ABBA returns: further milking of the cash-cow or authentic stab at new music?

When it comes to iconic music, nothing quite fits the bill like ABBA. Their presence remains firmly staked in mainstream pop culture even after decades of silence, and rumours of new music from the band stirs up anticipation with ease.

After over two years of a stiff upper lip and back and forth between the members, with the release date jumping from Christmas 2018, to 2019 and beyond, we can now expect the highly anticipated album for September this year. The reception is sure to be one of glowing positivity, as we all welcome this new addition like an old friend. Since their formation in 1972, The Swedish quartet has had the astonishing ability to capture the admiration of multiple generations, even today close to forty years since their breakup. This is what makes this supergroup such a baffling enigma. Almost anyone can look back fondly at memories attached to those familiar tracks, whether these be the original tunes or those which gained recognition from the Mamma Mia franchise.

Despite the group’s break in 1982, ABBA as a  brand has continued to grow. First with the stage adaptation, followed by two films, alongside tours featuring digital avatars of the beloved four, and now, an immersive dining experience complete with live music, dancing and audience participation. It is clear that the group has made the most of their rightfully adoring fans, and so when we hear tell of a new album on the horizon, it makes sense to feel at first a little sceptical of their intentions. Is this truly a genuine album for music sake, a chance to explore new creative direction and stir up nostalgia? Or are we verging disappointingly close to beating a dead horse? 

However hearing the members talk passionately about their astounding legacy and up coming project, it’s hard to imagine there’s not at least a glimmer of authenticity within their future plans. In an interview for ITV, Björn Ulvaeus explains the continued love for their music even after all these years has been “humbling”. Beaming; he goes on to say, “I am constantly a bit amazed when I sit here and see that everyone knows all the words and that it makes them so happy.” Here he refers to the interactive dining experience that he brought over from Sweden after its great success back home. Like everything ABBA, it’s extravagant and over the top in a way that could be mistaken for tacky, and perhaps it would be if attempted by anyone else. But this is the kind of excess and splendour that the fans are after, the chance to escape to a world of showbiz and glitter. His enjoyment in seeing their followers delight appears to be a genuine motivation for his work. However I don’t deny that money plays a role. Its certain the sum will be unimaginable but I suppose we’ve all gotta eat right? And as long as the quality is up to match the love of the fans this can be done in a way that remains uncompromised. If anything, ABBA owes this release to the fans, as a thank you for their unwavering support.  

Their legacy is so extraordinary that it has been preserved forever in Stockholm’s ABBA museum like a priceless artefact. Therefore it’s no surprise that when the question of adding to it is raised, people get anxious. As though going back over the Mona Lisa with a touch up of paint. And any artist worth their salt has had to deal with the disappointed sighs of die-hard fans who claim ‘“its not as good as the old stuff” after every release post third album. However the ongoing popularity of their classic hits brings hope that regardless of the result of the up and coming album, ABBA will always be remembered best for their golden days. 

Image: Episodio Febril via Flickr 

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