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Agnetha Faltskog's "A": Album Review

The former co-lead singer of ABBA returns after a quarter-century

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Agnetha Faltskog's

The cover of Agnetha Faltskog's "A"

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Swedish producer and songwriter Jörgen Elofsson seemed destined to work with Agnetha Faltskog, the blonde eurodiva who made up one-quarter of ABBA and half of its voice. No one delivered the bad news about romance better than that group, for all their shiny, hooky gloriousness, and when Agnetha came across some unreleased songs of Jorgen's, she figured it was time to try and connect with her English-language audience again. But can Eloffson, who's penned hits for the American Idol crowd, bring the pain as well as he does the reserved Nordic beauty?

About this album

  • Release date: May 14, 2013
  • Label: Verve
  • Catalog number: 001835602
  • Musicians:
    Peter Nordahl: piano, conductor
    Jesper Jacobson, Simon Petrén, Fredrik Thomander, Pär Westerlund: keyboards
    Max Lorentz: organ
    Gunnar Norden: bass
    Per Lindvall: drums
    Niklas Sunden: accordion
    Simon Petrén, Fredrik Thomander, Pär Westerlund: programming
    Jörgen Elofsson, Janet Leon, Myrra Malmberg, Jeanette Ohlsson, Fredrik Thomander, Linda Ulvaeus: backing vocals

  • Produced and arranged by Jörgen Elofsson and Peter Nordahl
    Engineered by Jörgen Elofsson, Janne Hansson, Micke Herrstrom, and Lasse Nilsson
    Mastered by Bob Ludwig
    Art direction: Matt Read

Pros

  • She still sounds great, and familiar; when multitracked, it seems as if ABBA itself isn't very far away.
  • Jörgen Elofsson's production features some nice touches, like the Beatlesque slide guitar in "I Keep Them on the Floor Beside My Bed."

Cons

  • For a pop legend and gay demigoddess like Agnetha Faltskog, this is a pretty anonymous album.
  • The hooks are occasionally there, but the lyrics don't give them emotional weight.
  • The duet with Take That's Gary Barlow sounds as phoned in as it apparently was.
  • The Europop touches are few and far between.

Review

Despite being one of the two lead female vocalists in ABBA, and therefore one of the most popular distaff singers in pop history, Agnetha Faltskog ironically never found her voice -- that is, no real vocal personality to back up her diva status. Technically she's always sounded amazing, the missing link between Karen Carpenter's doomed romantic and Madonna's faithless Catholic schoolgirl, but while the songs of Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson gave her something to do with her voice -- everywoman housewife working through regret, mostly -- it didn't give her an identity when the group (and the two couples which made it up) split in 1983. "I'm a Marionette," indeed. She tried a few English-language solo albums, first working with Blondie/Knack producer Mike Chapman (not bad), then 10cc's Eric Stewart (why not?) and, finally, Peter Cetera (uh oh). Other than a rather inconsequential covers album a decade ago, that was the last anyone heard from Agnetha Faltskog for a quarter century, so the mere existence of this new original studio album is noteworthy. Those shrieking Europop high notes at the top of her register are gone now, but that's probably just as well: the portion of her midrange that's most expressive is still working just fine, thank you, as delicate and yet resilient as edelweiss on a snow-covered mountainside. This time out, however, she's partnered with the new pop royalty of Sweden's own Jörgen Elofsson, whose biggest successes came from the mouths of Britney Spears ("You Drive Me Crazy") and Kelly Clarkson ("A Moment Like This," "Stronger"). Assembly-line pop, yes, but the really durable kind.
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