A review of the ten songs in the Swedish pop group’s first offering in four decades.
Written by: Eric Seitz
Spurred by regained pop culture relevance, 70s pop powerhouse ABBA has dusted off their go-go boots and jived back onto the music scene for a ninth studio album — their first in nearly 40 years. ABBA’s album “Voyage” is an album with the most unified vision of the group’s entire discography — it portrays a message of resolve. Perhaps the resolve comes from the band reflecting on their career both together and apart. ABBA initially met a rocky end in the early 80s when the two married couples (Björn & Agnetha and Benny & Frida) broke up. This album takes listeners on a journey — a Voyage, if you will — through the broad range of emotions that comes with a history as storied as ABBA’s.
I Still Have Faith in You • 8/10
Directly acknowledging their four-decade-long hiatus (and nodding to their post-divorce relationships with one another), the lead track spells out for listeners the band’s headspace in 2021. “I Still Have Faith in You” is a sweeping anthem that traverses the gamut of emotions felt by both ABBA themselves as well as their fans young and old.
“We stand on the summit, humble and grateful to have survived”
When You Danced with Me • 8/10
Employing a distinctly ABBA-fied Scottish sound through its instrumentation, “When You Danced with Me” carries a triumphant and reminiscent tone. Despite having some of the shallowest lyrics of the album, the song finds ABBA experimenting with their signature head-bopping sound in a fresh way.
“There’s a darkness deep in your blue eyes”
Little Things • 6/10
As ABBA’s only Christmas song, “Little Things” falls into quite a few of the lyrical clichés that plague many Christmas pop songs. They do, however, nail the unique music box sound through melodic progression and instrumentation. Additionally, the song feels dramatically more intimate than any other ABBA song.
“It’s amazing, darling, that so little can achieve so much.”
Don’t Shut Me Down • 10/10
Infinitely replayable, this song is ABBA at their peak. The slower, subdued opening orients the listener into the same emotional state as the singer before hurtling them both into soaring heights with its groovy first verse and even groovier chorus. With lyrics so visceral, the song almost sounds like it was written for a musical — a testament to the band’s ability to transport listeners into new worlds.
“I’m like a dream within a dream that’s been decoded.”
Just a Notion • 9/10
Recorded in 1978 but never released, “Just a Notion” spells out the love-at-first-sight unspoken connection often written about in pop songs. Punchy and unafraid, it harkens back to ABBA’s more rock-ish origins. Paralleling the flirtatious interaction illustrated in the song, the vocals answer and interact with the piano part for an immensely satisfying connection between the lyrics and the music.
“We’ll be dancing through the night, knowing everything from thereon must be right.”
I Can Be That Woman • 4/10
“I Can Be That Woman” wants so badly to be the album’s emotionally moving power ballad like “Fernando” and “Chiquitita,” but it’s weighed down by overly complex lyrics and a tonal imbalance. The lyrical throughline is a dog that the couple shares, but its presence feels out of place for a song about mending a relationship. The melody and instrumentation are some of the best in “Voyage,” but harsh-sounding lyrics clash with its sweeping sound.
“I feel sick, and my hands are shaking — this is how all our fights have begun.”
Keep an Eye on Dan • 9/10
ABBA’s later career is highlighted by their penchant for discussing heavy topics put to dance-worthy music (see “Super Trouper” and “If It Wasn’t for the Nights”), and “Keep an Eye on Dan” is the most recent example. Synth tracks mount tension and terror as the song paints a picture of a mother leaving her son with her ex-husband. Co-written by Björn and sung by his ex-wife Agnetha, with whom he shares two children, “Keep an Eye on Dan” clearly comes from a place of personal experience, making its message all the more powerful.
“I know that this shouldn’t be a traumatic event, but it is.”
Bumblebee • 8/10
This song bears an innocent way about it, but that innocence masks its message — an urge to consider how climate change could spell the demise of bumblebees. The instrumentation swells as the singer gets deeper in thought about the effects of climate change. The steadiness of the song‘s melodic progression, however, gives little room for interesting vocal experimentation.
“Oh how I do enjoy the sight of his rather clumsy, erratic flight.”
No Doubt About It • 7/10
“No Doubt About It” is unique in that the song’s narrator has low emotional intelligence, unlike most pop songs, which see their singers expressing themselves adequately. Instead, the singer’s partner acts as the song’s emotional heart, and the singer’s ignorance is what makes her endearing. While the rest of the album’s songs deal well with the fact that the women’s voices have aged, Frida noticeably struggles to hit this song’s higher notes.
“Hissing like a wildcat when I should be purring.”
Ode to Freedom • 8/10
“Ode to Freedom” is a poem put to song. The fact that such a high-concept anthem is in a pop album is almost laughable, but it firmly belongs in “Voyage,” especially as its final track. Perhaps the best part about “Ode to Freedom” is that it is not ABBA’s ode to freedom, but the antithesis of it. Majestic and introspective, this song swells in sound as it swells in conviction.
“If I ever wrote my ode to freedom, it would be in prose that chimes with me.”
Voyage • 8/10
Thematically, “Voyage” is ABBA at their peak. Despite the 40-year gap, the album sounds like a direct follow-up to 1981’s “The Visitors.” With some of the strongest lyrics the band has ever put out and melodies that are almost just as danceable as “Mamma Mia,” ABBA is as much ABBA in 2021 as they were in 1975.