Anchor Staff Writer
Looking for another emotional album to stream after “Red” (Taylor’s Version)? Swedish pop group ABBA joined the growing list of musicians releasing new albums this year on Nov. 5 with the release of their reunion album, “Voyage.” ABBA was formed in 1972 by married couples Agnetha Faltskog and Bjorn Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson and Anni-Frid Lyngstad. The group became a global success in 1976, when singles like “Dancing Queen” and their fourth album, “Arrival” were released, topping charts everywhere.
ABBA mostly released upbeat and danceable songs earlier in their career. This helped them to gain a reputation as two happy couples making music together. This reputation was tarnished after Faltskog and Ulvaeus divorced in 1979, then completely ruined after the 1981 divorce of Lyngstad and Andersson. ABBA released what fans thought was their final album, “The Visitors,” in 1981 before breaking up in 1982.
ABBA’s music is still present in international media after their breakup. They inspired the 1999 musical “Mamma Mia!,” which was later adapted into a 2008 movie of the same name. The movie, starring Amanda Seyfried and Meryl Streep helped bring 20th century hits to 21st century audiences. ABBA themselves were not active again until the release of their new album, “Voyage,” this November. “Voyage” strays from the happy-go-lucky feel of most other ABBA albums, but dives into the group’s personal lives like “The Visitors.”
“The Visitors” left ABBA fans with a bitter taste in their mouths. Unlike their previous albums, “The Visitors” tackles darker and more personal subjects like divorce, parenthood and even the effects of the Cold War. Gloomy feelings were present among the group throughout the making of the album. According to ABBA’s official website, Lyngstad and Andersson announced their divorce only four weeks before recording the album. Their separation was memorialized in the song “When All Is Said And Done”. The song seems to be pleasant thanks to its quick tempo and major key, but its lyrics hint towards a more melancholy meaning, especially in the lines, “Standing calmly at the crossroads, no desire to run/Neither you nor I’m to blame when all is said and done.” Also on ABBA’s official website, Lyngstad notes, “All my sadness was captured in that song.”
Forty years later, ABBA has remained consistent in releasing highly personal songs. “Voyage” includes 10 songs written by Ulvaeus and Andersson. The songs will be performed at the group’s 2022 London residency, which was announced in September. Ulvaeus discusses the album in a YouTube video published by the group. He disclosed the motivation behind the album, stating that he and Andersson wanted to write about their time during the last 40 years of the group’s lives. This is reflected in almost every one of “Voyage’s” songs. The album is most similar to “The Visitors” because its songs are highly personal, but a select few still have quick tempos and major keys like most of their earlier songs did. Songs like “Don’t Shut Me Down” and “No Doubt About It” are perfect examples of this tactic. Their similarities to earlier songs seem to mask their deeper and more personal meanings.
One of “Voyage’s” more obviously personal songs is “I Still Have Faith In You,” which reflects on the group’s relationship throughout their career. The song opens with the lines, “I still have faith in you/I see it now/Through all these years, that faith lives on somehow,” communicating that even after a lengthy career that ended with two divorces, the members of ABBA still value their professional and personal relationships. They cherish the memories they’ve made throughout their successful careers. Ulvaeus comments on the song during an interview with Apple Music, stating, “When Benny played it for me, I thought, ‘This is really epic.’ It’s about us and the bonds we have, about the loyalty we have to each other, and celebrating the fantastic career that we’ve gone through.”
“Voyage” also calls back to ABBA’s early days with the song “Just A Notion”, which was recorded in 1978 and not released until 2021. “Voyage” is available on Spotify, Apple Music, and many other streaming services.