In my imagination, it went down something like this, On a zoom call to discuss their corporate investment portfolio, the four members of ABBA get to talking about how amazing it is that people are still clamoring for a new album after 40 years. Can you imagine what that would be like? Like going to your High School reunion and seeing that the hot cheerleader you lusted after now looks like the lunch lady. Someone else counters, well, MY lunch lady was pretty hot. Finally, someone says the unthinkable; we’re all still alive and functioning. If we give them another album maybe they’ll realize we’re all grandparents now and stop pestering us.
In my imagination, that’s how Voyage, the first album on new music from ABBA in 40 years came to be. So what did ABBA come up with for their comeback? Well the good news is that Agnetha and Anni-Frid still sound great singing, g together. Bjorn and Benny haven’t forgotten how to write songs. The opening track, “I Still Have Faith in You” is something of a mission statement. “I still have faith in you, do I have it in me?” The song is a slow meditation remembering the good old days and questioning if they can still do it. The answer is, yes, sort of.
It would be unfair to expect to hear something like “Dancing Queen.” If ABBA came back singing about being ‘young and sweet, only 17, “ it would ring false. Instead, we get “When You Danced With Me.” The song is full of nostalgia for the younger days. ABBA musters a semblance of their harmonic glory, but do so at a slower pace.
ABBA doesn’t get their “Waterloo” groove on until half way through the record. “Just A Notion,” works up a good mid tempo groove with catchy piano solos and nifty orchestration. The penultimate song, “No Doubt About It” comes closest to the carefree, upbeat vibe of the old days, although the lyrics are about aging and doubt.
Maybe it’s my cynical nature, but a lot of the new songs sound like they belong in a musical. “Little Things” and “I Can Be That Woman’ would work as nice character development pieces. The up-tempo, “Keep An Eye On Dan,” feels like part of a lager story. The album closes with “Ode to Freedom.” I imagine the full cast coming out to sing this song as the wrap up, closing number of a show.
Considering how well Mama Mia has done as a stage musical, maybe it’s not so far fetched to imagine Voyage as the skeleton for a new show. Maybe something about the kids from Mama Mia now being parents seeing their own kids get married. I dunno. It could work.