When ABBA dropped two singles on Sept. 2 of this year and announced that a studio album would be coming in November, I was ecstatic. I consider myself a pretty dedicated ABBA fan; the “Mamma Mia!” soundtrack is my favorite to listen to on road trips, my “Best of ABBA” vinyl is one of the favorites I own, and I know that the band name is an acronym of all the member’s names (fun fact!).
Before I get into the album review portion of this piece, here’s some background information on the band; ABBA is a Swedish pop group that was formed in 1972 by members Agnetha Fältskog, Björn Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson and Anni-Frid Lyngstad. The group found its fame as Sweden’s first winner of the Eurovision Song Contest in 1974 with their song “Waterloo,” and they eventually separated in December 1982. In 1999, ABBA’s music was adapted into the musical “Mamma Mia!” and a movie of the same name was released in 2008; the sequel, “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again,” was released in 2018. The band has now released nine studio albums.
ABBA’s new album, called “Voyage,” came out on Nov. 5 and is their first studio album to be released in exactly 40 years, down to the month. There are 10 songs, and the run time of the album is 37 minutes 9 seconds, so it makes for a fairly short listen. The first song, “I Still Have Faith In You,” is a slower-paced piano ballad about the bonds between the band members that have matured and survived over the years. “When You Danced With Me” is a nostalgic song about dancing with an old lover, complete with bagpipe instrumentals; it’s my second favorite song on the album. The third song “Little Things” is about Christmas and holiday cheer, with an outro from a children’s choir, and in my opinion was an odd choice to include in the album. If you’re going to listen to any song off this album though, listen to the next track: “Don’t Shut Me Down,” my absolute favorite from this album. The song begins more orchestral, but bursts into a 70s-esque disco rhythm. This song, about transforming and growing into a new you, is a worthy throwback to ABBA’s old music. “Just A Notion” takes the listener back a couple decades with a more 50s style doo-wop piano and is about that funny feeling you get when you start developing a crush on someone. The sixth track “I Can Be That Woman” is a more sobering addition to the album about a relationship that has soured and the couple realizing that a change needs to happen to make it work. The next song has a serious theme as well; “Keep An Eye On Dan” is about a child of divorce getting dropped off at his dad’s for the weekend and the mom’s reminder for the father to take care of him. Song eight, “Bumblebee,” is about, well, a bumblebee in a garden and the gardener’s concern for climate change’s effect on the insect. Electric guitar and funky percussion propel “No Doubt About It,” my third favorite on the album, which is about picking fights in a relationship when there is no reason to. The tenth and final song “Ode to Freedom” features soaring violins and a yearning for true equality and freedom.
“Voyage” has been my most-listened to album this month, and I hope that you give it a chance and listen through it. Overall, I would rate the album a 7.8. I like almost all the songs, but not many of them remind me of the catchy, still-popular disco ballads that ABBA was known for back in the 70s and 80s.