Sunday, April 14, 2013

Weekend Diversion: Agnetha returns

The video above is the new single from Agnetha Fältskog of ABBA, “When You Really Loved Someone”. It’s from her new her solo album, A (pictured at left), which will be released in early May. It’s her first English-language single in nearly a decade.

The single is a sort of Europop explosion, and I like it. It only vaguely reminds me of ABBA (or, more accurately, makes me think of what ABBA might sound like today). Instead, it suggests the talents of Agnetha herself who—dare I say it?—looks damn good at 62.

Apparently, the New Zealand, Australia, Russia and UK iTunes Stores were among the first to offer pre-orders of the album. However, the only way I could find it in New Zealand iTunes was to search her name—it wasn’t promoted or in the “Pre-Order New Music” section. Considering how huge ABBA was—and still is—in New Zealand, that’s just weird. Yes, when I finally found it, I did pre-order the album (and got the single immediately).

I was a fan of ABBA back in the day, slowly buying their older, lesser-known albums in addition to what was current. I also saw them in concert during their only North American tour, “ABBA: The Tour”, back in 1979. Scenes and performances from that tour were recorded and played on the USA’s public television, as well as being released on DVD (which I own).

I didn’t bring any ABBA records with me to New Zealand, but in 2010 I bought the Bonus Track Version of “The Albums” from iTunes—basically digital versions of all their released albums, plus some added tracks, like the Swedish version of “Ring, Ring”, some alternate mixes and versions, and various other tracks. I’d planned on buying it for myself as a 50th birthday present, but I was a bit busy at the time and only got around to it a few months later.

So, I have a long history with ABBA. As with all pop music, I take it as it is—I don’t expect anything more than what it is. I know plenty of people who hate pop music because they want more meaning or more complicated music or whatever. Some of them are determined to inform me of how wrong I am for liking pop music. I don’t pay any attention, repeating in my head what I’ve dubbed “Arthur’s Law” regarding pop culture generally: “Everything you love, someone else hates; everything you hate, someone else loves. So, relax and like what you like and forget about everyone else.”

I like this song. I hope I like the album, too, since I pre-ordered it…


Mark from Slap said...

I'm a fervent supporter of Arthur's law. There's a song they sometimes play at my gym that instantly charges me. I would be ashamed to admit it in company; it's a terrible song on nearly every objective level, with an equally bad video to match. I can't explain it, but as Arthur's Law so succinctly points out, why should I feel a need to justify it?

About Agnetha's track in particular... I recall around the time that "Mama Mia!" (the film) was released, ABBA was asked about the possibility of another album. They dismissed it on the spot, citing a preference to be remembered as they were back in the 70s. I suppose that's understandable. It would be an uphill battle trying to regain even a fraction of the popularity and love they received in the 70s. An unfavourable comparison to their classics would be unavoidable.

Soloists can sometimes escape the ghost of their popular origins (i.e. Michael Jackson, Justin Timberlake), but one of the reasons I think I'm not really "feeling" this song is that it's missing the one bit of brilliance that made ABBA so special and so influential: A focus on vocal arrangements. A solo career necessarily has to do away with that, which is a shame.

Still, ABBA's signature sound isn't gone completely. I was thinking of pop music and specifically ABBA-sounding pop music not long after buying the new album from (Canada's own) Tegan and Sara. Listen to the chorus in Goodbye Goodbye http://youtu.be/3m5RaWqcIiM ("You never really knew me, never ever...") and you'll hear it. While a large sub-section of T&S's previous fanbase have been regretting how the two have "sold out" for a more pop-like feel, my thinking is more aligned with Arthur's Law with some extra reflections on ABBA. What's so bad about pop?

Arthur (AmeriNZ) said...

That song IS reminiscent of ABBA! We had a New Zealand band called Zed that had a similar change—they started out mostly as rockers and then moved to the USA where their new management put them solidly into the pop camp. Some fans weren't amused, and the group basically broke up a year or two later (they still sometimes perform together, apparently).

There's a lot of pop music that I like but don't necessarily love, and I'd put Agnetha's song in that category. However, I like that to me it has a bit of an "older" sound to it, or maybe that's just me projecting. I also wonder if it's autobiographical (though the video may be influencing that thought). At any rate, I just take it as it is.

Having said that, one song that I really love makes the list of "worst songs ever", and it will be a Weekend Diversion post next weekend—thanks for the idea!

Roger Green said...

ABBA might have been big once, may STILL be big in NZ. But it's like my friend who tried to promote the Robbie Robertson album by noting he was the lead writer for The Band. New generation of record store buyers (I use the term 'store' loosely, to include iTunes) aren't going to know how big ABBA used to be, wouldn't know Agnetha was IN ABBA. Sad but true.

Arthur (AmeriNZ) said...

Absolutely true. And they were never as big in the US as they were in other countries, "Mama Mia" notwithstanding. If Agnetha is successful in the US, it'll be on her own merits—which is actually a perfectly okay thing, I think.