Ignoring decades of music trends, ABBA is making the music they need to make. Do they still have it in them? Lead-single I Still Have Faith In You would suggest so. Even if they still have it in them, the immediate question on everyone's mind will be, “what does ABBA sound like after a 40-year break?” Well, their new music has an appropriate weightiness to it. “I Still Have Faith In You” opens with orchestrated horns. It was emotionally triggering for me, and it sounds like the climax of a heart-wrenching romantic movie—the leading role suddenly understanding that they're in love.
It all comes down to love. Do I have it in me?
But as much as I'd love this to be a review of ABBA's new album, at the moment, it's just my thoughts on their two new singles (the album isn't out for another few months).
Firstly the good news. If you hadn't guessed—I'm delighted with the leading single “I Still Have Faith In You”. Considering their age and legacy, any new music needed to be more of a deep ballad in the vein of Our Last Summer or Thank You for the Music. I Still Have Faith In You is just that. Its big orchestration says “legacy and class” rather than upbeat pop, which would have gone down like “we're desperately trying to recapture our youth”.
The horns and strings are luscious and perfectly intro Anni-Frid's now-older lead vocals (apparently, both singers have come down one tone over 40 years). I'll be honest; I was a little trepidatious on my first listen because I thought they might have overmilked the orchestra. Still, it soon bursts into a huge—and delightfully powerful—chorus that you're not expecting from a band this age. The power-chorus is quintessentially ABBA, and at that moment, I indeed knew they still had it.
I Believe It Would Be Fair To Say
I’m less impressed by the second single, “Don't Shut Me Down”. I mean… it's fine, but this sounds more like a typical mid-tempo ABBA album track. It has an odd synth-bass line that sounds dated, and I think they should have left this one for the album. It picks up at the last minute, but on the whole, it's underwhelming as a single. I think they should have just released I Still Have Faith In You for a cleaner impact.
What Is ABBA’s Legacy?
On a final note, I think it's only fair to mention I'm a fairly recent ABBA fan. Like the Beatles, I had written them off as a shitty cheesy 70s pop band throughout my youth. Still, when I approached them with the right frame of mind, I soon realised their genius—and when I say frame of mind, I mean Wikipedia'ing the shit out of them and listening to their albums sequentially in full.
Besides having at least 5 top-tier albums of pop mastery, the relationship dynamic between the four band members was similar to Fleetwood Mac recording Rumours—it drove them to their best music. What makes ABBA so good? Their hard-hitting lyrics are hidden behind pop music a la Taylor Swift. Just listen to If It Wasn't for the Nights on Voulez-Vous—some dark lyrics right there; pun unintended.
If—like me-five-years-ago—you currently have ABBA pigeon-holed as Eurovision-funk-pop losers your parents listen to (no offence mum and dad), then I implore you to put your prejudice aside and approach them afresh. You can start by listening to Arrival on loop a few times, before progressing to The Album.
So far, ABBA confidently Voyage into the twenty-first century. The new tracks are a weighty continuation of sound, and I’m excited about the new album.