Something amazing happened a few days ago.
I learned that ABBA – yes *that* ABBA, the group that began with forgettable hummable bubble gum pop songs but graduated into a thing that was rich and strange and unique and unforgettable – are putting out a new album in November.
After a hiatus… of FORTY YEARS.
Friends, ordinary people would shrivel and die in the world of fame during a hiatus four decades long. But ABBA – they are eternal. The Once And Future ABBA, indeed – partly this is due to the “Mamma Mia” movies, which used their storytelling songs and wove them into a story that did them justice, but the movies could not have themselves been made had those songs not been – in themselves – impossible to forget.
ABBA’s music told a story, an overarching arc that transcended their individual story-songs, and you can chart their lives through their music – the partnership, the marriages, the divorces, the dissolution… “I was sick and tired of everything when i called you last night from Glasgow – all I do is eat and sleep and sing wishing every show was the last show” – remember that line from “Super Trooper”? (But even that was transcended – “everything is going to be different tonight… for somewhere in the crowd… there’s you…”) ABBA was considered almost a guilty pleasure, people admitting their love for the group almost clandestinely, almost as though they didn’t have enough – I don’t know – GRAVITAS, or something, to be considered worthy of admiration. But millions of people loved them.
And that became beautifully apparent in the course of the last few days, when ABBA released two songs from their new album (“Voyage”) coming up in November 2021 (NEW ALBUM. By ABBA. The world went nuts…) They released a video for each of these songs; the first, “I still have faith in you”, gleaned more than 11 MILLION views on YouTube in three days – and most of the comments were along the same lines – “i cried.”. This was a slower, more melancholy song. The second new song, “Don’t Shut Me Down”, was pure dancey ABBA pop, with dancing-queen vibes. Both of these brand new songs were utterly, beautifully, gloriously familiar. For some of us, this was a return to an age when we were young; for others, some of whom weren’t BORN when ABBA was in its heyday, it was something they may have never heard before, in the original, but STILL instantly recognised – i watched a few “reaction” videos to the songs, by a range of people of a range of ages, and everyone began to dance at the music, even while they were sitting there in their chair, and everyone was SMILING.
For the first time in a very long time, during a handful of bitterly difficult and even desperate years, everyone I saw on the internet reacting to a piece of news… was SMILING.
That, alone, was enough.
The once and future glory.
Thank you for the music, ABBA. Welcome back. You have no idea how much we have missed you.
(PS yes I preordered the album. why do you ask?)