Review: ABBA’s ‘Voyage’ revives the band’s iconic sound
The internationally beloved Swedish pop group is bringing the 1970s back.
November 12, 2021
Swedish pop group ABBA’s triumphant return is marked by the release of their first album in 40 years. The album, titled “Voyage,” is a 37-minute escape to 1970s nostalgia. Despite the band’s decades-long hiatus, they haven’t lost their iconic sound. When the quartet — comprising Agnetha Fältskog, Björn Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson and Anni-Frid Lyngstad — first debuted nearly 50 years ago, their music was an instant international hit, providing the soundtracks for the successful “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 ominous “Keep An Eye On Dan” trickles out with a piano melody identical to that in “SOS.” In addition, “Just A Notion” is basically the band’s 21st-century “Waterloo,” characterized by its upbeat jive, highlighting just how youthful the quartet’s voices still sound.
Just like ABBA’s previous work, “Voyage” strikes the perfect balance between soothing ballads and energetic pop anthems. Some songs are a harmonious blend of both. “Don’t Shut Me Down” features a dreamy, lullaby-like verse before a vocal slide launches the song into an upbeat, toe-tapping chorus. And though it doesn’t quite possess the same infectious energy as “Mamma Mia” or “Dancing Queen,” the track contains a vitality expressed as they belt, “And now you see another me, I’ve been reloaded, yeah / I’m fired up, don’t shut me down.”
In addition to being an homage to ABBA’s past, the new album’s cover art features an image of an eclipse, a nod to futuristic space-odyssey aesthetics. The last track, “Ode To Freedom,” is recognized as a composition in the style of a classical waltz, but it includes grandiose interludes reminiscent of a science-fiction film score. Additionally, “Keep An Eye On Dan” features retro-sounding synths conjuring 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 sounds like a clock counting down.
One of the album’s defining traits is its eclectic mix of sounds and themes. Its peaceful eighth track, “Bumblebee,” is evocative of a national anthem, opening with a flowing high-pitched flute melody as the band muses over the delicate state of the earth. They croon, “It’s quite absurd this summer morning / To think we could be trapped / Inside a world where all is changing / Too fast for bumblebees to adapt,” providing a gentle commentary on climate change.
What makes this new release so exceptional is ABBA’s refusal to trade its signature sound for a more modern one. While the quartet has faced some backlash for their outdated sonics, it would be foolish to expect a hyperpop dance album from a Swedish band from the ’70s, especially one with such an iconic, irreplaceable sound. But for those longing for more authentic ABBA music — perhaps enough to fuel a third “Mamma Mia!” film — “Voyage” is sure to please.
Contact Candace Patrick at [email protected]