After the split up of the immensely popular group ABBA, the four former members have all gone their separate ways: Björn and Benny were off to London where they – among other things – composed the music for the musical Chess, Frida worked with Phil Collins and chose to live in Majorca, but Agnetha preferred to stay in Sweden more than anything. For over twenty years, she has been a popular appearance in her home country or, as she herself puts it: “People see me as a logical part of the inventory, so that I can shop without being bothered in Stockholm.”
In reality, the ‘cool blonde of ABBA’ is a friendly, but reserved woman. She has an aura of self-confidence around her, that vanishes for a moment when she expresses that she won’t talk about a certain subject. “After all those busy years, I’ve come to the conclusion that I want to execute projects well considered. Ever since I was five years old, I’ve been busy playing piano and composing, followed by performing with a dance orchestra, a solo career and of course ABBA. The device has always been ‘selling yourself’, but that takes the backseat now. Added to that, I don’t like touring, it takes a lot of energy to be in different cities at different times. My two children were born during the ABBA period and in between proceedings I had to raise them. Now I’m able to spend all my time on them and in between I can compose and produce.”
Although she has released several albums in the past with her own Swedish compositions, on the new English-language album ‘I Stand Alone’ she went for songs written by Peter Cetera, former singer of Chicago. Agnetha met him at a special Unicef gala, an organization that she supports actively. After a couple of months of international phone calls, it was decided to record the album in Malibu, California.
“In one word, it was inspiring, if only because we were working with renowned studio musicians such as Robbie Buchanan and Paulinho da Costa. I’ve been a fan of Peter for a long time... his voice, compositions... I don’t think I would describe the lyrics on this album as melancholic, no, rather a collection of love songs with a bit of tragedy. Peter had written about thirty songs, out of which I made a selection. What appeals to me the most is the power that the songs express, the music sounds strong and danceable. The most difficult moment was when I went back home after five weeks and the demo tape was sent to me later on. I knew what to expect, but I was still tensed. I’ve listened to the album quite a lot since then and I believe that we achieved the result that we aimed for.”
It remains a question what the aimed result is. On the whole, ‘I Stand Alone’ is a solid, well produced album, tailor made for the American market. The result is an accomplished product, but here and there it lacks the sorely needed emotion. The criticism pales compared to the success: the album has been number one in Sweden for several weeks and has been received well in several countries. Just like every aspect of the presentation, a lot of attention has been paid to the accompanying videos as well. Director Marcello Anziano, responsible for a couple of colourful Peter Gabriel videos, filmed the videos for ‘The Last Time’ and ‘I Wasn’t The One (Who Said Goodbye)’. We ask Agnetha the question if it isn’t difficult to keep up visually with the youthful, good looking artists of today. “Obviously, my approach is completely different. I don’t want to look like a sixteen-year-old, but like the mature woman that I am. Indeed, I believe that it’s more difficult for an older artist to create some kind of video image. For me, the album and the video have the same quality standard.”
Her little son Christian enters the room. She looks aside for a moment. “It’s only logical for me that I’m living in Sweden, it’s my country! I feel at ease here, I enjoy the environment, I have my children around me... Okay, the climate is bad but you have to take the bitter with the sweet. I also think it has to do with some kind of balance, after having gone through different stages: solo career, ABBA, and subsequently a solo career again. Sweden determines by background, just like all those stages influence your voice and spirit. If my cool voice is a reflection of my character? Oh well, I think it has to do with experience, that you know what you can do with your voice. That doesn’t take away from the fact that I still have to work hard to keep my voice in shape.”