Sunday, December 9, 2018

Review of Robyn's "Honey"

I posted this review on the Sputnik Music website about twnety minutes ago:

Review Summary: She's a human being.

As a general rule, most of America's pop divas leave me cold. I could care less about Beyonce, or Ariana Grande. I'm not sure why. Maybe it's that a lot of them are more R&B based, and their style just doesn't speak to me. Instead, I find myself more drawn to international stars, such as Australia's Sia. And I'm particularly fond of the Swedish electropop queen Robyn.

I'll admit, I'm a relatively late passenger to the Robyn train. I don't even know how I first became aware of her. I do remember somehow picking up a copy of her 2010 album Body Talk (the full version that combines the two smaller EPs), and it became one of my favorite albums of that year. I also bought her 2014 EP with Royksopp (I like it to think of them as Robyn and the Robots), Do It Again, and I thought the song "Monument" was one of the best songs of that year. I was less impressed with the EP she did with La Bagatelle Magique in 2015, Love Is Free. But it would be fair to say that I've become quite an admirer of this artist. So when I heard that Robyn had a new album coming out, I was naturally quite interested.

I'll tell you right off the bat that Honey is a totally different animal than Body Talk. It's quieter, and much less pop-oriented. There's a muted quality to it, and an air of something akin to desperation. The vibe throughout much of the LP is similar to that of a dance club (or a strip club) at 3 AM. There's a longing to the music, and some kind of an emotional hole that you just know can't really be filled.

Robyn has a genuinely pretty voice, but she holds back a lot here, appropriately, given the material she's working with. "Human Being", which is my favorite song on the album, is slow and a little droning, with a strange electronic percussive pattern to it. It's almost as much spoken as it is sung. "Beach 2k20" which has a more upbeat mood, is still muffled, and largely spoken-word. The closest thing you'll find on Honey to the music on Body Talk would probably be the last song on the album, "Ever Again". This is a mid-tempo song with a prominent bass pattern, which finds Robyn asserting herself to her lover, demanding "Come on, let's have it out," and declaring, "That shit's out the door". The verse features a vow, both to him and to herself: "I'm never gonna be brokenhearted/Ever again." So I guess that while there's an air of dejection throughout much of the LP, it all works out in the end.

It's worth noting that the album art for Honey is intentionally garish, and kind of ugly. It features an uncomfortably close-up photo of Robyn's face and shoulders, as she gazes directly into the camera while sprawled in an awkward-looking position, belly down on a bed. The color scheme for the background is a bright, gaudy mixture of reddish-orange and neon green. It's all in keeping with that glitzy dance hall/strip club atmosphere.

I don't love this album as much as I do Body Talk, and it's probably not going to be one of my Top Ten LP's of 2018. But it's still a damned fine album, and it won't miss my Top Ten list by much. Robyn continues to interest me as an artist. I'd recommend Honey to anyone who finds themselves drawn to slow, electronic dance pop music.

Rating: 3.5/5 stars