Whatever Happened To Those New ABBA Songs We Were Promised?

It's been almost three years since the Swedish pop powerhouse announced they were returning with new music.

When ABBA announced they were releasing brand new music in 2018, it was described as “the biggest pop news of the 21st century” and a “pop miracle” in some quarters.

Those bombastic declarations might sound OTT to the tiny proportion of the earth’s population who (a) aren’t too familiar with Sweden’s greatest export (weird), or (b) never grasped their appeal (even weirder).

But having not been in the studio for 35 years after shifting 385 million records, all of that fervent anticipation ahead of the mooted September 2018 release date appeared to be justified.

And then… nothing.

ABBA (L-R) Benny Andersson, Agnetha Fältskog, Anni-Frid Lyngstad and Björn Ulvaeus.

Almost three years on – an eternity in pop music – and we’re all still waiting for these new recordings to materialise.

So what happened? And will the pop gods ever gift us with brand new ABBA music? Here’s what we know...

First, let’s remind ourselves of the band’s we-didn’t-see-that-coming 2018 announcement…

Benny Anderson says that he and Björn Ulvaeus – with whom he co-wrote ABBA’s entire back catalogue – had the idea to go back into the studio together when they were working on their upcoming “avatar” tour project.

He explained: “We said, ‘Hmmm... maybe we should try and write a couple of songs, ask the ladies if they want to come in and sing’. And they said, ‘Yeah, absolutely’. So it was just, out of pure joy I’d say.”

So what are the songs called?

I Still Have Faith In You and Don’t Shut Me Down are the two new songs confirmed by Benny and Björn, both of which are said to have ABBA’s distinctive sound. 

Björn revealed: “[They’re] definitely ABBA’s sound - that hadn’t gone. 

“The minute the two ladies started singing together in the studio, there it was - the same sound. They’re slightly lower [in range] now but the sound is the same.”

Björn previously said of the new songs: “One of them is a pop tune, very dance-able, the other is more timeless, more reflective, that is all I will say. It is Nordic sad, but happy at the same time.”

He added: “I think that exuberant quality of the two ladies together singing that makes the saddest song a bit uplifting anyway, I think that is what happens and that is very organic, that isn’t calculated, that just happened that way.”

Will there be any other new songs?

Initially, the band insisted there would only be two new songs, but excitingly, both Benny and Björn have revealed that they have other new ABBA songs in the bag.

“I think there are still things in our heads now that we haven’t used yet, that we haven’t found a place for yet,” Björn told the BBC.

But Björn is underplaying it somewhat, with the ABBA star now confirming that five songs have been completed.

Benny Andersson (L) and Bjorn Ulvaeus.

Journalist Geoff Lloyd, speaking on the Reasons To Be Cheerful podcast in July 2020, said: “I got to spend an hour […] with Björn Ulvaeus from ABBA via Zoom. He’s quarantining – he’s got an island in the Stockholm archipelago. ’They’ve recorded five new songs.”

So why the delay?

It all comes down to technology - and (surprise, surprise) the coronavirus pandemic. 

Along with new music, ABBA announced a TV special, produced by the BBC and US network NBC, as well as a “virtual and live experience”, a joint venture between Universal Music Group and Spice Girls manager Simon Fuller.

ABBA (L-R) Bjorn Ulvaeus, Agnetha Faltskog, Anni Frid Lyngstad and Benny Andersson

No, Agnetha, Björn, Benny and Frida won’t be taking to the stage again (even reportedly turning down an offer of $1billion to do so). Instead, digital versions of all four members – or ABBAtars as they’ve become known – are being created, to feature in video clips of the new songs and to go out on a “virtual” tour. 

But if you think it’ll be anything like the recent – and highly divisive – Whitney Houston hologram tour, think again. 

“It’s completely new,” Björn explained. “It proved to be technically more difficult to do certain things.”

Hence the hold up.

When can we realistically expect to hear the new material?

 

In February last year, Benny said the new songs were coming in summer 2020.

“They’re coming this year,” he said. “I’m guessing after the summer.”

“But I can only guess, because I’m not really sure. But I would think so.”

Asked if he could promise 2020, the ABBA star said: “One shouldn’t promise anything but if I were to decide myself, it would be September.

“I can’t make that decision alone. But that’s what we’re aiming for.”

Well we now know how that panned out.

Speaking earlier, in 2019, Björn stated new music would only be released “together with the avatars” but aligned with Benny on a 2020 release date. 

“Next year, I promise you,” he told ITV News. “I can’t promise any dates but next year is when you will get to hear the new songs.”

However, the coronavirus pandemic has now delayed things even further, with Bjorn now insisting all five new ABBA songs will finally see the light of day in 2021.

After interviewing Bjorn, journalist Geoff Lloyd explained: ”I think it’s because they’re going to do this tour with holograms. Because of technical difficulties and the pandemic, it’s delayed things. But [Bjorn] promised me that the new ABBA music will be out in 2021.”

And it’s not just us fans who are getting frustrated with the endless delays. In an interview given at the end of last year, a clearly-frustrated Benny explained the band weren’t behind the hold up.

“Everything was up and running smoothly… then it didn’t run as smoothly as it was supposed to,” he said.

“We’re still trying to establish the agreements that need to be dealt with to be able to continue. We’re good…  it’s the other side [where] everything has to be done, it’s delayed. So it’s not our doing.”

He concluded: “We can’t wait forever.”

Tell us about it.

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