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A fan's analysis: Agnetha on "A"

 "...music, the most ineffable of all the arts."

(Sept., 2013:)

...This will be a fairly cursory overview of Agnetha Fältskog's voice and singing on 2013's "A" album. I know a few things but I'm not a voice or singing expert. It is my considered opinion.... that all are free to take or leave.
....And, I'm likely "talking" mostly to myself, plus maybe a few occasional returning readers -- who I know have their own considered views and thoughts. (BTW, which you are welcome to record in the comments section, below.)
In short, this won't be a comprehensive (e.g., track-by-track) album/singing 'review'.


A few quick caveats, as a preface:

  • Please know up-front that younger Agnetha's distinctly clear, bright and sweet (plaintive, 'ringing', resonant, etc. etc.) singing voice is ingrained upon this particular listener. I cannot 'forget' that (when hearing her sing). Two - of many available - representative Agnetha voice samples taken from the ABBA days: Her backing vocals in "Money, Money, Money" (link is to a YouTube video), and Agnetha's ABBA masterpiece: "The Winner Takes It All" (embedded YT video, below). (Quick aside for ABBA fans: 1.) I love Frida's lead and video presentation in "Money..." x 3.  2.) How did Agnetha's beautiful greenish eyes apparent in the "Money..." video, become so blue-ish by "A"??. (They're nice either way...))  (Continuing on:)  Therefore, with this listener, mature Agnetha (of the present) is unavoidably "competing" with - or at least being compared to - her younger self. This is a bias, and an unfair one. In my view younger Agnetha established a high standard.
(YT video link)

  • Singer Agnetha is capable of many things with her special voice, yet (she) always projects a distinctive 'sound' (overall). There is one specific feature of Agnetha's voice and singing that I always listen for, especially. Of the several appealing elements present/"available" in her voice it is probably my favorite. For lack of a better description (or a more technically accurate one) I've termed it a "sweet 'ring'" that she's often able to achieve/impart. ("Sweet": Standard definition.) ...'Ring' is more complex, involving timbre, tone, quality, etc. Update: Here is much more (link). Locate "The Singer's Formant" section...) )  (Continuing on:) I believe the feature is present in the two ABBA sample songs above; especially (in clarion form) on display in Agnetha's effort for the refrains of "Money..." It does not result only from technical, audio enhancement(s). (I.e., applied by engineers using equipment at the studio, to the recordings.)  FWIW, I'll also link one distinctive solo song (of a number) from Agnetha here, as well ....again finding "sweet ring" in the (in-Swedish) song's chorus (and elsewhere). (Yes, there is technical (studio) enhancement...)  Certain songs that Ms.Fältskog records may not necessarily invite this characteristic, but I still always listen for it. (And many times find it present no matter what...) More will be below, in the context of Agnetha's "A" album....I won't go on further here but please see this post (link) if interested, for a glance at some key, additional, suggested "Agnetha voice element-descriptors". E.g.; bright, plaintive, warm-at-times, clear, crisp, sultry-at-times, intimate-at-times, etc. etc. etc...... I'll be touching upon a couple of these voice elements below, with regard to "A". 

  • Obvious point: Each of us are going to hear this singer at least a little bit differently. Via our own preconditions, biases, past experience, listening conditions and so on. I know that and I assume any readers do as well. 2014 update: For interested voice fans now might be as good of a point as any to break for a minute and check my updated, 3/1/14 album note, published under an older blog post's 'comments' section. (Note/"warning": The observations there MAY have you listening to one or two songs on "A" in a different light.... (direct link, new window opens (once there you'll need to scroll up a little for the 2014 comment))): http://star4abba.blogspot.com/2013/03/313-official-web-pages-for-agnetha-at.html#comment-form

  • A favorable, positive album comment is being presented. But if you are a fan who cannot bear to read a critical word or two about your idol's singing efforts, consider exiting now. Remember to 'consider the source'; though I've now accumulated some experience listening to/have gained a basic understanding of the singer, over time. (As always) I'm going to be honest with these comments... ;-)

Ending any 'suspense' immediately: Agnetha's absolute "best voice" in association with her "A" album is here, via the YT video embedded below.....And I am "Steven":

(YT video link)

Yeah...in my dreams. (So I'm just kidding about the above...(although) her voice is like honey poured all over Steven....(More about Steven is here (link).))

