The journey to Voyage stretched over forty years — with a single tweet from the band’s sparkling new Twitter account, fans were coaxed back towards the glittering foursome who shaped seventies pop.
By September, track one was out. ‘Don’t Shut Me Down’ followed a shower of promo, including posters, the promise of a 10-track album and a “digital avatar” concert to happen in a special London arena.
The silhouette, solar eclipse feature image promised a new era of ABBA — one to reignite the disco spirit, if you will, after the peak of coronavirus. But, upon release, it toppled down with a disappointing thud, searching in the dark to find the fire they once lit the Top of the Pops stage with.
‘Don’t Let Me Down’ lit a spark, fulfilling a brief moment of optimism with its spirited pop-funk groove. In the wake of COVID, its glistening piano-synth foundation seemed exactly the kind of forward-moving energy we needed. After all, it became ABBA’s first Top 10 hit since 1981. But other than that, it pretty much fell flat.
The bittersweet opening track ‘I Still Have Faith In You’ held out hope. With the ripened voices of Agnetha and Anni-Frid, the ballad was a gentle reminder that aging is not a terrifying process. Rather, through rich string phrases, we can look wistfully back on memories and have confidence in the future, rather than fear it. Again, for a song released during a pandemic, it’s not the worst message.
However, by ‘Little Things’, the third track, things were no longer sweet and reflective. With its nursery rhyme-esque melody painting a picture of a Christmas morning, Benny came far from producing his best work. During the festive season, Christmas songs should be catchy and fun. But with this disappointing blend of cringe and overkill, it’s not something that could be “played for Christmases to come,” as Benny told Apple Music. If the melody wasn’t enough, it randomly clashes a children’s choir together with lyrics about their parents’ sex lives.
There also runs a strong theme throughout Björn and Benny’s song writing — women pining after men. It threads its way through several ABBA classics, including ‘Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!’ and ‘One Of Us’, and now weaves its way into Voyage. It’s quite painful hearing the lyrics to ‘I Can Be That Woman’ and seeing that they haven’t evolved with time:“You’re not the man you should’ve been / I let you down somehow.”
“Only we know what is fact and what is fiction about our life experiences together,” said Benny on the song to Apple Music. “It’s a kind of freedom that you get. With 70, you get that freedom.”
They’re older and more experienced, but it’s still another miserable attempt to recreate the magic Abba could once conjure with those songs. The fact of the matter is that it’s no longer the 70s.
With the album’s overall style confusion and mishmash of genre, it doesn’t get away with being diverse. Instead, it just sounds unsure of itself. ‘Just A Notion’ was chucked in at number five as a rejected track from 1978, trying to echo Abba’s glamorous, early 70s jives with little success.
Even ‘Ode To Freedom’ started out promising with an excerpt from Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake as a grand closing statement, but dribbled down the drain when its lyrics expressed the hopelessness of writing songs and words worth remembering. Aren’t ABBA a world-renowned band?
It could’ve been a voyage worth taking, but it wasn’t. It’s hard to believe when a hay day’s over, but sometimes it’s best to bask in retirement knowing your worth is still intact. Perhaps it’s as simple as this: don’t fix what ain’t broke.
Featured image credit: NME
I’ve resisted listening to ABBA’s new ‘Voyage’ tracks because their artistic genius was a special part of my formative years during the 1970s. Back then a new ABBA song was an event: ‘S.O.S.’, ‘Mamma Mia’, ‘Dancing Queen’, ‘Knowing Me, Knowing You’, ‘The Name Of The Game’ etc. were the soundtrack to my youth.
But thumbnails on YouTube of people crying (!!!) whilst listening to ‘I Still Have Faith In You’ wore me down. So I listened and my heart sank. What were they hearing that I couldn’t hear? Is the world full of competent actors who never made it in Hollywood? Is monetisation on YouTube really such a powerful driver?
Special memories glow the brightest when they remain undisturbed – but greed has set up a stall to re-sell those memories as nostalgia-candy wrapped in blandness. The last two years has shown us ‘pandemics’ of lies and greed and the music business is indeed a business. Sorry, but I’ve lost my faith.
Think you missed the point entirely, its not not overall confusion, its a journey or theirs, through all experiences. Their songs are like small stories, life stories arent about sticking to one genre. Re unite the disco spirit..? Sound like cant move on. Their in their age of 70.s. You seem stuck in the 1970s. This was not a comeback, but an album to accompany the concerts. Like they say, they have nothing to prove.
literally no one asked about your dogshit opinion
As it turns out they released the only two good songs,VERY disappointed with this album especially since the VERY long wait.Always a ABBA fan but it’s because of what they’ve done before and not this junk.
