ABBA, the Swedish pop group that created the sacred ground on which almost all of modern pop music is built, are reuniting after 35 years and writing new music. They're so committed to this that, although it's still April, they've gone ahead and announced that their first new song, "I Still Have Faith In You," will be out in December. Take that long tease as a mark of confidence that you'll still be interested months from now, or as a sign that they're a relic of a time that's lone gone in music when artists built things up for a months-long cycle and didn't just drop surprise albums on us.
The group will be touring as digital avatars in 2019. Yes, you read that correctly. The new song will see a rollout via digital performances by the band in specials that will air on NBC and the BBC. The ABBA avatar experience is made in collaboration with Universal Music Group and American Idol creator Simon Fuller — and not one thing in that sentence gives me an ounce of hope that it's something any of us should partake in.
If ABBA plays this smart, their digital avatars will be themselves in the '70s. The one good thing happening in this reunion thus far is that they've only taken the liberty of recording two new songs. I am hard-pressed to think of a band that reunited after breaking up, let alone 35 years after breaking up, and released new music that the world gave a damn about. Everyone knows reunions are about the tours, where you can play your catalog songs so the audience can sing along. There's no shortage of jams in ABBA's catalog; I would give you my pinky toe to time travel back to Wembly Arena in 1979 to see them perform "Take a Chance on Me" from the best seat in the house.
For anyone with even a whisper of doubt about the cultural significance of ABBA, allow me to remind you that you sang along to every damn song in Mamma Mia (the movie and the Broadway play), effortlessly and without having to look up a lyric. Their music is part of our DNA. For those of you who didn't read the biography (or Wikipedia), ABBA broke up after the two couples that made up the group got divorced. To say it got ugly would be like saying Fleetwood Mac seem pretty intense: understatement of the year. So it's rather surprising that they are working together, creatively, again. I would be more curious about that if it seemed they were working with any acrimony (and honestly, that's what keeps drawing us all back to Fleetwood Mac), but their song sounds sappy as hell. I'm happy they're happy, but ABBA wrote some songs with great highs about love and great lows about loss. This "happy, 35 years later" vibe does not pique my curiosity.
For the right person, this avatar tour could be a fun night out, probably at a theater in Vegas before the bachelorette party heads to a strip club. For those who are truly, truly, truly gung ho about this reunion, you can go fake-audition to be the fifth member of the group at the ABBA Museum in Stockholm (and please send me a link to your IG story). But if you wanted to see ABBA at their most iconic, I have bad news: you have missed the moment, and you cannot recreate it. I know, it's unfair: most of us weren't even born yet when ABBA were in their heyday. Watching them, 35 years older, do those songs will not be the same experience, and watching their digital avatars will absol-fucking-lutely not be the same experience.
I recommend hitting up a sing-along to Mamma Mia 2 at your local movie theater instead. You'll probably leave happier.
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