Abba have announced that they have written and recorded their first new songs since they split in 1983.
The Swedish four-piece, who had nine No 1 hits in the UK between 1974 and 1980, and who have sold hundreds of millions of records worldwide, announced on Instagram that they had recorded two new songs for a project in which avatars of the band will perform.
in Brussels earlier this week. The centrepiece is the two-hour TV show co-produced by NBC and the BBC, which will see the band perform as computer-generated avatars. Ulvaeus said the band had been digitally scanned and “de-aged” to look like they did in 1979, when they performed their third and final tour.
The avatars are then set to tour the world from next year.
Abba formed in Stockholm in 1972. They comprised two couples: Ulvaeus and Agnetha Fältskog; and Benny Andersson and Anni-Frid Lyngstad, all of whom had enjoyed musical careers in Sweden. The group burst on to the international stage after winning the Eurovision song contest in Brighton in 1974 with their song Waterloo.
From the mid-70s until they split, Abba built up a formidable arsenal of global hits including Knowing Me, Knowing You, Take a Chance on Me, Dancing Queen and The Name of the Game – all of which reached No 1 in the UK.
Fältskog and Lyngstad were the lead singers; Andersson and Ulvaeus composed the songs. Never less than impeccably produced and performed, Abba’s records were critically disdained at the time, but their popularity has endured. Their 1992 compilation Abba Gold has sold 30m copies – more than 5m of those in the Britain – and spent 833 weeks in the UK album charts.
Their jukebox musical Mamma Mia! debuted in the West End in 1999 and is still running both in London and worldwide; its website claims that it has been seen by 60 million people in 440 cities.
The stage show was adapted into a film in 2008, which grossed $615m (£447m) worldwide. A sequel, Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again, will be released in June. The actor Lily James – who is set to appear alongside the cast of the first film including Meryl Streep, Amanda Seyfried and Colin Firth – told the BBC last week: “There’s lot of songs in there, lots of new ones. Lots of ones, actually, that weren’t in my repertoire of Abba and I think they’re going to be huge hits again, and reawaken the love of Abba.”
Abba’s split in 1983 followed the divorces of both couples. Ulvaeus and Andersson went on to write two musicals, including Chess – a revival by the English National Opera opens on Friday in London – before largely devoting themselves to Abba’s legacy. Fältskog and Lyngstad have kept much lower profiles, though Fältskog – long claimed to be a recluse – returned to pop music with an album, A, which was released in 2013.
The group have long held out against lucrative offers to reform – they were reported to have been offered $1bn to play a concert in 2000. In 2014, Ulvaeus told Billboard: “you will never see us on stage again … we don’t need the money, for one thing.”
Peter Robinson, editor of Popjustice, described the announcement as “the biggest pop news of the 21st century. Most fans grudgingly admired Abba’s refusal to record new music, but I think we all sometimes daydreamed about the band possibly, maybe, one day having a rethink at the right time, on the right terms and for the right reasons, which seems to be what’s happened here.” He added: “It’s a pop miracle.”