Junk? Really? It sounds like the only one whose really changed over the years is you. And rather than call these gifted musician’s work junk…. have enough tact to just say, “I don’t really care for the new material, as compared to their older songs.” Now doesn’t that sound more appropriate, you silly little freak you?
My first thought was that this reads more like “hit piece” than anything serious. Then, I noticed that it is from a college student newspaper, so, possibly, its central aim is to garner attention for itself, not attempt any credible analysis of music.
Voyage is definitely a grower! Having played it a few times on Alexa I’m enjoying listening to these new tracks which on a first listen I wasn’t too impressed with. It would seem after 40 years we have to not rely on our first impressions of new material.
I agree. Although I’ve loved ABBA for over 40 years, this album is a dud. The lyrics are too precise and formulated and not catchy. The beats are not dancible nprr driving either.
You are indeed quite the little music critic, aren’t you dear. Quite the expert on musical composition and lyrical structure. I’ll bet you’re one hell of a dancer, too…speaking of beats and all. Why don’t you do us all a favor and write us a song or two?
I enjoyed the songs in their long awaited new album. Im glad it was in the same syle as the 1970s and 1980s
I liked the compilation too ….
I don’t understand what some folk are looking for. I thought if was a gentle mix of typical Abba and reflective lyrics witb which many will resonate.
Good music, great harmonies and still the girls can sing well. Perhaps they were damned if they did and damned ic they didn’t 😱
Your too young to understand what they’re doing. This isn’t teen pop anymore. These songs are mature with wonderful messages in their lyrics. They are about setting things straight after all they’ve experienced after 70 years, give or take, of living. Their songs move me to tears, relief, happiness because they understand how the passage time changes everything.
This is your opinion ,it’s forty years later and we Abba fans are very happy that they reunited and made this album and will be having the concert we all have been waiting for ! people change and so does music ,but they still make us smile and we are happy about that !
This is a simply terribly written review, missing facts and the point behind the songs it would appear. The albums great.
You forget to mention that their album Voyage has reached no 1 all over Europe and in the USA. Not bad for a group that have been out of the charts for 40 years!!
Oh wait Abba Gold hasn’t left the charts in 25 years!
And why have you written this ‘review’ a month after it’s release?
Absolute garbage 🗑
I don’t have faith in certain so-called journalists whose opinions command no respect. It’s a COLLECTION OF SONGS not a Party Political Broadcast. Millions disagree with you.
Terrible review, clearly the person is tone deaf
Such a cynical, jaded article. The writer would never have been an ABBA fan, even at the top of their popularity. You completely missed the point.
To Brig Newspaper or whatever you are…. with regard to the negative review of Voyage by ABBA. You obviously are not, nor have ever been, an ABBA fan. In fact, according to how little you really know about the band and their style, I wouldn’t consider you to be even a casual ABBA listener over all the years. ABBA was never a band that looked to create or follow musical trends. If you ever did listen to their full albums (not just the radio hits) you would certainly already have known their own personal style and format. Each album was a unique mix of stories and beautiful yet sometimes mystifying arrangements. They never set out to quickly spin together and spit out pop hits one after the other. That was never their desire or their intention. I will tell you, that with ABBA, their well known radio hits were always just the tip of the iceberg when it came to what all the rest of the albums entailed. There are, quite simply, too many songs to mention that are too stunningly good to ever be played on radio. Some are very dark, haunting and downright bizarre….but each are gorgeously arranged and their own masterpiece. ABBA is unlike any other band in that audiences found THEM. And quite obviously over the decades, the fascination, appreciation and the admiration only intensified. ABBA did not put out “Voyage” to appeal to radio or to today’s times….and they did not put the new album out to try and satisfy or impress negative people like you. ABBA put out “Voyage” as a gift to their fans. And they did it their way….and like with everything else they’ve ever done….they did it with heart….and with class.
This reviewer is obviously not an ABBA fan and it is a very bias opinion from someone who does not have any taste in music and has a precieved idea of what ABBA’s music should sound like from only knowing their biggest hits.
The reviewer should stop reviewing music or confine her thoughts to sounds of millennial cellphone tapping.
When someone doesn’t know what they’re talking about!