Four famous Swedes have returned to show that age is no barrier, that timeless music can make more tolerable our graceless age, and that social media may yet live up to its original promise.
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tik Tok, and the like have helped connect people across the globe. Yet their interest-driven nature has also corralled their users into splintered groups. Lonely is the echo chamber of the filtered feed to which we so often—willingly—withdraw.
Yesterday's release of new ABBA music broke this paradox. The walls come down as the oldest and youngest from every possible persuasion excitedly rushed to agree that the Swedish foursome had "saved 2021."
What is it about ABBA?
People who know these things will tell you that if the Swedish band's harmonies seem straightforward, they are deceptively so. Behind those infectious riffs are intricate orchestration and enduring musical genius. Meanwhile, the simplicity of ABBA's lyrics seems only to enhance their ability to convey complex situations and emotions.
The two new songs—I Still Have Faith In You and Don't Shut me Down—sparkle with the optimism of a bygone era. That ABBA music is synonymous with a hopeful outlook still comes as a surprise to singer-songwriter and band member Björn Ulvaeus. "The music of ABBA is not that happy," he once said. "It might sound happy, in some strange way, but deep within, it's not happy music...
"What fools you is the girls' voices."
It has been said that there is science to ABBA's appeal: that the intersection of happy and sad—the cocktail of both "happy" hormone dopamine and its "comfort" equivalent prolactin—makes ABBA music greater than the sum of its parts.
Perhaps it is these dichotomies—complex and simple; older, yet ageless, and deep Nordic melancholy disguised as fizzy melodies—which have sustained our fascination with the Swedish band.
Half a century since ABBA's original debut, there is a certain comfort in hearing, in uncertain times, new music which sounds fresh in 2021 but could—almost impossibly—seamlessly have featured on some of the best loved pop albums of 40 and more years ago.
ABBA's new album is due November 5th.