When I received a text from my mom a week ago about ABBA’s new album “Voyage,” I immediately stopped what I was doing and went to Spotify.
I’ve been a fan of ABBA since I first listened to “Waterloo” on my Barbie MP3 player in the late 2000s, so you can imagine my excitement when I heard they released their first new material in 40 years.
The album started out strong with the heartfelt power ballad “I Still Have Faith in You,” which supposedly attests to the band’s strong bond over the years despite two internal divorces and the group’s split in 1982. I felt hopeful the old ABBA was still alive and well. The four members’ voices had barely changed, and “I Still Have Faith in You” is reminiscent of the caliber of their old work and their style.
But as I continued to listen, I was a bit surprised. Songs like “No Doubt About It” and “Ode to Freedom” did not emulate the ABBA I once knew. They weren’t as quirky, and they didn’t emulate what I would describe as the galactic style you would find in their bigger hits like “Dancing Queen” and “Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight).”
That does not mean I found those songs terrible or nausea-inducing. It was quite the opposite. It was just the set of circumstances. Had I listened to these outside of my expectations for the album, I might have been more open-minded.
And yet there were songs that reminded me of sitting in my playhouse in the summer sun with my earbuds in and my Barbie MP3 player in my tiny hands. “Just a Notion” has the same upbeat and bluesy style as their 1976 song “Why Did It Have to Be Me?” As I discovered afterward, “Just a Notion” was written in the late ‘70s but was shelved until now. And when “Bumblebee” started to play, it immediately called to mind the soft beginning of ABBA’s 1976 song “Fernando.”
I felt a little disappointed with some songs, but the album is still worth a listen. It’s still very good; it just had too many genius precedents. We expected too much from a group that separated in the early ’80s.
It was impossible to preserve the style of ABBA when the four members went their separate ways. Reunion albums have been done before but typically with mediocre results. And we were fools to think we would get a different result with ABBA.
The album does get more personal than previous ones, especially with “I Can Be That Woman,” which is about someone who dealt with an addiction, according to Apple Music. One of the members, Benny Andersson, spoke up about his former alcohol addiction a couple years ago.
“Keep An Eye on Dan” deals with divorce and children as all the members have experienced divorce.
Overall, the album has performed well. It topped charts this week in the UK and earned the most sales in a first week in the UK since Ed Sheeran’s album “Divide” in 2017, according to the BBC.