ABBA, one of the most successful music groups of all time, has announced its return nearly 40 years with a new studio album — hear two songs from it here — and a new concert that will see singers Agnetha Fältskog and Anni-Frid Lyngstad and instrumentalists/songwriters Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus performing digitally via avatars with a live 10-piece band in a purpose-built arena in London, beginning on May 27, 2022.
The “Voyage” album will be released worldwide on November 5 via Universal Music Group’s Capitol label. The two newly released songs, “I Still Have Faith in You” and “Don’t Shut Me Down,” were recorded by the group at Andersson’s Riksmixningsverket studio in Stockholm and will both feature in the concert. The songs are the first new material from ABBA since the release of the “Under Attack” single in December of 1982, although the members, now all in their 70s, have released several solo projects.
According to the announcement, the digital versions of ABBA have been created “following weeks and months of motion-capture and performance techniques with the four band members and an 850-strong team from Industrial Light & Magic,” the company founded by George Lucas.
“ABBA Voyage” will open on May 27 the ABBA Arena, a state-of-the-art 3,000 capacity arena located at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London. Pre-registration for tickets opens at 6pm Thursday (Sept. 2) on abbavoyage.com with tickets on general sale from Sept. 7.
The announcement follows three-and-a-half years of tantalizing statements from Ulvaeus and Andersson about new music — first two songs, then six, along with some form of virtual performance — being on the way. The pair said in 2019 that the music would be delayed while preparations for the concert were completed, and finally a cryptic message about “ABBA Voyage” was posted on social media last week.
In a lengthy statement released Thursday, the group said:
“It’s been a while since we made music together. Almost 40 years, actually. We took a break in the spring of 1982 and now we’ve decided it’s time to end it. They say it’s foolhardy to wait more than 40 years between albums, so we’ve recorded a follow-up to [1981’s] ‘The Visitors.’ To tell the truth, the main inspiration to record again comes from our involvement in creating the strangest and most spectacular concert you could ever dream of. We’re going to be able to sit back in an audience and watch our digital selves perform our songs on a stage in a custom-built arena in London next spring. Weird and wonderful!
“To all of you who patiently have followed us in some way or another these past decades: 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.”
Andersson said, “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 and 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.”
Lyngstad said: “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.”
Fältskog said: “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!”
Ulvaeus said: “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.”
ABBA is one of the most popular musical artists in history, having sold hundreds of millions of albums worldwide since its formation in Sweden 1972. The group’s simple-sounding but highly sophisticated songs have endured since the group, consisting of two married couples, split amid the breakup of the two couples in 1982. They set a template for pop music that has risen to prominence in recent years, exemplified by the work of countrymen Max Martin (who has worked with everyone from Britney Spears to Taylor Swift and Justin Timberlake over the past two decades) on the commercial side and Robyn on the innovative side.
While songwriters Andersson and Ulvaeus continued to work together (including a musical, “Chess,” with lyricist Tim Rice in 1984), the four members did not appear together publicly onstage again until 2016.
Producers Svana Gisla and Ludvig Andersson said, “The magic of ABBA and the herculean efforts of this whole magnificent team reaches a long awaited milestone today. 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.”
Universal Music Group chairman/CEO Lucian Grainge, said, “From the very beginning of my career, and having had the privilege to work with them directly for many years since, it’s been a tremendous joy to be surrounded by ABBA and their music. Their boundless creativity and timeless melodies make us want to partner with them on everything they do, because we know it will be simply great.”