One of the most fascinating bands in modern time (considering the ’70s and ’80s is still modern) is ABBA. Their vocal charisma isn’t comparable and their writing is genius. Their musical transformation is riveting, watching them transform from a folksy band into dance-pop, disco, and Europop.
Lately, I have been listening to The Visitors. This was their last studio album of original material, although it was not meant to be or at least that is what they say. I personally could not see how they could go on making albums together with their major differences.
For some background information, ABBA was originally made up of two couples: Benny Andersson and Anni-Frid (Frida) Lyngstod, and Bjorn Ulvaeus and Agetha Faltskog. Both couples eventually divorced. During the making of this album, Anderson and Lyngstod were in the process of divorcing and Ulvaeus and Faltskog had already divorced, with Ulvaeus actually being remarried as of this recording.
This would not go well in a country studio.
Although this album was not meant to be their last, I think it is a nice ending to this renowned group, yet it also leaves you with a desire for more. This musical effort shows a sense of change and maturity in ABBA’s sound. There is still great potential. I’m one of those people still hoping for a new ABBA album someday, even though that is (probably) never going to happen.
The album opens with “The Visitors.” This is one of my favorite tracks off of the album. Through its intergalactic instrumentation and Frida’s stunning lead vocals, this song addresses the Cold War and the media separation that was occurring in Europe and Russia. For me, it shows the “crazy” feeling the citizens of these countries were going through (“crackin’ up”) along with their fear (“I hear the door-bell ring and suddenly the panic takes me).
This song goes hand in hand with the later “Soldiers.” This song shows how “Soldiers write the songs. The soldiers sing the songs that you and I don’t sing.” Another song worth digging into beyond Andersson’s irresistible melodies.
Two songs talk of divorce and separation. The first is “When All Is Said and Done.” This is an ABBA ballad. The song is an ode to the divorce between Lyngstad and Andersson. This song possesses the perfect words for a divorcing couple. It expresses how finger-pointing is now over and that they have to now be content with what they have reaped.
The second song is “One of Us.” This is another ABBA type ballad, yet I find it’s idea one of many other songs, but the words definitely needed to be said at this time in ABBA’s career.
Then you have “Slipping Through My Fingers.” I first heard this song when my mom and I went to see Mama Mia in theaters. All I remember is her beginning to cry (this was also the summer I was going to move out and start college). This song was written about Ulvaeus and Faltskog’s daughter growing up. It is something every parent will tear up too, and every “kid” needs to listen to for understanding.
The great epitaph of this album is “I Let The Music Speak” and “Like an Angel Passing Through My Room.” The first song can be interpreted in many different ways. I found it to be a description of the group’s previous years. While they were going through their troubles as couples and parents. They let the music speak while hiding behind its facade.
“Like An Angel Passing Through My Room” is also a song of various interpretations, but I find it to describe what ABBA’s music is today, especially the last verse. It talks about how images go by way too soon “like an angel passing through the room.” Essentially that is what ABBA’s music is today. They don’t have a complete career and their recordings are limited. They’re gone as soon as they show up.
What is most fascinating to me about this whole album is how the members were mostly on the outs. I have read where personnel said the recording sessions were tense, yet they still worked perfectly in tandem. Both men were able to write precise lyrics to the situation and the woman executed them with unambiguous passion.
There is a unity within ABBA that can’t be broken. This is seen through their continued successes in popular culture with films such as Mama Mia!. Their legacy can be found in many songs, such as Madonna’s “Hung Up,” which uses the same instrumental hook as “Gimme Gimme (A Man After Midnight).”
ABBA’s career is far from over, even if they haven’t made a new album of music in 33 years. Their influence is undoubted and their impact deep. They’re that canceled TV series. They are forever to be continued…