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Musikindustrin - prelistening at Universal office 15/03/2013

AF  Agnetha Fältskog

 Artiste Agnetha Fältskog back with "A".

This week an exclusive pre-listening was arranged to Agnetha Fältskog's upcoming album "A" in Universal Music's offices in Stockholm. Musikindustrin's editor Claes Olson was there when producers Jörgen Elofsson and Peter Nordahl guided a select collection of curious listeners through the new album (which will be released May 13).

This week, the single "When You Really Loved Someone" was released as first taster for "A".

The ten newly written songs are the first musical sign of life from Agnetha Fältskog in nine years.

The album has been done in close collaboration between songwriter and producer Jorgen Elofsson (who has previously written and produced for Kelly Clarkson, Britney Spears, Celine Dion and Westlife) and his co-producer and arranger Peter Nordahl, who has previously collaborated with Elofsson on Björn Skiffś album Break The Spell from 2011.

I never thought I would sing again, but when I heard the first three songs, I could not say no, the singer explained why she chose to make a comeback when the producer pair unveiled the first songs for her - two of which are on the album.

Agnetha Fältskog herself was not present at the pre-listening, but Jörgen Elofsson and Peter Nordahl spoke generously openly about the album's creation, when the new songs were played at Universal Music chiefs office (Per Sundin) on Östermalm in Stockholm.

Elofsson and Nordahl had the idea of trying to contact Agnetha one and a half years ago. In September 2011, they met her for the first time and in January 2013 they recorded the upcoming album's closing track "I Keep Them On The Floor Beside My Bed", which Agnetha herself has co-written.

Elofsson : We wanted to make an album that continued from the point where her solo career ended when ABBA made their breaktrough, and take it out into the world. A pop album, with its roots in her singer-songwriter tradition at "ABBA", one gets a bargain, with her voice!

- We did not want to turn her into Rhianna or Katy Perry, but to make a record for her fans.

Nordahl : We have assumed Agnetha herself as an artist and we wanted to do a record where the password is "worthy".

Worthy Agnetha as the sixty-two-year old woman she is today. Lyrically, we wanted to take up serious things. Musically, we wanted to then make the production a bit "old school". Create a sound with both acoustic and programming.

- When we started recording, it was not even decided that we  would really make a whole album, but the first recording was successful and then we decided to continue.

The ten songs were written during the recording, which lasted several months, partly at Jörgen Elofsson's own studio, partly at Atlantis Studio and with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in Stockholm Concert Hall.

Nordahl :  We basically finished each song individually before we went on.

Elofsson : And I almost had a heart attack every time I would introduce a new song (jokes).

The musicians group consisted of guitarist Mattias Torell, keyboardist Max Lorenz, bass player Gunnar Nordén and drummer Per Lindvall. Additionally Peter Nordahl himself played a little piano. Peter's wife Myrrh Malmberg has both been doing a little vocal coaching and choruses as has singer Janet Leon - and Jörgen Elofsson ("to have something to tell posterity," he joked after playback).

The new album "A" is licensed worldwide to Universal Music Group and contracted by the record company's London office.

Elofsson : Three days after they had heard it for the first time, it was clear. Maybe it played some role that I was number one on the charts with Kelly Clarkson at the time, but they really thought it would be great fun.

Max Hole, President and CEO of Universal Music Group International, said that the whole thing is a "dream project" for many in the company.

- You can probably imagine how exciting it felt when we were told that Agnetha was in the studio again. We wanted to get her to choose Universal Music as a partner and we are so grateful that she did.

Universal Sweden's CEO Per Sundin stated that one of Sweden's international great songwriters now focused on a Swedish artist.

- We hope that this shows that not not only do we a have Swedish songwriter at international level, but also Swedish artists. It might open the doors for more.

The upcoming album "A" begins with "The One Who Loves You Now". After Agnetha's first vocal phrase, "Everything I ever had, I let it slip away ... ' the song grows from the quiet start to the piano to an epic ballad with clear 70's references.

This is followed by the current single "When You Really Loved Someone", a pop song with a more modern sound, spiced with charming 80´s synths.

"Perfume In The Breeze" rests on a solid rock beat, nicely colored by Max Lorentz organ and a slick whistled melody that comes in before the last chorus.

The fourth track "I Was A Flower" belongs to the album's absolute top moments. On playing it at Universal Jörgen Elofsson emphasized what a fantastic song interpreter he thinks Agnetha is.

Elofsson :  She puts so much feeling in every word, he said.

On "I Was A Flower", her vocals get really fully into their own: "I was a flower, now look what you have done. You made my colors fade, too close to the sun ... ". The song is a poignant, minor key piano ballad with royal strings. The concluding chorus feels like one of the biggest that ever has been recorded in Sweden.

"I Should've Followed You Home" is a duet with former Take That member Gary Barlow. Jörgen Elofsson tells that they had several names but proposals were rejected, before one hit it the right with Barlow's name. The song was written in April.

- We did not want to have a traditional ballad in slow tempo, but something different.

After a quiet start with gear vocals between Barlow and Agnetha Fältskog, after the first chorus the song changes as one of the album's most uptempo tracks."I Should've Followed You Home" is undoubtedly a potential England chart hit, that certainly should have made the London office cheer extra loud.

"Past Forever" is a ballad whose melody is actually reminiscent of ABBA and the next song "Dance Your Pain Away" is a surprisingly small prick to eight measures gathered directly from the Swedish super-group's sound world. The latter song is shameless eighties disco and for a few minutes Agnetha is back on the dancefloor of nightclub Alexandra in Stockholm, summer 1978 ...

Elofsson : When I first played the song, Agnetha began dancing behind me where I was sitting, soI knew I was doing the right thing.

The text line "time means nothing" begins next song "Bubble", which is perhaps the album's most atmospheric moments.

Max Lorentz play nice Gary Brooker roaring organ.

"Are you picking up my signal from the radio?", wonders Agnetha on the pop song "Back On Your Radio", which - apart from its more modern sound - is based on the sixties classic poptradition.

Closing track "I Keep Them On The Floor Beside My Bed" was co-written by Agnetha Fältskog herself.

Elofsson :  It is one of my favorite songs, and it is fitting that it is the end, for it sums up the whole record in any way.

The music is very much seventies, as a tribute to Agnetha.

The last line of text that Agnetha herself wrote : ”Why is love so hard to understand?”