ABBA set to unveil comeback with holograms and new songs

screenmixSeptember 2, 2021
Swedish pop group Abba (from left to right) Bjorn Ulvaeus, Agnetha Faltskog, Anni-frid Lyngstad and Benny Andersson pose during the Eurovision Song Festival, February 9th, 1974. — AFP pic
Swedish pop group Abba (from left to right) Bjorn Ulvaeus, Agnetha Faltskog, Anni-frid Lyngstad and Benny Andersson pose during the Eurovision Song Festival, February 9th, 1974. — AFP pic

LONDON, Sept 2 — Nearly four decades after disbanding and vowing never to get back together, Swedish superstars ABBA were expected to announce a comeback today with new songs and performances by holograms called “Abbatars”.

Almost as famous for their over-the-top outfits as their music, the group have notched up over 400 million album sales over 50 years.

They had a string of hits in the 1970s and early 1980s after winning Eurovision in 1974 with Waterloo.

Since parting ways in 1982, they have resisted all offers to work together as a foursome.

But later today, they are expected to delight fans with news on a fresh collaboration.

The now septuagenarian stars of pop classics such as Dancing Queen, The Winner Takes It All and Take a Chance on Me, said they would make a “historic” announcement at 16:45 GMT.

Details are still under wraps but the group is expected to announce their first new songs since the 1980s, as well as the launch of a new theatrical show in which they will perform as digital avatars — or Abbatars.

Last week, the group — Anni-Frid Lyngstad, 75, Agnetha Faltskog, 71, Bjorn Ulvaeus, 76, and Benny Andersson, 74 — announced on Twitter: “Thank you for waiting, the journey is about to begin.”

A website called AbbaVoyage.com promises a “historic livestream” and Universal Music Group, which owns the band’s back catalogue, was set to hold an event at an east London observation tower.

‘Sensational comeback’

Carl Magnus Palm, who has written several books on the band, told AFP the group will debut at least one new song, appearing as digital avatars using hologram technology.

Abba have recorded at least two new songs, said Palm, while British newspaper The Sun reported the group has recorded a whole album’s worth in a “sensational comeback”.

The songs were created for a show set to launch in London next year, Palm said.

The Swedish pop icons announced they were returning to the studio in 2018, saying: “We all four felt that, after some 35 years, it could be fun to join forces again and go into the recording studio.”

They have mentioned five new songs, including I Still Have Faith in You and Don’t Shut Me Down.

Ulvaeus told UK paper The Times in April he wrote the lyrics and Andersson composed the music.

The group “still sounds very much Abba”, he said.

‘Lifelike’ avatars

The Sun reported that the group would voice holograms of themselves in their heyday for a “state-of-the-art” show called “Abba Voyage” to be staged at a 3,000-capacity theatre in London’s Olympic Park.

The show will launch next May and run eight times a week, featuring a blend of previously filmed and projected content and live performers, the tabloid said.

The project was delayed by the pandemic and technological issues with the avatars, Palm said.

These will be more sophisticated than previously seen in shows with holograms of singers such as Whitney Houston.

“It’s going to look more lifelike and they are going to look like they did in 1979,” he said.

‘Genuinely excited’

The group has not released any new music since 1981 and broke up the following year after both of the quartet’s married couples divorced.

They steered clear of a reunion despite their music’s enduring popularity, fuelled by a hit compilation album in 1992, the Mamma Mia musical and later spin-off films starring Meryl Streep, Colin Firth and Pierce Brosnan.

“There is simply no motivation to regroup. Money is not a factor and we would like people to remember us as we were,” Ulvaeus said in a 2008 interview.

According to Celebrity Net Worth, each member of Abba is worth between US$200-300 million (RM831 million-RM1.2 billion). In 2000, they turned down a US$1 billion offer to perform a 100-show world tour.

“They’re very independently wealthy so I don’t think it’s because of the money,” Palm said of their comeback.

“I think they’re genuinely excited by the possibilities of this.” — AFP

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