ABBA is perhaps one of the most iconic Swedish bands and pop acts of all time. I was born about 10 years after their split-up and I am still super familiar with their whole body of work. I don’t think there is a radio station on this planet that hasn’t played at least one ABBA song, nor a karaoke bar in town that hasn’t had people performing one of their many, many hits. Most of the world had probably given up on a reunion of ABBA and found peace in their still-relevant songs, yet the Swedish pop quartet took the world by surprise and announced a new full-length album, to be released in November, and unleashed two new ABBA songs unto the world last week.
ABBA hosted a mysterious livestream for fans to announce a few things and introduce the new singles to the world. Admittedly, when the first new song, “I Still Have Faith In You,” started playing, I didn’t entirely realize it was a new song. It just sounded so much like the authentic ABBA, having most of their iconic sound intact, as well as Agnetha Fältskog and Anni-Frid Lyngstad‘s melancholic vocal sound, harmonizing beautifully together just like we remember. “I Still Have Faith In You” is an epic, slow track that has a big, stadium-like chorus and even though it is perhaps not the most catchy song the band has put out (think “Mamma Mia”), somehow the song contains so many hooks and memorable lines, that it doesn’t have to be an up-tempo bouncy, disco hit – it’s melancholic, epic, and exactly what you would expect from a return from the iconic pop band.
The dedicated fans who completed the whole livestream were surprised by yet another new ABBA song, bringing more nostalgia to the households of many fans alike. “Don’t Shut Me Down” turned out to be an excellent addition, more in the vein of classic ABBA – less epic, but no less catchy. A certain simplicity sets the tone in the verses, but behind the beautiful melodies lie complicated the vocal melodies that we are used to. The verse makes room for an up-tempo, funky bridge, leading up to a motivational chorus and some lovely instrumental work.
Are these tracks the best work that ABBA has ever done? Perhaps not, but it does feel like they just picked up where they had left off. Everything sounds nostalgic; not only the vocals, but also the instrumentation and, most notably, the production. There is something so innocent and pure about the way these tracks are produced, showcasing the imperfections of the somewhat aged vocals of Agnetha Fältskog and Anni-Frid Lyngstad, contrasted with a modern approach, in which the music has taken another direction; more plastic, seemingly perfect. But behind the surface of modern day music, a lot of its authenticity has faded away, and after all, isn’t there a certain beauty in imperfection?