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Abba’s Bjorn Ulvaeus worried avatars could be used as a force for bad

The singer stars as an avatar in Abba Voyage, a virtual concert residency depicting the Swedish pop group as they appeared in 1977.

Bjorn Ulvaeus
Bjorn Ulvaeus

Abba star Bjorn Ulvaeus has said people need to be “very careful” about the use of avatars in the future as they could be used as a force for bad.

The 77-year-old reformed with the Swedish troupe after almost 40 years to create a physical concert featuring “Abba-tar” versions of themselves as they appeared in 1977, singing and dancing to their greatest hits.

Abba Voyage takes place in a purpose-built 3,000-seat arena in east London and is designed to be a large group experience rather than a fully virtual or digital streaming event on mobile devices or headsets.

However, songwriter Ulvaeus warned there could be negative effects from the use of avatars.

He told broadcaster Alastair Campbell during an episode of Bjorn From Abba And Friends on Apple Music Hits: “The reason I got so intrigued by this was the technology, that it actually can be done.

“That you can reproduce something that is a human being, but on a screen, this semi-human being can sing songs, and speak and do all kinds of things.”

Former Labour spin doctor Mr Campbell said: “Does it worry you that doing it for music is sort of a force for good. Does it worry you that the same thing could be used as a force for bad?”

Ulvaeus replied: “Absolutely. It does. But it was going to happen anyway, and we are the first to do it, which is great, I think, to be the pioneers, but I’m sure in the future, we’ll have to be very careful about what can be done with avatars.”

Later in the episode, Mr Campbell said hearing Abba track The Winner Takes It All defined the moment he realised the Labour Party was going to win the 1997 general election.

Former prime minister Tony Blair’s ex-press secretary told Ulvaeus his 1980 song was “up there” as a personal favourite because it had epitomised the win.

Reading his diary entry from election day on May 1 1997, Mr Campbell said: “It was a weird feeling. It was as if we’d been fighting a 15-round fight, and as the bell rang for the last round, the other guy just didn’t turn up.

“I’d barely slept, even though for the first time in months there was no reason to get up early (because it was election day). I gave up trying to sleep just after 6am, got up and read through the papers.

“It was so weird having time on my hands. At Myrobella House (which was Tony Blair’s house up in the constituency), someone had turned on Radio 4, I switched it off.

Abba Voyage
Alastair Campbell at the Abba Voyage digital concert launch (Ian West/PA)

“I said we didn’t have to worry any more about the news. There was nothing more we could do. And I twiddled the knob to find the music station.

“And I found one playing Abba, Winner Takes It All. John Burton (who is Tony’s Sedgefield agent), he and I fell about.”

Mr Campbell later told Ulvaeus: “It was an amazing moment because that was the first time after three years of campaigning that I allowed myself to think, ‘We’ve definitely won’.

“Winner Takes It All is up there for me.”

Labour swept to power in the 1997 election which saw Mr Campbell become one of the key players in the New Labour era.

Ulvaeus, who won the Eurovision Song Contest for Sweden with Waterloo in 1974, later revealed his top three Abba songs were Mamma Mia, Dancing Queen and Winner Takes It All.

Listen to the episode from 10am on Thursday March 2 on Apple Music Hits.

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