Twenty-five years after international disco-era superstars Abba first topped the charts, pop group the A*Teens remade with contemporary beats many of the Swedish foursome's hits, including "Mamma Mia," "Dancing Queen" and "S.O.S.," on their debut album, 1999's The Abba Generation.
This summer, A*Teens continue to bring Abba's music to a new generation. The group, which opened for *NSync last year, are on tour with Britney Spears through Aug. 14. On Aug. 15 they begin their monthlong appearance on Nickelodeon's All That Music & More tour, with Blaque, B*Witched and LFO. (Sonicnet.com's parent company, Viacom, also owns Nickelodeon.)
In the fall the A*Teens will release their first original-music single, in Europe. "We really like the things we have done, and we've launched new information [about Abba] to the kids," 15-year-old singer Sara Lumholdt said. "[But] we wanted to do something on our own and grow as a band, and we felt it was time to do that now."
The four Stockholm, Sweden, teenagers — two guys, two girls, just like their forebears — weren't even bjorn when Abba was delivering hits such as "Waterloo" (RealAudio excerpt) and "Take a Chance on Me" (RealAudio excerpt). But that didn't stop the new quartet — Amit Paul, 16, Dhani Lennevald, 15, Marie Serneholt, 16, and Lumholdt — from rediscovering the classic tracks of a time not their own.
"My parents listened to [Abba] a lot when I was born," Paul said. "They told me they used to dance with me to Abba music when I couldn't sleep."
It's enough to give some people nightmares, but Paul learned to stop worrying and love the beat. "I heard Abba all the time, through different steps of my life," he said.
More Than Just A Cover Band?
The A*Teens began their professional life as Abba-Teens, but Paul and Lumholdt said that they didn't want to be known only for Abba covers. "We changed it because we wanted to be able to do our own stuff in the future," Paul said.
The group recorded 15 new songs over the past year but has not yet chosen the European single. "It should be something that connects us to this music style we have now but that also shows we have something new," Paul said.
The A*Teens' debut album, which they're currently on tour supporting, updates 11 Abba songs with high-energy, pop-disco club beats that yield a confectionary, contemporary sound that brings quarter-century-old hits to a new audience.
"They have awesome voices; I like how they sing the old Abba songs, and I like the video for 'Mamma Mia,' " Jessica, a 14-year-old fan from Clarksville, Ohio, who did not wish to reveal her last name, wrote in an e-mail in an A*Teens chat room. "Plus Dhani and Amit are hot!"
The A*Teens summer tour features extra dancers and new, more challenging choreography, according to Lumholdt. "It's tricky and hard to learn," she said.
Even with choreographed dance moves, mistakes happen, as Lennevald learned in March, when he injured himself at a Disneyland performance.
"In 'Mamma Mia' (RealAudio excerpt) we do a jump over the girls and then a fake split, and Dhani tore his muscle," Paul said. "It took six weeks for him to heal."
Paul — who said his musical tastes vary from today's fellow teen bands and soul classics to more "hardcore" stuff, such as Korn, and classical music — met up with the rest of A*Teens more than five years ago, at Stockholm's Lasse Kuhlers Dance School. "We were dancing in the same dance groups and went to the same parties and movies and that kind of stuff," Lumholdt said.
A Group Within A Group
In 1998, when record producers came to the school to conduct auditions for A*Teens, Lumholdt and Paul teamed with Serneholt and Lennevald for a compelling tryout.
"We went as a group 'cause we knew each other," Lumholdt said. "We got the tape from the auditions later, and it was obvious by our chemistry that we knew each other."
While A*Teens have made their name by reprising Abba's music, they are only the most recent in a long line of musicians and filmmakers to pay such homage. In Australia, where independent films such as "Muriel's Wedding" and "The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert" feature Abba songs on their soundtracks, the ex-band is still sufficiently beloved as to have spawned the successful Bjorn Again, a group of Abba impersonators. And, over in England, synth-poppers Erasure released Abba-esque, in 1992.
"Abba as a group may be dead, but their music lives on," Paul said.