ABBA have at long last announced their return, confirming details of a new album and “revolutionary” concert experience ‘ABBA Voyage’ – as well as releasing two brand new songs.
Back in 2017, it was announced that the band would reunite in digital form in 2019, performing as “Abbatars” for the first time since they split in 1983. When the reunion tour was then delayed, the Swedish pop icons announced in 2018 that they would be sharing two new tracks: ‘I Still Have Faith In You’ and ‘Don’t Shut Me Down’. That then expanded to five new tracks as a reward to fans waiting for the reunion tour due to COVID-related delays.
Now, along with the release of ‘I Still Have The Faith In You’ and ‘Don’t Shut Me Down’, today (Thursday September 2) the band have announced that all four members reunited to put together ‘ABBA Voyage’. Their first new music in over 40 years, the full new album will be released on November 5 on Universal Music.
“First it was just two songs, then I said, ‘Maybe we should do a few others – what do you say girls?’,” said Benny Andersson during today’s press conference. “They said yeah, so I asked them, ‘Why don’t we just do a whole album?’”
Björn Ulvaeus continued: “The first song, ‘I Still Have In You’, I just knew that when Benny played the melody that it had to be about us. It’s about realising that it’s inconceivable to be where we are. No imagination could dream up that – to release a new album after 40 years and still be the best of friends, and still be enjoying each other’s company and have total loyalty. Who has experienced that? Nobody.”
The pair went on to discuss how the making of the album was “very emotional”.
“There were memories rushing back, or should I say the relationships and bonds that we have. It was great,” said Bjorn in an interview with Zoe Ball during the announcement. “We went into the studio knowing that if we didn’t think it was up to scratch then we wouldn’t never release it. We’re really proud of it. There’s also an old saying in the music industry: you should not leave more than 40 years between albums.”
Benny added: “That’s the funny thing. It was 39 years since we last recorded together, but then in seconds it was like no time had passed. It was quite amazing. Everyone went into the roles we had in the studio.
“[The album] is a little mixture of everything. We have a little Christmas tune, it’s called ‘Little Things’. There are a number of pop songs. I think it’s pretty good. We’ve done as good as we can at our age.”
Benny Andersson, Björn Ulvaeus, Agnetha Fältskog and Anni-Frid “Frida” Lyngstad have all been involved in motion-capturing themselves for the upcoming concert experience.
The tracks for ‘Voyage’ were written when assembling new music to go with their “revolutionary” new concert experience of the same name – which will see a “digital” version of ABBA (not holograms) perform alongside a 10-piece live band at the purpose-built 3,000-capacity ABBA Arena at London’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in a run of shows from May 27, 2022.
The show will feature 22 songs, including the two new ones released today.
Today’s press conference heard how the band will be presented as digital characters of “ABBA in their prime” of 1979, created using performance capture techniques on ABBA in recent years to animate them and make them look “perfectly real”. Using 160 cameras, the band “performed every song to perfection over five weeks” with the technical team “capturing every mannerism, emotion and the soul of their beings,” to create something that’s not “a version or a copy of ABBA, but actually them.”
Explaining why ABBA chose London as the location for the concerts, the band said it was because “the Brits see us as their own”.
Pre-sale registration for tickets begins at 6pm tonight. Fans who have pre-ordered the album from the official ABBA store by Saturday September 4 at 12pm will get first access to concert tickets from September 5 at 10am. Fans who register for early ticket access by September 5 at 12pm will be able to purchase tickets from September 6 at 10am. ABBA Voyage tickets will then go on general sale to the public on Tuesday September 7 from 10am.
Visit here for tickets and information.
Watch the ABBA Voyage announcement and press conference below.
Rather than following the trend of hologram shows, ABBA Voyage has been described a “revolutionary” digital version of the band made in collaboration with George Lucas’ special effects company, Industrial Light & Magic – using motion capture technology and created by an 850-strong team.
The live show was also made in collaboration with Svana Gisla (who produced Jay-Z and Beyonce‘s On the Run Tour), choreographer Wayne McGregor, Johan Renck (who directed David Bowie‘s videos for ‘Blackstar’ and ‘Lazarus’, Baillie Walsh (who has directed for Massive Attack and Bruce Springsteen) and many more.
Read Abba’s full statement on their return below:
“Thank you for waiting – it’s time for a new journey to begin.
“We simply call it ‘Voyage’ and we’re truly sailing in uncharted waters. With the help of our younger selves, we travel into the future. It’s not easy to explain but then it hasn’t been done before.
“It’s hard to say what’s been the most joyful thing for me (Benny) with this project. If it’s the involvement in creating the concert together with everyone or being back in the studio together again after 40 years. I think hearing Frida avnd Agnetha singing again is hard to beat. When You come to the arena you will have the four of us together with an absolutely glorious 10-piece band. And even if not in the flesh, we will be right there, thanks to the work of the creative team and ILM.”
“Those first sessions back in 2018 were such fun and when Benny called and asked if I’d (Anni-Frid) consider singing some more I jumped at it! And what songs! My respect and love go out to these exceptionally talented, truly genius songwriters! Such joy it was to work with the group again. I am so happy with what we have made, and I dearly hope our fans feel the same.”
“When we got back together in the studio I (Agnetha) had no idea what to expect…But Benny’s recording studio is such a friendly and safe environment, and before I knew it I was really enjoying myself! I can hardly believe that finally, the moment has come to share this with the world!”
“They’re such amazing singers, those two, I (Björn)was completely floored by the way they delivered those songs. They’re true musicians; totally unimpressed by pop star glamour but still having a great time being creative in a recording studio. The ‘Voyage’ project has injected new life into us in more ways than one.”
“So, again, thanks for waiting! We hope to see you in the ‘ABBA Arena’ and yes-see-because we have infused a good deal of our souls into those avatars. It’s not an exaggeration to say that we’re back.”
Producers Svana Gisla and Ludvig Andersson meanwhile said that “the magic of ABBA and the herculean efforts of this whole magnificent team reaches a long awaited milestone today.”
They continued: “To be able to finally share this endeavour with the world is a proud moment for us and we can’t wait to welcome you to our arena in East London, a place where we are so happy to be.”
Director Baillie Walsh meanwhile, said: “I watched ABBA win the Eurovision song contest in 1974, and never did I imagine that 47 years later I would be with them on this extraordinary voyage. Life is weird and wonderful sometimes.”
Choreographer Wayne McGregor added: “Imagine: growing up in the North of England in the 70’s and learning to ballroom, Latin and disco dance to the incredible songs of ABBA. I was 8 and I was totally transported. Fast forward to 2020, being in Sweden and dancing with ABBA – in real life! I was about to be 50 and I was totally transported again. That is the magic of ABBA.
“We have shared many creative and joyful adventures with a bold collaborative team to make the impossible possible for ABBA Voyage: technological wizardry, state of the art immersion and entertainment innovation. And still at its searing heart we simply have new songs, new moves, classic songs, classic moves: ABBA is DANCE and always will be. See you on the dancefloor”.
Despite rumours, the mogul manager Simon Fuller has not been involved in the project.
The news comes after ABBA recently joined TikTok, and their greatest hits album ‘ABBA: GOLD’ became the first album to spend 1,000 weeks in the UK charts.
This is a developing story, check back at NME for more updates and information…