.

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In 2016, sagacious record entrepreneur Simon Fuller (former Spice Girls manager and creator of American Idol) proposed something to them that encouraged them to get up from their chairs: a tour with holograms, inspired by the virtual concert of Tupac (who died in 1996) at Coachella in 2012. The amount has not transpired, but anyone can get an idea considering that in 2004 confessed that they had rejected an offer of 2 billion dollars to return to the stage. The avant-garde touch of the project seduced them. Benny Andersson stated to Billboard in 2016: “We are inspired by the limitless possibilities of what the future holds and we love being a part of creating something new and dramatic; a time machine that captures the essence of who we were and who we are ”.

A big screen in Stockholm broadcast the ABBA launch live.
A big screen in Stockholm broadcast the ABBA launch live.Fredrik Persson / AP

But the tour was postponed, and then the pandemic came, forcing it to be delayed once again. What was new in 2016 is not so new: concerts have been organized with holograms by Roy Orbison, Frank Zappa, Whitney Houston, Ronnie James Dio, Buddy Holly or Amy Winehouse. All deceased. Why not a tour with the members of ABBA in person, still in the realm of the living? As Andersson explained to EL PAÍS in 2018, they want to “maintain contact with the fans without riding the bus”. Now ABBA Travel is announced for 2022.

The two songs were premiered this Thursday at an event on line that have been followed by more than 230,000 people live around the world. During the special program, the members of the group have revealed that both songs, whose titles we have known since 2018, will be part of a new album that will be released on November 5. The first of those songs I still have faith in you, is an emotional ballad with a complex structure that seems to be taken from a musical. Céline Dion and Barbra Streisand could sing it equally well. Don’t shut me downOn the contrary, it is a 100% brand of the house: subtly danceable and with romantic arrangements, it could have been part of any of their albums from the late seventies. They have already warned during the event: “We do not intend to compete with Drake.” Your lifelong followers will surely thank you.

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