Back to the mini-review: Good news! (For 'Mr. Verbosity' here...) it's fairly short and sweet....
Or perhaps not:

I only had a chance to see her comments about singing each song on "A" a couple of times, so I hope I have things correct. (Some were available via Spotify - which I don't subscribe to for privacy reasons.) At any rate in Agnetha's published comments about "A" I believe she mentioned that she "got a sore throat" (singing) at the beginning of the recording process. A link to excerpts of the pertinent interview is here. And here is the quotation, assuming it is accurate. I think it is significant: Agnetha is (likely) being honest. Candid:   

"...It was interesting now that I started singing again after such a long break. I over did it at first, and I got a sore throat. You have to use your stomach muscles, use the extra strength. It is only when you feel sure about how to do it right that you can express a lot...."

In what follows I am not implying (nor asserting) - from the above - that it was actually the case. (I.e., reaching final album recordings.) I am picking up on Agnetha's comment mainly for illustrative purposes. More as an analogy:
To this fan's enjoyment Agnetha generally "sounds like Agnetha" throughout her "A" album. However, to me at moments she sometimes sounds like her younger self -- but with a bit of a sore throat (if you will). Her voice at times sounds thinner, drier, a bit more 'hoarse' at times. Less (striking) clarity than from the younger days. (I'd further suggest (though) that this (discerned) change may mostly be natural...)
Oddly enough, the top, extended example of this from "A" (that I can conjure for illustration) ALSO happens to be my current favorite of all her efforts on the album: "Past Forever" (song title).
Agnetha's present, (mostly-)"normally"-modulated voice (as I perceive it) is exposed on much of that song -- and it 'works' perfectly for it! I won't go into it more here, but any interested can read a bit more of this impression at my other 'Agnetha-solo' blog, linked here. (Ref.:"An in-focus review of "A"".) 
Sorry....that page is now deleted.

Part of the above, however, is (still) likely Ms.Fältskog "adjusting"/modifying her voice for the singing/interpretive role she thought necessary for "Past Forever". (Agnetha: It worked well!) So we cannot "read" everything into how her voice (generally) sounds on it. From this fan's perspective though there are additional examples of the somewhat-changed/evolved(?) voice: Certain, non-chorus portions of "When You Really Loved Someone" (YT song link is further below), would be one ....

Per the excerpt above (and others) I (now) believe it was wise for mature Agnetha to have a couple of 'refresher' singing lessons while creating "A". If we are lucky enough to hear the singer record again, I'd hope that she would (continue to) focus upon readying her voice and associated "muscles" for such an effort. Keeping the voice (and associated physical 'mechanics') limber: At this point in a long and successful career I would guess such preparation would benefit any professional singer....

I was kind of joking around a little with the 'Steven greeting' video, above. But did you notice how Agnetha's voice sounded (in it) when there's (at least) a.little emotion involved? (Or, intent. Even if it was mainly laughter(?) there.) When she seemingly, genuinely "gets into it" to some extent? (In truth, the YT Steven greeting better displays her warm/sexy voice elements, but I'll press on with the following....I detect some "sweet 'ring'" (above) as well....)
...On her "A" album, that is when I heard Agnetha's wonderful "sweet ring" (ref. above) return for her. Especially within the chorus sections of several songs... where the artist sings with some force behind her voice. Those song sections usually demand increased emphasis (volume as well) - for various reasons - and Ms.Fältskog sounds very good within a number of them. I actually feel that all of "Perfume In the Breeze" is sung well by Agnetha, but "sweet ring" emerges (especially) in the emphasized portions. The feature is also noticeably  present within her "When You Really Loved Someone" and "I Keep Them On the Floor..." efforts -- particularly (in) the refrains.  There is also some within "Dance Your Pain Away", though I feel that track more displays (much) "mere" sweetness from the voice, vs. the "sweet 'ring'" phenomenon. (A lot of "echo" seems added - technically - to the (album) "DYPA" vocal...) There is also (audio) technical enhancement (I believe), but I also hear some "sweet 'ring'" at moments in the duet with Gary Barlow. (Agnetha: Always excellent performing with/harmonizing with/complimenting/contrasting with other singers -- as all ABBA fans know.)

