Anyone who knows me knows I love David Bowie and Abba. Today, Voyage, the first new Abba album in 40 years is released and I am beyond excited. In fact, I haven’t been this excited about a release since Blackstar came out two days before Bowie departed.
But let’s talk Abba. Voyage is a clever title. Have we been travelling with them? Is it all their experiences in the last four decades that have led them to this? In an exclusive BBC Breakfast interview with Benny and Bjorn, Bjorn is clear that this album is goodbye. Benny says he could be persuaded if the other three wanted to do another one. It was never their intention to do an album. They originally did a couple of songs for the Abbatars show. And then another couple and another couple until they had an album.
We have already heard three tracks from the album. Two released on the same day when they launched the news about the album and the specially built stadium for the Abbatars. I did get swept up in the hype and bought the album in every colour vinyl as well as a CD version and CD singles. Actually, the only format I didn’t buy is the cassette. I was never a fan of the cassette tape. All that forwarding and rewinding. All that getting a pencil to wind it back in when it got chewed. No thanks.
But I am excited about the new music. I Still Have Faith In You was the first track I heard. It is a positive affirmation and my interpretation of the lyrics are can Abba still do it? Yes, they have it in them. Of course, the lyrics are ambiguous so it could be anyone saying you can do it, for any situation and that is the beauty of this song. Lovely harmonies from the girls too. Am I still allowed to call them girls? They are now mature women. Don’t Shut Me Down tells a story but feels much more dancey. I like it and it feels it would happily fit onto the visitors album. One of the lyrics is ‘I’m not the same this time around’. We need to remember it has been 40 years and that our expectations shouldn’t be the same as they were back in 1980. We have all changed and grown. I really do like this song and both songs are giving an uplifting tone even if they both have a different feel. Just A Notion. Some songs are growers and some you fall in love with on first listen. This was the latter for me. I love it so much and it’s a true earworm. I was humming it for days afterwards. I absolutely adore it and already I am wondering if it will be my favourite song on the album before I have heard the full album. It’s a joyous happy song with perfect harmonies and that unmistakable Abba sound.
But these three we had heard before the album release today. I have written the below on my first listen to the other tracks but I could well be subject to change my mind as Abba can do that to you.
When You Danced With Me has a folky feel. It’s very ‘Benny’. It has a feel of The Way Old Friends Do and is certainly one you could play around Hogmanay. Keep An Eye On Dan is very electronic. My interpretation of the words is a divorced couple who share custody of their son. The harmonies are great but there isn’t a real hook to this song even with the end bars sounding like SOS. It’s a filler for me. I Can Be That Woman is another song with negative connotations about a bad relationship. Once again, it’s very wordy rather than having a catchy tune. The voices are beautiful but because it’s so negative it’s not one I will be playing on repeat. Bumblebee is not about a transformer. It really is a song about bumblebees in your garden. Another song with no real tune. It’s not one you will be humming.
Little Things is a Christmas song and it is really sweet. You know this will be played every Christmas from now on. No Doubt About It is upbeat and feels needed after so many slow tracks. It’s certainly one you can sing along to and besides the three that have already been released, this is my favourite. Ode To Freedom feels almost classical and a good end to the album.
When all is said and done (did you see what I did there?) I feel a little disappointed. I wanted more upbeat tracks to dance to. More positive tracks that I was expecting after the initial releases, but instead I feel a bit sad that this is the goodbye. So many tracks that feel they have used The Winner Takes It All as a blueprint. I don’t feel I will be singing along to many of these. Just a notion remains my favourite on the album and maybe that is because it is ‘Old’ Abba.
Don’t get me wrong, I am grateful for this new album, but maybe the expectations were too high. The hype too much. What did I expect? I honestly don’t know but the girls can still sing and there are good lyrics but the tunes are absent in some tracks for me. I think after such a gap its hard to love something the same way. I grew up with Abba. They are a part of my own history. My own life. I too am now a grown woman so I think any album would not have the same impact as those from the late 70’s. Voyage will not overtake my favourite albums which fluctuate between Voulez Vous, Super Trouper and Abba – The Album.
These are my first impressions after only one listen. I may well change my mind after listen number two, so don’t shut me down just yet. What do you think of the album? Drop me a line to let me know. I’m just going off to play Just A Notion once more.