Released in 2018, 9 tracks, 40 min
Robyn is more sticky than sweet with ‘Honey’
Robyn is a rare talent that has the ability to create her own unique sound, score big with critics but never really achieve mass success. I have followed her career for decades and have always loved her art - because it’s often much more artistic than just a pop album. I’ve flown internationally to hear her perform live. I religiously bought all the Body Talk EPs. I’m a fan. But after waiting eight years for a follow-up to her groundbreaking Body Talk, her recent album Honey fails to deliver. There are aspects of her old sound that creep into the music, but mostly the album is…nondescript. It’s boring, bland, dated and weak. Body Talk was loud, brash, ahead of its time. Maybe it’s not fair to compare the two, but it’s a huge departure from what we’ve grown to expect from Robyn.
In between Body Talk and Honey, Robyn released a mini-album with long time collaborators Röyskopp entitled Do It Again. This mini-album was epic and was hailed as “flawlessly produced” and “adventurous” by music critics. It went on to be the first #1 Billboard Dance Album for both artists and garnered a Grammy nomination. Not bad for 5 songs. The title track was synth-heaven with a hard definitive beat. The song was was unapologetically sexy and addictive. It was like a candy you couldn’t get enough of. I outline all of this because this was the last major project before Honey. Usually you see trends in a performers career - so perhaps for the latest album, I was expecting a pulsing dance album with bold energetic anthems. Silly me.
Honey isn’t a bad album. It’s just a total abandonment of what Robyn used to sound like. Before she was an apologetic badass making killer dance tracks. Honey sounds like music that should be playing in the background of a nursery. Or maybe a nursing home? Robyn herself admits that the album was much more sensual and soft. For me, her version of soft has come across as weak. I’m also fully aware that the album won critical acclaim from music reviewers - but I think they were just insatiably hungry for new music from Robyn that they were happy with anything she gave them. Because, lets face it, the girl is a musical genius.
Looking at the tracks, there are a few that do standout. ‘Missing You’ would have been tolerable as a 2nd or 3rd single, but not as the lead. It made it’s way on to the HBO TV Show Girls after the crazy success of ‘Dancing On My Own’ which appeared on the show and was from her Body Talk album. ‘Missing You’ had some of the electronic beats but even the bass is turned down low. ‘Human Being’ featuring Zhala is gentle and dark and forgettable. It’s certainly not a song you’d sing along to. ‘Because It’s in the Music’ lends itself to a clear and sparkly Asian feel. The song is alright but could be insane if they amped up Asian instruments, killed the synth, sped it up, and remixed the heck outta it. Thats not too much to ask is it? ‘Baby Forgive Me’ is painful: it drags, it’s sad, and it borders on being indulgent. I’m all for being emotional with your music, but it shouldn’t hurt for us to listen. ‘Send to Robin Immediately’ started out tragically and took almost 2 minutes until Robyn’s actual vocals began to ring through. It’s still terribly slow and sad but at least she sounds good in this small window of the album. ‘Honey’ is meant to be the sensual part of the album…obviously…and it’s so blatant it’s tacky. At least the beats pick up a bit here that give it a reminiscent sound of Robyn from days gone by. ‘Between The Lines’ is all over the place - the beats are all off, the sound goes from electronic to calypso to synth disco. Worst track on the album. ‘Beach2K20’ keeps picks up from the calypso in the last album and has a digital-mambo feel to it. This song didn’t bother me as much because there is no actual singing on it. ‘Ever Again’ closes out the 9 track album - and yes Robyn actually sings on this song. The song is tolerable and talks about getting over a bad breakup.
If you have gotten this far, you’ve realized I’m not a big supporter of this album. I just can’t imagine that her fan base would totally buy into this soft and sad version of her. But if history is any indicator, we’ll have to wait a very long time for her redeem herself. Until then, I’ll just got back to the vintage hits.