Finally, another singing/voice impression - especially from mature Agnetha - is the ability to impart "warmth" via her voice. While (also) maintaining characteristic clarity (in the voice), the honey-like "Love Me With All Your Heart", from 2004's My Colouring Book is one standout example to this listener. (The 'Steven' video above is actually another...) A stronger feature of the grown-up singer, I hear flashes of warmth in parts of "A". It's especially noticeable to me at the start of "Perfume..." (and other non-chorus moments there), and certainly at times inside intimate "Bubble". A few portions of "I Keep Them...." appear infused with it -- Agnetha has always seemed to (especially) "shine" (in general) when singing her own compositions.

Can't depart without adding yet two more quick impressions from "A"'s performances. As any readers know, I go to 'heaven' (as a listener) when this sweet-sounding singer hums, 'la-las' and otherwise sings without words. I feel that those little techniques both highlight and condense the general appeal of Agnetha's voice. It can be intimate-sounding as well when she does so. "A"'s "Bubble" is a sure favorite in that vein.....

I didn't intend to leave on a slight 'negative', but here we are. (Thank you for reading this far...A positive addendum is further below.)  I'll note that what follows may - in part - arise from a personal listening 'bias' when it comes to Ms.Fältskog's voice:
I still find that Agnetha (and her producers) took a small risk with her present vocal capabilities in the final section of the otherwise-very-nice "The One Who Loves You Now". The jump-up to a higher register at the song's 'climactic' finishing portion did not sound especially well-executed to my ears. I don't think Agnetha quite achieved the highest "...loves you NOW" note(s), and her voice sounded strained; even a bit "squeaky" in some of those moments. However, I have not found anything written elsewhere "yellow-flagging" that specific part of the effort -- as I have. I'll close-out by merely noting it and my opinion. Obviously it's important to this one fan-listener for mature Agnetha (and her producers) to consider staying within the star's present (vocal) capabilities when recording....

...Which remain considerable.

 Updated observation: This listener sometimes likes to select a "best singing moment" by Agnetha on her various solo albums. (I.e., the most (intensely) enjoyable and/or most "Agnetha-special" singing moment...if you will.) For me that instant on "A" occurs -- ironically, I guess (or (just) oddly) -- immediately following the "yellow-flagged" song portion commented upon just above: Agnetha's close-out of "The One Who Loves You Now" is beautiful. (Her final "...How much I want to/Be the one who loves you now(s)...", plus her included, hummed note there....(It is enjoyed best in the context of the complete song.))

...To me, THAT is singer Agnetha Fältskog.

("Runners-up": Most of "Perfume in the Breeze" and "Bubble"(esp. her last 'la-la-la's' and  (yes;here we go again)...'oooh-mmm/mmmmm'(??)!))




 ((Older) Image source is unknown. If you have legitimate knowledge/ownership of it, pls. tell me in the comments (below).)



P.S. A positive note about an ability occasionally overlooked: It's worth mentioning how accurately Agnetha enunciates (and pronounces) her English words when singing. (Sweden's ABBA's other members (do so) as well...This (ability) is not a surprise, BTW.)  Vocalizing (melodically, i.e.;singing) is different than speaking (as I've read), but I'd guess that her ability to do so exhibits some diligence and attention to detail..
On "A", as a couple of examples: I love her clear and precise pronunciation of the "r" in  the word "colours", within "I Was A Flower". Also, the somewhat awkward combination of written words within "Perfume..." E.g., "...vanished like a rainbow from the.horizon of my heart....". (Precisely conveyed.) 
Some additional highlights, not all focused upon enunciation: Her studied, "My Generation" stutter (OK; maybe a stretch there) on d-d-d-"Dance Your Pain Away".... BTW: The sung word "Better", in "..."Better shine the whole night through..." ("DYPA") is a beautiful, one-word distillation of what I perceive as "sweetness" in Agnetha's singing voice..... Agnetha's distinctive "lawk"  pronunciation of "lock" in "DYPA"...(I like it and her pronunciation is not "wrong". More of that particular tendency is found in this effort from her past (link) -- (a short song) featuring much "sweet 'ring'" in its oft-repeated, emphasized (sometimes doubled-vocal) portions, BTW...(Technically-enhanced = yes...)).... Her image-conjuring, slightly airy or "sighed" delivery of "....heard the whispers of you, in the windy trees...", from "Back On Your Radio"..... Agnetha's Swedish-tinged rendering of "perfect", in "...the perfect place to hide...", from "Bubble". ("Puhrr-fect".   Love it: A puhrrr-fect pronunciation for that moment in the song...)
Etc., etc....

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