Returning with their first new album in 40 years, the Swedish pop titans attempt the seemingly impossible: balancing the lure of nostalgia with the pull of the present day. Amazingly, they pull it off.
Rarely has a reunion seemed as superfluous as ABBA’s. In Europe and Australasia, 40 years after they first broke up, ABBA remain omnipotent, an ever-present part of the pop landscape, like guitar solos and interminable Coldplay album rollouts. The band’s legacy may have dimmed slightly in the 1980s, after their split at the start of the decade. But since the early 1990s—and particularly following the release of ABBA Gold in 1992—ABBA’s traces can be found in every nook and cranny of cultural life, from musicals to movies, Madonna to museums.
That means the stakes for the band’s comeback, with Voyage, are both impossibly high and curiously low. (As ABBA co-songwriter Benny Andersson recently told The New York Times, “What is there to prove? They’ll still play ‘Dancing Queen’ next year.”) ABBA could return with a song as irrationally perfect as 1975 hit “S.O.S.” and it still wouldn't resonate with the same lived-in emotional significance as the 19 songs on ABBA Gold. At the same time, as long as ABBA 2021 sound vaguely in line with the classically inspired, slightly nerdy Swedish pop overlords of popular memory, their recorded return will be loaves and fishes to their fans, who have already forked out in their thousands to watch digital avatars of Agnetha, Benny, Björn, and Anni-Frid prance around a London stage.