Finally I listened to A | 16 August 2013

Today I finally had the nerve to listen to the full "A" album by Agnetha. My verdict: the voice is still great, the songs are mediocre.

When the album arrived in May I skipped through the songs: I gave every song a 30 seconds treatment which usually tells a lot about an album. After that I wasn't tempted to listen to the full album. Why? Because my expectations had been high. Too high I realized.

I had heard lots of positive "sweaty obsessed" words about the album when I was in Stockholm in May. So I feared that I could only be disappointed when I would listen.

Of course I heard the first single When You Loved Someone a couple of times. I wasn't too impressed. A nice track and Agnetha sings it with her familiar great voice. But it didn't stick. I could not remember much of the song.

OK, I admit, I have rarely been impressed by Agnetha's solo material. She is a one of the world's greatest singers, but when it comes to choice of songs or producers I always had my doubts. Her 80's albums were not special, though some of her singles were OK and very enjoyable. Her 2004 comeback album My Colouring Book contained some strong tracks, but they already had proven to be great songs on their own.

So now, nine years later, there is "A". I was pleasantly surprised that Agnetha had the courage to record a new album. And I am also quite impressed by the voice. She sounds fabulous at 63. Many of us would love to have a voice like that. I suspect that pitch control and voice control and other studio trickery have helped a bit, but I'm not complaining. A nice touch for me: her English sounds even more Swedish than ever before and I very much like that.

So the voice is OK. In fact it's as good as it has always been. But is the album as good? Well, some tracks are OK, but (and I hate to say it) a few songs are absolutely dreadful.

The start of the album is quite promising with "The One Who Loves You Now" and "When You Loved Someone". Nice songs, sung in great Agnetha tradition. Nothing ground breaking, but truly enjoyable. However, I'm afraid that the next three tracks are amongst Agnetha's weakest moments from her entire recording career. "I Was A Flower", the painful duet "I Should've Followed You Home" and worst of all "Past Forever" really hurt my ears.

Thank god for "Dance Your Pain Away". It woke me up. That's the kind of up tempo track Agnetha does best. Next track is "Bubble". And that is a fab song. Probably the best track of the album. Unfortunately it is followed by "Back On Your Radio" which is so middle of the road, that you wish it never had been written. Album closer "I Keep Them On The Floor Beside My Bed" might even be worse: too slow, too safe, too easy listening and not memorable at all. Which is pretty sad for an album closer.

The verdict: I give it three of five stars. And that includes one and a half star for the voice alone. The songs are mediocre with a few exceptions. With only four songs out of ten that are enjoyable, it is a missed opportunity.

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