The wait is finally over. After almost 40 years of musical silence, Abba is back with "Voyage," a journey through the years of the band members' relationships, both happy and sad.
"We took a break in the spring of 1982, and now we've decided it's time to end it," Abba announced to its fans across the globe in September.
Featuring music reminiscent of old-school, disco-pop Abba albums, a constant message throughout "Voyage" is heartbreak and divorce, intercepted with children's laughter and finding joy along the way. Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus produced the record and wrote each song like the group's previous albums. Agnetha Fältskog and Anni-Frid Lyngstad sing the main vocals, while the men harmonize.
Opening the album, "I Still Have Faith In You" sets the tone for how we should interpret the record. The band tells us to listen to each song as they paint a picture of a broader story, full of the ups and downs of life. Abba released the song as a single along with "Don't Shut Me Down" in September, shocking the world in anticipation of the 1970s Swedish-pop band's revival.
As a lifelong fan of the band, I can hear a constant theme running through most of their songs across its discography. Abba had consistently put out albums at its peak that described the human experience as the narrator sings experiences of love, breakups, make-ups and divorce, having children and feeling disappointed but optimistic.
"Voyage" is no exception to the message. When I first listened to the record, I dissected different parts of songs that reminded me of Abba's previous discography. Most notably, in "Don't Shut Me Down," the beginning sounds very familiar to the band's 1976 song, "Knowing Me, Knowing You." However, at about 40 seconds into the song, the listener is swirled into a bright, upbeat universe with a piano glissando to transition the tempo— horns, violins and a steady drumbeat complete the switch.
Mixed in the album are songs with lyrics like, "You missed the good old times when you danced with me; I miss the good old times when you danced with me," from track two, "When You Danced with Me," paired next to "Little Things," which describes the cozy, Christmastime feeling of falling in love while watching children play by the tree.
The third single from the album, "Just a Notion," is another upbeat, classic Abba song. Interestingly, according to Abba member Ulvaeus, the tune was recorded in 1978, which sets the melody apart from the rest of "Voyage." A pulsing beat and rhythmic piano chords push the song into the 1970s. I think this song could have perfectly fit on either "Voulez-Vous" (1979) or "Super Trouper" (1980) and Ulvaeus agreed, saying the piece could have been on the 1980 album.
Wrestling with herself, the narrator of "I Can Be That Woman," sung by both Fältskog and Lyngstad, paints an agonizing picture of divorce. The listener is in the middle of a couple's separation, and the lyrics analyze how the singer feels in the room, including the dog who loyally sits by her side. It is hard to listen to the message without feeling upset for the woman as she croons, "You're not the man you should have been … I'm not the woman I could have been."
Track seven, "Keep an Eye on Dan," instantly changes the mood and tone for the listener. An ominous electronic beat swells in the background as the singer warns her former partner to watch carefully over their son, Dan. The song dives deeper into the split of the parents and their relationship with their son. The mom worries over Dan and spends the song saying she will be back to pick him up on Sunday.
Even though the members of Abba have achieved immense fame and success, the album is still relatable for the average listener. Abba breaks the divide of classes and creates songs that unite fans no matter where they are listening to the album, which is especially clear in the middle tracks of the record.
"Bumblebee," a light-hearted break between the heartbreak and sorrow of the journey, shows the good times the narrator has in her garden as she listens to the "hum of bumblebees."
After spending time in the garden, "No Doubt About It," my favorite song on the record, makes a bold entrance. I love funky, disco-pop music, and this song perfectly fits into those criteria. It is a feel-good song that you listen to on a bright, sunny day with the windows open.
Abba concludes its Voyage with "Ode to Freedom," which has a couple of different meanings. I see the song as an ode to the break the band took for 39 years, hence the members' freedom from fame. But, remembering the theme of divorce, I notice lyrics that allude to the singer feeling anxious about what her ex-spouse would think of her Ode to Freedom. The singers close the album saying they "wish someone would write an Ode to Freedom that we could all sing."
I think Abba's musical journey is far from over, and I am so excited to be included in the destination as a younger fan. Each song holds deep meaning, and that will always be my favorite part about listening to the band's records. No doubt about it, I am a fan of "Voyage!"