Album Review Robyn – Body Talk Part 1

Pop world take heed: forget albums and try your damnedest to be as good as this.

With this year’s fantastic Hot Club de Paris EPs and the increasingly interesting Ash A-Z Series we’re certainly wondering if the traditional album format is always that way. Robyn’s yet further argument that it isn’t. Of course there’s no way we’re saying that the album format is dead, it’s just that it’s not the most ideal way to present pop music, is it? With this release being the first part in a three part mini-album series there’s no pretence of this being a big statement, it’s instead a collection of eight songs put together for release.

Because of this format what we’ve got is the chance to judge each and every song as a single or a piece in it’s own merits. The flow is unimportant, as is the relationship they have to each other. This is emphasized by the inclusion of an number towards the end – ‘an acoustic’ version of ‘Hang With Me’, which to be honest is so well done it’s just showing off. Stripping the sound back to just her vocals with some piano and strings, Robyn’s showing how she’s at the forefront of pop music right now. Looking at all of the other critically acclaimed pop stars (Lady GaGa, M.I.A., Florence) it’s difficult to imagine any of them having either the voice or the subtlety to actually pull a traditional gentle pop ballad off.

This moment is quite close to the end of the release however, and before that we’ve got six more pulsing and equally different sounding pop classics. ‘Don’t Tell Me What To Do’ stays just the pop side of electro and features a repetitive vocal hook that drives the song as much with Robyn’s personality as the steady solid beat does. It’s good, but better still is ‘Fembot’ – the one you may have already heard from this collection. A distant cousin to ‘Konichiwa Bitches’ it combines the well delivered rap with the perfect auto-tune assisted chorus. A tool that’s been overused in commercial pop music of late this might be, but Robyn uses it as a dehumanising effect, robotosizing the voice in order to ram home the theme.

If we can sidetrack for a moment; there’s a very valid case for proclaiming ‘With Every Heartbeat’ the best UK Number One single of the last decade, and with that in mind it’s really no surprise that ‘Body Talk Part 1’ has a moment that’s slightly reminiscent of it. ‘Dancing On My Own’ combines the sadness of balladry with the slickness of the songs which would soundtrack the moment it describes. With it being Robyn that’s performing this, the tale of being left on the dancefloor whilst he goes off with another woman manages to hit home, despite the subject manner being unoriginal. On this mini-album ‘Dancing On My Own ’ is bettered, but only by ‘Cry When You’re Older’, an amazing instantaneous End Of Year List dead cert. There’s swooshing synthesizers and a keyboard melody that matches Robyn’s vocal track. With a chorus that goes “’Cause love hurts when you do it right / and you can cry when you get older” it’s completely impossible to argue with.

All that’s left after these are ‘Dancehall Queen’, ‘None Of Dem’ (feat. Röyksopp) and ‘Jag Vet En Dejlig Rosa’. The first is as should be expected from a title like this: a wibbley wobbley, really low bassline coming through the mix in a way that we can’t properly appreciate on our small home hi-fi. The Röyksopp collaboration sounds a little like M.I.A. before she got really annoying and as such easily overtakes Ms Arulpragasam as the fore-running credible pop star. Last song ‘Jag Vet En Dejlig Rosa’ is the most throwaway track here but only because it barely breaks the two minute mark and we don’t speak Swedish; again it’s a gentler number, and almost sounds like a spoof of Sigur Rós.

So there we have it. And this is only the first part of three. The next two parts are due later in the year and can’t think of any pop music that we’re looking forward to more than these. Pop world take heed: forget albums and try your damnedest to be as good as this.

 

More like this