Yes, I like ABBA. I really do. Last year, I bought my girlfriend the Thank You for the Music boxed set for her birthday, just so she’d have every ABBA song she could ever want, and we immediately locked ourselves in with the boombox and listened to the whole damn thing. Given that, I guess it’s understandable that this CD causes me more internal conflict than a bad curry, as The ABBA Generation is nothing more than a CD of covers of ABBA songs, updated with modern gimmicks (remember that vocal thing everybody from Kid Rock to Madonna’s using these days?) and a prefab band of young, shiny-clean Swedes. The cynical side of me says they’d have been better off calling this ABBA 2000, a la The Blues Brothers—it’s essentially an out-of-time attempt at grabbing some cash by coasting on past success, and somebody else’s past success, at that.
Okay, so maybe I’m being a bit puritanical. After all, it’s not like ABBA were Bob freakin’ Dylan, right? The messages were never particularly deep, and the music was always completely over-the-top—hell, that’s part of the appeal, at least for some of us. And even I can’t claim to be immune to the infectious poppiness of this disc, I’ll admit; if any ‘70s-era pop was better suited to a bouncy club-mix remake, I haven’t heard it. The producers throw in a few interesting touches, like a slight reggae feel on “Super Trouper” and the staccato vocals of “Take a Chance on Me”, and the impossible-to-resist beat of “Voulez-Vous” manages to make the song even more urgent than the original. The A*Teens have their hearts in the right place, too, I think—they make no bones that the CD is a tribute, and dedicate the CD to “the most inspiring songwriters, singers and artists there have ever been”, which is nice, at least.
So, I guess this isn’t a complete waste of time. The part that still bugs me, though, is that the reason the songs stand up so well has very little to do with these four kids—it’s because the songs are so good to begin with. I think I heard it said somewhere that anybody can have a hit with a good song, but only a genius can have a hit with a crap song, and the former is certainly the case here. It’s the same reason why covers of previously-popular songs almost always do well. In this case, it’s not even covering an older band’s songs so much as repackaging that band’s well-used sound and image, in an attempt to pitch it to the Christina Aguilera/Backstreet Boys crowd. I can almost see the label marketing people drooling right now—the fact that A*Teens use the liner notes to thank their dance instructors and folks at Nickelodeon, of all places, should give you a pretty good idea of who this is aimed at. After all is said and done, The ABBA Generation is guilty fun for a while (although it won’t be replacing ABBA Gold in the CD player at my parties, I have to say), but the shine wears off pretty quickly.