Rumors that the Swedish rock group ABBA would be reuniting have been swirling since the group broke up after their last album, The Visitors was released in 1981. The quartet, Benny Andersson, Björn Ulvaeus, Agnetha Fältskog and Anni-Frid Lyngstad have made the occasional appearance together briefly every now and then, but nothing more. And in a 2013 interview with The New York Times Fältskog stated that a reunion would never occur.
“I think we have to accept that it will not happen, because we are too old and each one of us has their own life,” said the 63-year-old. “Too many years have gone by since we stopped, and there’s really no meaning in putting us together again.”
Well. Never say never.
Long after the hit Broadway show Mamma Mia and the two movie adaptations that featured the music of ABBA, the group has quietly been scheming behind our backs. First, in 2018, all four members made a joint statement that they had recorded two new songs, “I Still Have Faith in You” and “Don’t Shut Me Down” which were to be performed as avatars or “ABBA-tars” for the NBC TV special, ABBA: Thank You for the Music: An All-Star Tribute which was to air sometime in 2019. But it never did. In fact, the mention of the special disappeared from the NBCUniversal press site with no explanation.
As it turns out, the group’s plan to produce two new songs grew into three and then a handful and eventually a whole new album. Late last month a new website was launched announcing that the new album would be called ABBA Voyage. The first two songs mentioned above are available through services like iTunes and others with the complete album arriving on November 5, 2021.
Do they still have it? “Don’t Shut Me Down” became the first ABBA song to top the Swedish top charts since 1978. But here is where things get crazy. The talk about those abbatars – they’re real. So when audiences go to see the group in 2022, it will be the abbatars that they will be seeing performing their favorite songs.
Instead of a world tour, ABBA is building their own 3,000-seat arena to be built in Olympic Park in London where their concert “Voyage” will be presented. The avatar versions of the singers will appear beside a 10-piece band who will be very much alive and in person. Tickets will go on sale online as soon as September 7, 2021.
The new show will de-age the singers back to what they looked like in 1979 using a team of over 850 people from Industrial Light & Magic including Ludwig Andersson, Benny’s son. All four members of the band came in to record their music wearing motion capture outfits, similar to the ones used by Andy Serkis in the Lord of the Rings movies, so that the abbatars will be the most life-like adaptations of the singers.
So, the music play will be from today but their images will be from the past. Naturally, the concert will also include many of the band’s previous hits as well.
As for the music, the group still sounds great although the tempos of the songs might be slower than what we are used to. We won’t know for sure until the whole album is released. The sad thing is that group felt like they couldn’t appear as their 70-year-old selves but instead had to re-create their images to somehow be acceptable. Sure, the technology will be a marvel to see, but is imitation what we really need to aspire to? Sure, Hollywood has done this for a while now when actors who have passed away were needed to appear to reprise their roles in newer films. Even then, the concept was met with criticism. I’m afraid that this will lead to a new practice that will create a new problems with ageism and further perpetuate the notion that older adults have less worth than younger, more attractive people and that’s a shame.
I write about pop culture, arts and entertainment in the greater Seattle area.