Cover Feature Human after all: Robyn

After eight years away, Robyn is returning as one of pop’s modern icons with new album ‘Honey’, no longer content with running head first through heartbreak but searching for a deeper connection.

There’s a specific moment a few minutes into Robyn’s new album ‘Honey’ that perfectly encapsulates her new world. “I’m a human being,” she states, introducing its second track, also titled ‘Human Being’, with desperation seeping into her voice slowly but surely. It’s sung as a projection of self-realisation, just one that also happens to make her utterly terrified. “My heart can’t stop beating / Don’t know what to do,” she continues, before a warm, soft wave of synths rush in to back her up like a sonic hug. She repeats the track’s title again, but this time more softly, and with confidence: “I’m a human being.”

Her last album - 2010’s ‘Body Talk’ - was a thudding rush of robotic lust, taking inspiration from all things digital to crush heartbreak and despair with pummelling synths and choruses to bellow ‘til the air runs out, fists clenched. It’s the feeling most closely associated with Robyn as an artist and as a person, someone whose music you put on in the throes of gutting heartache, to help you power through it at full pelt.

When the tour for that album came to an end at the beginning of 2014, however, she found herself physically and emotionally drained, disconnected with the idea of what she had left to say as an artist, and finding the well of her previous methods of communication and connection to be running dry. “I think in the past I’ve been more…” she begins today, before pausing. “My instinct has been to push through [feelings] and face things head on, but this time it wasn’t an option for me. It felt like a dead end. I just couldn’t push this any further. It’s not gonna go anywhere. I can’t be writing sad love songs for the rest of my life - that’s just gonna be pathetic!” she chuckles. It’s an idea that she also lays out plainly on ‘Human Being’, too: “All these emotions are out of date.”

She returned home from the road to a turbulent period in her life. She was in the process of exiting a long-term relationship, and attending therapy. Then her friend and long-term collaborator Christian Falk died after a short illness. If the sense of needing a re-evaluation of her life and career wasn’t already prominent enough in her mind, it soon became unavoidable. It all spills out on comeback single, ‘Missing U’.

“I was very sad and upset when I wrote it,” she says of the song now. “It was the beginning of a really tough period for me. Then as I kept writing, my songwriting and what I was actually doing myself was trying to find a soft space of self-care and enjoying my life again, so I think that that’s how the arc of the album is, but it’s also exactly what my life was like.”

Using ‘Missing U’ to relaunch herself was a no-brainer, then. “It was the first song I wrote for the album, it’s the first song on the album, it’s the first part of what the story of the album is,” she explains. “It’s also a little bit of a moment that explains the space that I was in while I was away. Also just the beginning of the song,” she continues, before raising her arms like a rainbow and humming the shimmering first notes to the album: “that sound, the arpeggio - it feels like a sunrise to me.”

It was a familiar enough reintroduction, those synths pummelling away with the power they’ve always harnessed, but it also served as an initial kick open of the door into a whole new world that ‘Honey’ goes on to explore. Writing it enabled the singer to dive deeper into herself, and begin carving out an entirely new form of connection. To do so, she headed home.

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As featured in the October 2018 issue of DIY, out now.

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