How does Abba's new album ‘Voyage’ rate?

Jean Claude Elias
Jean-Claude Elias (Phoot: Jordan News)
Abba's ninth studio album, Voyage, has just been released. Coming after a 40-year hiatus by the supergroup that hails from Sweden, this release is the pop music event of the second half of this year. Virtually every media outlet in the world has covered the new release, either from a purely musical angle or just from a breaking news angle.اضافة اعلان

How good is the music that has kept everybody talking this week?

The music industry has accustomed us to the carefully calculated comebacks of big stars. From a marketing and financial viewpoint, and despite the intrinsic and objective quality of the newly crafted contents, such resurrections do work. After all, aging big stars have their (also aging) faithful fans and followers from their heyday, who are always ready, not to say dying (no dark pun intended), to listen to whatever their favorite acts from days past have come up with. Among Abba's fans is the writer of this article.

Abba’s new album, Voyage, which comes after a 40-year hiatus. (Photo: Classic Pop Magazine)

Abba has not released any studio albums between The Visitors in 1981 and this year. But, the band received a major booster in 2008 and 2018 with the two Mamma Mia! blockbuster musicals that featured their best songs from previous releases, performed by the movies' cast.

Along with the album, several events are planned to present the new songs. Concerts are expected to take place in 2022, but the details are yet to be announced.

So far, the international media have given Voyage an average rating, with only the British newspaper The Independent giving it a full five stars out of five, while at the other end, The Guardian found that two or three stars were enough. Interestingly, Rolling Stone, a music magazine that tends to favor rock artists purely, has given Voyage four stars.

The album consists of 10 new songs. The beauty and irresistible charm of the voices of Anni-Frid Lyngstad (or Frida) and Agnetha Fältskog is unaltered. Their technical singing skills are just as great and impressive as before. Perhaps, the voices have lost just a little of their treble at the higher end of the spectrum in terms of sonic frequency. This, however, did not affect the beauty of their performance in any way. After all, you can't have at 70 the exact voice you had when you were 30! It just wouldn't sound natural if you tried.

A photo of wax statues of Abba at ABBA The Museum. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

From a listening perspective, Voyage is a real pleasure, regardless of if you are a die-hard Abba fan or have just been introduced to their music. Listen without prejudice, without trying to analyze, evaluate or criticize, and you will be rewarded with a marvelous, heart-warming sound.

The musical arrangements, the background vocals, in particular, the musicians' performance, and the technical production all shine. This album presents an excellent vintage Abba at their very best. The two composers, the two male members of Abba, Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus, show us, one more time, how talented they are and confirm that Abba truly deserves to be referred to as an iconic band.

The album opens with I Still Have Faith in You, sung by Frida. From the onset, Abba's signature is here, putting a smile on the face of anyone who can appreciate non-nonsense pop songs and good sound.

The song, Don't Shut Me Down received the most hits from their new album on streaming platforms. In only four days, between November 5, the album release date, and November 9, it was played 35 million times! The song is a typical Abba number, reminiscent of their sound, beat, and orchestral arrangements. Agnetha takes the leading vocals in the song.

Songs vary from slow and soft to more upbeat. Lyrics speak of growing older, divorce, being free, longing for the past, and enjoying life. They are sweet and pleasant. Some will find them cheesy. But, for most listeners, the words just do not matter as much as the music does. This is how it has been since the beginning with Abba.

A photo of Abba from 1979. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Bumblebee, track eight on the album, is a slow, subtle tune with minimalist instrumental parts that beautifully support the angel-like voice of Frida. The harmonies provided by Agnetha present Abba's instantly recognizable trademark.

Voyage is in no way a musical revolution, and it does not necessarily have to be one. Whether any of the songs will become a major hit like Money, Money, Money, Knowing Me Knowing You, The Winner Takes It All, or Dancing Queen, it remains to be seen. Only time will tell.

The new studio album comes as a nice continuity in the Abba saga that started back in 1973, almost 50 years ago! More than half of the songs recorded here are above average, and again, the two ladies' voices give you the same listening pleasure as they used to years ago. Songwriters Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus still know how to write well-structured, fine new melodies, complemented with exquisite vocal harmonies, and make first-class recordings in the studio.

Few returning acts can claim, or are able to, achieve the same. So I wholeheartedly give the album 4.5 stars out of 5. And not just because I am an Abba fan.

Jean-Claude Elias is a computer engineer by trade, and a trained pianist and guitarist. He has been regularly writing IT articles, reviewing music albums, and covering concerts, for more than 30 years. 

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