Swedish pop band ABBA is set to return to the stage this November — or, at least their digital avatars are. The ABBA Voyage concert, to be held in a custom-built arena in London, will feature a performance by the band’s specially-created digital avatars, accompanied by a live band. This week, in honor of the band’s long-awaited reunion, I’m listening to ABBA.
Agnetha Fältskog, Björn Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson and Anni-Frid “Frida” Lyngstad — otherwise known by the initials, ABBA — became pop superstars in the ’70s. Iconic tracks like “Mamma Mia,” “Dancing Queen” and “Waterloo” rocketed the group to stardom. The 1999 stage musical “Mamma Mia!” and subsequent movie adaptations “Mamma Mia!” (2008) and “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again” (2018) further cemented their place as pop culture icons.
From girl-power punches to dance-all-night hits to heartfelt ballads, the music of ABBA remains timeless. Tongue-in-cheek humor and dry-wit in songs like “Money, Money, Money,” “Dancing Queen” and “Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight)” offer a sense of delicious audacity. Even 40 years later, there is liberation in ABBA’s embrace of a woman’s desire — for money, men or otherwise.
Beyond the flashing lights of the dance floor, ABBA has always had a softer side, too. Songs like “Slipping Through My Fingers” are dedicated to the wonder and pain of motherhood, of how childhood always seems to go by too fast. Yet, even when vulnerable, ABBA always offers a touch of lightness — never too much, never too little; everything is always just right.
In anticipation of the release of Voyage, a 10-track album to be performed at the live ABBA Voyage concert series, the band previewed two tracks: “I Still Have Faith In You” and “Don’t Shut Me Down.” If you find your faith wavering after all these years, let me reassure you — these tracks are classic ABBA at their best, through and through.
Voyage is not just special for its promise of potential, but for its offer of the completely unexpected. After the unofficial band breakup in 1983, it had seemed the group was done for good — as Lyngstad put it in 2014, “No amount of money would change our minds.”
With this in mind, “I Still Have Faith In You” feels all the more heartfelt — a song about the apprehension of reunion, and simultaneously, the firm reassurance of four great talents, hearts and minds coming together again to do what they do best. From the hesitant opening question, “Do I have it in me?” the track switches to a triumphant declaration of “and we still have it in us / we’ve only just arrived.”
“Don’t Shut Me Down” feels wonderfully familiar, bringing in a funky beat and coaxing dialogue, reminiscent of fan-favorite “Take A Chance On Me.” It’s a song about a lover returning, a new person ready to try again.
“And now you see another me, I’ve been reloaded, yeah / I’m fired up, don’t shut me down”: The track offers a satisfying dose of ABBA’s brand of endearing, playful lyrics and empathetic storytelling, all wrapped up in a dance-floor-worthy track.
This week, spend some time with ABBA. Whether it’s listening to the classics, or testing the waters of Voyage, this is a show that never disappoints. After all, this time, there’s only one thing left to say: Thank you for the music.
Daily Arts Writer Madeleine Virginia Gannon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.