ABBA unveil 2 new songs, announce upcoming album and virtual concert series during global livestream event
Thank you (again) for the music, ABBA!
The iconic Swedish pop band, best known for beloved classics like "Dancing Queen" and "Mamma Mia," shared two brand-new songs and announced an upcoming album and virtual concert during a YouTube livestream on Thursday.
During the global event, ABBA members Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson signed on live from London to unveil a video for the group's new song "I Still Have Faith in You" that boasted a montage of images from past performances and cuts to glowing orbs and stars. The pair later debuted a second song, "Don't Shut Me Down," after revealing that their first LP in four decades will be titled Voyage. The album, out Nov. 5, will contain 10 new tracks and be followed by a spring 2022 concert series, ABBA Voyage, featuring ABBA avatars (or, "ABBA-tars") and a real-life 10-piece band performing in a custom-built arena at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London.
ABBA disciples have been eagerly awaiting fresh material from the 1970s pop quartet — made up of Ulvaeus, Andersson, Agnetha Fältskog, and Anni-Frid Lyngstad, a.k.a. Frida — since they split up in 1983, and this week they finally got it.
Premiering "I Still Have Faith in You" — a nostalgic ode to the foursome's lasting friendship, complete with the lyrics "Do I have it in me/I know it is in there/I know I have a bittersweet song in the memories we share" — Andersson said, "It's about realizing that it's inconceivable to be where we are. No imagination could dream up that, to release an album after 40 years and still be the best of friends, and still be enjoying each other's company, and have a total loyalty. Who has experienced that? Nobody."
Watching the montage and recalling the group's reunion in the studio, Ulvaeus said, "The bonds that we have were so clear. It was great. It all came rushing back in a matter of seconds… We went into the studio knowing that if we didn't think it was up to scratch, we would never release it. So we're proud of it."
Andersson described Voyage as "a mixture of everything," including a Christmas tune. "There's a certain depth to it," he explained, "a lot of experience and a lot of years in there that I hope people can hear."
"We never looked at what the charts look like today — we never speculated," said Ulvaeus. "We decided to… record the songs the best we could." Added Andersson, "We're not competing with Drake," reasoning that they couldn't even if they wanted to "because we don't know what the modern pop artists are doing."
The LP's other new cut, "Don't Shut Me Down," is a more upbeat affair that recalls what many consider ABBA's most treasured hit, "Dancing Queen." It includes bracing lines like "I'm like a dream within a dream that's been decoded/I'm fired up/Don't shut me down" and "I've learned to cope and love and hope/That's why I'm here now."
The ABBA Voyage concert series, which kicks off May 27, will incorporate special motion-capture technology that documented the band member's movements, mannerisms, and singing for five weeks in Stockholm to reimagine them in digital form.
"What you're going to see when you come to this show is actually us," said Ulvaeus, adding, "We've been longing for this for such a long time." Joked Andersson, "We wanted to do it before we were dead."
Describing the recording and motion-capture process, Ulvaeus said, "We got so used to going there each day. It was like going to work… even though we looked ridiculous in our leotards."
The concerts will feature the "ABBA-tars" belting out a set of 22 songs and will serve as mostly a greatest-hits spectacles; while attendees will enjoy two new tracks, the group began the motion-capture process before the rest of their new album was written. The "ABBA-tars" were designed by Industrial Light and Magic, the visual effects company founded by George Lucas.
"Agnetha, Frida, Benny, and Bjorn got on stage in front of 160 cameras and almost as many VFX geniuses, and they performed every song in this show, to perfection, over five weeks," said producer Ludvig Andersson in a pre-recorded interview during Thursday's event.
ABBA announced they had regrouped in 2016 and then revealed in 2018 that they had plans to release new music. Despite recording "I Still Have Faith in You" and "Don't Shut Me Down" that year, the group pushed back the release date of the promised tracks multiple times, partly because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In May of this year, Ulvaeus stated in an interview with The Herald Sun that it was "definite" the group would release new music in 2021, adding, "It will happen." On Thursday, it finally did.
ABBA formed in 1972, but it wasn't until they won the Eurovision Song Contest in 1974 with their breakthrough hit, "Waterloo," that they took the world by storm. They were Sweden's first winner of the competition and quickly became one of the most commercially successful groups in pop music history, topping the charts all around the globe (they topped the U.K. album chart eight consecutive times, alone) and selling some 150 million records worldwide. They remain one of the best-selling acts of all time.
The band began teasing Voyage on August 26, when a website and social media accounts sporting the name popped up online. Until Thursday's big reveal, the site and accounts merely pointed to the date and time of the livestream — Sept. 2 — and featured a cryptic image of four glowing rings.
Although this is the first time the group has released new music since the '80s, ABBA has collaborated on various projects over the years, including the stage musical-turned-blockbuster-movie Mamma Mia! and its sequel, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, as well as a 50th-anniversary appearance at a party at the Berns Salonger hotel in downtown Stockholm in June 2016.
The first two singles from Voyage, "I Still Have Faith in You" and "Don't Shut Me Down," are available to stream right now. You can preorder Voyage the album on AbbaVoyage.com. Tickets for ABBA Voyage go on sale Sept. 7.