Robyn

23 albums, 120 tracks

Alternative/Indie RockDance-PopPop

Narratives

"Robyn"

May 24, 2019

The Body Talk Series of Mini-Albums Unleashes the Dance Prowess of Robyn

tonyfabelous
Written by @tonyfabelous / 6 mins read

Frankly, I did not expect the girl who sang and came out in the US hits Do You Know (What It Takes) and Show Me Love (both peaked at #7) would be able to build a music career and earn the respect of her dance peers for almost 23 years. I first encountered Robyn in 1997 because of those hits. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to follow up her career because back in those days, we didn’t have the Internet to instantly inform us of our favorite artists’ new releases. Since Robyn was not American but Swedish, information about her work was slow to filter to our side of Asia. I really thought she disappeared and I was very surprised to hear that she got a Grammy nomination for her song “Call Your Girlfriend” which is in this album I am reviewing. The song is undeniably great and she deserved that nomination. To follow up on that information, I decided to give a listen to the album Body Talk, which contained that song, hoping to uncover more danceable tunes from her. Body Talk is actually a composite of three mini-albums, Body Talk Pt. 1, Body Talk Pt. 2, and Body Talk Pt. 3. She decided to choose the best songs among the three albums and release a full album entitled Body Talk. I don’t know if she had to do this just so she can edit her work, because all three mini-albums were released within one calendar year, which is an impressive output for any artist. Nevertheless, Body Talk is one of the most impressive dance albums I have listened to, arguably one of the best ever made in this category. She came up with a great concept and used different dance beats to showcase her sound. Although the overall feel is futuristic – the album is not cold and distant. It is in fact capable of touching our feelings and igniting the irony of our actions, especially in that clever song “Call Your Girlfriend” There are songs here which are so original in concept and so witty in lyrical content that it blew me away the first time I listened to them. It is a gem of an album and I’m glad I didn’t come too late to her party.

My A-List Choices in this Album Chockfull of Danceable Gems

Robyn released a few songs from this album but I will begin my narrative with the songs which I discovered in the album and which I love very much! These are three songs which when I listened to it the first time – gave me goose bump moments! It’s like opening a present that gives you a magical feeling! First of them is the opening song in the album called “Fembot”. Interestingly, all these three songs are produced and written by Karl Åhlund, who has also worked with other pop acts like Mika, Sugababes and even Madonna. Robyn co-writes this song as well, and what I love most about it is this part where Robyn kind of sings or recites it – “My system's in mint condition / The power's up on my transistors / Working fine, no glitches / Plug me in and flip some switches / Pull up in dragging position / Pop the hatch and hit ignition / B-b-burn out, baby / Ready for demolition” Robyn does this – fembot style – which is so cool to hear! I can’t stop singing along with it since I wanted to ape the robotic way of delivering those lines. The silly things we do with the songs we like! The second song I like, closes this album and it’s entitled “Stars 4-Ever”. I love the energy of this song, especially its chorus – “You and me together, stars 4-ever” - which keeps repeating and repeating, reinforcing the message of the song. It’s hard not to bop my head up and down when I hear this song. It’s practically infectious! I love the positive message of the song – it’s a perfect song for those days when we don’t feel we’re up to rate. Finally, the third song which immediately caught my fancy in this album is “We Dance to the Beat” – a song sung robotically – which is similar to “Fembot” – but what I love about it is what Robyn whispers when the chorus is sung! Here are my four favorite phrases from the song - “We dance to the beat / of a billion charges of endorphin / We dance to the beat / of the continents shifting under our feet / We dance to the beat / of gravity giving us a break / We dance to the beat / of love lost and won back“ – such clever songwriting!

The Singles Released From Body Talk Are Instant Classics

Although there are many good songs in the Body Talk album, I think the reason why Robyn chose these three songs to be the singles for this series of mini-albums is because of their accessibility and the universality of their message. They are all pretty danceable tunes and if one listens closely, one can glean a similar thread in them all. “Call Your Girlfriend” is a clever twist of a song – “Call your girlfriend / It's time you had the talk / Give your reasons / Say it's not her fault / But you just met somebody new / And now it's gonna be me and you” Not only is it danceable, it also gives a new angle to love triangles wherein the new girl (usually seen as the villain) steps in to explain the relationship. It was nominated for Best Dance Recording by the American Grammy Awards and Body Talk Pt. 3 was nominated for Best Dance Album. “Hang With Me” is another great dance track where the girl says to a guy, sure, you can hang with me – “Just don't fall recklessly, heedlessly in love with me / Cause it's gonna be / All heartbreak, blissfully painful insanity / If we agree / Oh, you can hang with me” This pictures Robyn as someone dangerous to be with. The song reached the top 10 in Sweden and Norway. Finally, “Dancing on My Own”, the most successful single and the first one to be released, explores similar themes – the third party watching their former lover be with the new love – “Sit down in the corner, watching you kiss her, oh no / And I'm right over here, why can't you see me, oh no / And I'm giving it my all, but I'm not the guy you're taking home, ooh / I keep dancing on my own” In Robyn’s songwriting world, there is always a third wheel. Sometimes, it’s Robyn, sometimes, it’s not. The song went to #1 in her native Sweden, and top 10 in Norway, Denmark and the UK. All these songs helped raise Robyn’s profile again, not only in Europe, but also in the US.

May 17, 2019

Robyn is more sticky than sweet with ‘Honey’

spoiledsplendid
Written by @spoiledsplendid / 6 mins read

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.

Written by arnaudmarty  / May 15, 2019

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