I think I prefer sugar…
The second single from the album - and it does have a few characteristics of typical Robyn music. The beat is good and Robyn’s voice sounds on point. I do find the track drags and I wouldn’t dance to this unless it was remixed…the current tempo is awkward. And if all that isn’t enough, the video just seems like a cheap rip-off of ‘Dancing On My Own.’ Maybe it’s just extra footage that got cut and they decided to paste it all together for this lame video.
I think I’d rather be missed…from a distance
One of the stronger songs on the album, but still pretty forgettable. I’m certainly not going to post this to Facebook and insist my friends listen immediately. This was used on HBO’s Girls and thats likely where it belongs - as background music. Yawn - next.
You’ll need to do a lot of reading between the lines to make any sense of this song
The home video is bad enough. The song is lousy. Lets be honest here, I could have likely done better when I was in Grade 10 with my keyboard. Although, I will admit that I wouldn’t look as good in a bikini as Robyn does. So I guess she has got me there. Then again, I know better than to wear bikini bottoms over my pants. So ha!
On Honey, Robyn proves she's the wisest phoenix of pop music.
I've been a fan of Swedish popstar Robyn for many years now so what you're going to read is anything but objective. I remember I was pretty excited to see her video clip of “Keep This Fire Burning” before going to school in 2002. At that time, I did not know anything about her music and career yet. I actually thought she was just another ephemeral artist with a one-hit wonder. During these years, I was also starting my music business career, if I may say so, by hosting my own show on a local associative radio. As a real sucker for mainstream pop music, I was dissecting the European music charts each week. It's probably how I learnt that this song was the lead single of her third album and that her career was almost one decade long.
The Long Path To Victory
Robyn's career could definitely be a movie or, even better, a Netflix series (a movie is maybe too static, and I like to think that her career will still go one for many seasons). In 1995, at only 16 years old, she was already charting in Sweden but also in the US and the UK. And it's actually no surprise when you discover that two of her first singles, the very R&B “Do You Know (What It Takes)" and "Show Me Love", were produced by none other than Max Martin, well before the debut of Britney Spears (funny fact : Robyn guested on Britney's song “Piece Of Me” years after). Even if the music industry likes this kind of early success stories, it's never easy to become a superstar during your teenage years. A few years after her debut, Robyn had what we would call today a burn out and came back to Sweden to recover. Then, she successfully released two pop albums before stopping her collaboration with Jive Records in 2005. Indeed, the Sony imprint was not believing in her music evolution anymore or maybe they did not want to grant any creative freedom to the now-adult popstar - Where most of the popstars would have signed their death warrant, Robyn decided to turn this scission into an opportunity. In early 2005, she then created her own label Konichiwa Records and released her fourth album which was named Robyn to mark this new artistic control and liberty. Before Jive even had the time to regret their decision, Robyn was number 1 in Sweden for the first time ever and charted in a lot of countries with her Kleerup collaboration “With Every Heartbeat”. Like a phoenix, Robyn's career was gathering some new momentum with the iconic Body Talk trilogy, which became an essential album for every indie pop fan and gave birth to an endearing cult about the Swedish songstress - While she was at the peak of her popularity, Robyn had to face a series of personal hardships, including a painful breakup and the death of one of her closest friends and collaborators Christian Falk. If you are familiar with Robyn's music, you know how highly-emotional and vulnerable her songs are. You can also deduce that she is a popstar who doesn't fake her feelings. Devasted, the artist started a psychoanalysis of half a decade and could not work on any solo material.
Robyn's comeback is certainly not what you were expecting
She was not totally gone, though. The die hard fans could try to cope with her absence with one of her many side projects: She asked a lot of producers to remix her tracks, she collaborated with Royksopp, signed Zhala on her label and also created a band called La Bagatelle Magique. But the truth was that she was emotionally too weak to release any new Robyn material for eight long years. So, when she teased a new track, “Honey”, in the final episode of HBO's series Girls in 2017, she simply broke the internet. Greedy and selfish fans that we are, we started to harass her on social media hoping to get a piece of Robyn: Where is the track, where is the new single, when do you release an album? We did not care about what she was going through. But Robyn decided to remain silent and to keep her precious secret until the end.
