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The game is on again! Abba set to unveil comeback with new songs

Sweden's most famous music group of all time, Abba, are expected to announce their comeback on Thursday, nearly four decades after splitting up.

The game is on again! Abba set to unveil comeback with new songs
Abba, from left, Björn Ulvaeus, Agnetha Fältskog, Anni-Frid Lyngstad and Benny Andersson. Photo: Jan Collsiöö/TT

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 on Thursday, 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 4.45 GMT (6.45pm Stockholm time).

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 Fältskog, 71, Björn 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.

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.

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.

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 $200-300 million. In 2000, they turned down a $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.”

Article by AFP’s Anna Malpas

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CULTURE

Daddy cool: Swedish dads go viral as boy band

Five Swedish fathers singing capella pop songs while taking care of their young children have taken social media by storm, with their videos garnering tens of millions of views.

Daddy cool: Swedish dads go viral as boy band

The five men, all in their 30s, film their “Dad Harmony” sessions while hanging out with their kids at home in the northern town of Skellefteå.

“This story all started at my bachelor party” in the summer of 2022, Peter Widmark, a 33-year-old who works in sales, told AFP in an interview. “We were hanging out and singing as we usually do when we hang out… (and) my brother filmed it and put it on TikTok with his seven followers.”

The next morning the dads discovered the video had been viewed 40,000 times. The number had skyrocketed to 20 million hits worldwide within a few weeks.

The five friends decided to start posting videos regularly, shot in their kitchens or on their sofas, often holding their little ones on their laps.

Singing the chorus of Leonard Cohen’s classic “Hallelujah”, one of the dads can be seen holding his weeks-old newborn in his arms.

“It’s a soothing thing when we sing,” Widmark said, explaining why the children are usually so calm in the videos.

‘Typical Swedish guys’

“We are typical Swedish guys,” said Widmark’s brother Tomas, who is also part of the group, adding it was “not that unusual” for men in Sweden to spend a lot of time with their children.

“Almost every guy in Sweden is used to taking paternity leave so it’s not a big deal for us,” he added.

Each of the dads has two kids.

Dad Harmony’s repertoire includes hits by Michael Jackson, the Beatles and popular Christmas songs.

Since the end of November the group has been on a month-long tour criss-crossing Sweden to perform live shows each weekend – albeit without their kids.

During the weeks, they go back to Skellefteå and continue to work at their normal jobs and spend time with their families.

The members of Dad Harmony in an interview with AFP. Photo: Viken Kantarci/AFP

“I just stumbled on their video on Instagram and I was mesmerised,” said Louise Elgström, a 41-year-old fan who attended a recent show in the town of Norrköping.

She said their appeal lies in the fact that “they feel so natural and also (that they are) involving their children”.

The dads vow their success won’t go to their heads. “No televisions flying from the hotel rooms!” joked band member Sebastian Åkesson.

But the group has big dreams: they hope to line up tour dates in the United States and Asia, and say they would love to sing with Elton John one day.

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