Overcoming a breakup and sending love to her fans
Robyn actually started to work on Honey in the summer of 2014 and crafted the whole album as an intuitive diary. The songs are listed in the order in which they were written. They also detail her whole recovery process. The album opens with “Missing U” which definitely links to her Body Talk era in terms of sounds. It is both a breakup song and a love declaration dedicated to her desperate yet dedicated fans. In eight years, I did not forget Robyn either: She was part of all of my parties and I was screaming, dancing and crying on her anthemic choruses. The second track of the album is named “Human Being”. I personally interpret this song as an explanation for her lengthy hiatus. Even if she's a goddess to us, Robyn is just a human being and she also has her own weaknesses. A few years ago, she was singing in “Fembot” that female robots have feelings too. No one is unbreakable: Her breakdown could have actually happened to any one of us.
A personal record about love and human connections
For this album that is for sure her most introspective and personal so far, Robyn surrounded herself with friends and musicians: Joseph Mount of Metronomy, Klas Åhlund, Mr. Tophat and Zhala amongst others. While “Missing U” still sounds like an extension of Body Talk, the rest of the album explores new soundscapes, even if that means disappointing a part of her audience. Most of the people who belatedly connected with Robyn are not aware that a big part of her music culture is rooted in R&B and house music. “No, you're not gonna get what you need / But baby, I have what you want”, she sings in the title track. A chorus that you can actually read as “Oh gurl, you're not going to get another Body Talk album, I'm here with something else but I'm sure you'll like it too”. And indeed, Honey is a whole new chapter. Her epic Scandi-Pop has almost totally disappeared, leaving room for balearic-esque, sun-kissed and retro house-soaked pop music. On Honey, the danceability of Robyn is still here, but it sounds smooth, sensual and quiet. It is tailored for a romantic dance with your lover on a beach or for a trip to Ibiza with your loved ones whereas Body Talk was soundtracking a collective and ecstatic moment in a club full of strangers on ecstasy. Listen to “Beach 2K20” or watch the video of “Between The Lines” if you don't get the idea.
Growing up as a human and an artist
As said earlier, Robyn's new album details her recovery process after eight years of emotional turmoil. From the feelings of abandon and lack, to the acceptation of her own vulnerability to her request for forgiveness, Honey is a short yet powerful testimony about breakups and human connections, with her lover but also with her fans. The last track of the record “Ever Again” acts as the moral of her story. In 9 tracks that each represents a step of this period, Robyn overcame her depression and has grown up, both as a person and an artist. “I swear I'm never gonna be brokenhearted ever again”, she sings. I don't know if this means that we will never get songs like “Dancing On My Own” in the future. I actually don't care: she never disappointed me and I like to trust her on blind faith. She sounds happy and serene and I feel the same when I listen to Honey. As a fan, that's the most important thing to me.
Official Music Videos
- Oct 26, 2018
- Alternative/Indie Rock
- Joseph Mount
- Klas Åhlund
- Mr. Tophat
- Adam Bainbridge
- Apmamman, Stockholm
- Shelter, Paris
- Pigalle, Paris
- Strongrooms, London
- Futur De l'Audiovisuel, Paris
- Konichiwa, Stockholm
- 123, Peckham
- Tophat, Stockholm
- Houses in Los Angeles and Ibiza
Honey is the eighth studio album by Swedish singer Robyn, and her first since Body Talk (2010). It was released on 26 October 2018 through Konichiwa and Interscope Records. It features the lead single "Missing U" and second single "Honey", a version of which originally featured in the final season of the HBO series Girls in 2017.Continue reading at Wikipedia...