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Robyn - Topic

My Truth Play

Despite a string of big hits and platinum sales for her debut, Robyn's sophomore effort was never even released in America. Her U.S. record company feared that the record would fail to connect with pop radio, and Robyn, who co-wrote every track, refused to compromise her artistic vision. In the resultant struggle the album was lost, although it was another hit in her native Sweden. Listening to the record, you can understand why the record company was nervous. At the same time, though, it's hardly a radical departure from Robyn Is Here. Indeed, in many ways it's a step forward. While that album was bogged down in filler and samey production, this album is much more organic and mature. There are no truly weak moments. There is a greater focus on the lyrics, which are generally intelligent and introspective. This is not to say that Robyn transformed herself into Lisa Loeb; lead single "Play" is as playful a song as she's ever recorded. Other highlights include the funky "Main Thing" and the distinctive, minimal "Electric." The main problem with the album is that the hooks just aren't as instant or irresistible as those of "Show Me Love" and "Do You Know?" It takes several listens for the songs to really sink in, which could have spelled death among the fast, disposable sounds of pop radio in 1999. Also, the album has a uniformity of sound that can make some songs drift in and out without really making any impression. Record executives may also have been nervous about songs such as "Giving You Back" and "88 Days," which deal with Robyn's guilt over a youthful abortion. Not a commercial blockbuster then, nor a perfect listen, but this album does mark an important step forward for Robyn as an artist, and should be of interest to any fans of her later work. ~ John Lucas, Rovi

Body Talk Play

Robyn's prolific 2010 culminated with Body Talk, the full-length album that featured songs from the Body Talk, Pt. 1 and Pt. 2 EPs, plus enough new songs to make up a third EP. Releasing that much new music within six months was a feat in and of itself, but the fact that each part of Body Talk was so consistent made the whole project even more impressive. And, by revealing bits and pieces of what went into the final album -- as well as parts that didn’t -- Robyn offered her fans a window into her process, allowing glimpses of the moods and approaches that go into making an album and letting listeners get to know these songs in different contexts. Of course, Body Talk's appeal isn’t just experimental: by picking the best of the project’s songs, it feels like a greatest-hits collection and brand new album rolled into one. Familiarity suits these songs well, whether it’s the tight, bright “Fembot,” the aching “Dancing on My Own,” or “Hang with Me,” which swoons with arpeggios that sound like falling recklessly in love, even though that’s just what Robyn warns against. Hearing the songs from the EPs on Body Talk makes Body Talk, Pt. 1 and Pt. 2 feel like deluxe singles from the album, as well as its building blocks. However, different versions of these tracks, like the more anthemic take on “In My Eyes,” ensure that the album doesn’t feel cobbled together. Some songs sound even better here than they did on the EPs: “Love Kills” and “None of Dem”'s playful dancehall function more clearly as bridges to other tracks than they did before. Body Talk’s new songs also make good on the EPs’ gradual shift from fierce independence to togetherness, particularly on “Call Your Girlfriend,” a thoughtful twist on a love triangle that finds Robyn enjoying new love while being concerned for someone hurt by it, and “Stars 4-Ever,” which gives a fizzy, Euro-dance tinged happy ending to the Body Talk project. After the EPs’ conciseness, the album feels downright roomy, and maybe slightly too long; obviously, Robyn had a lot of songs to work with. Overall, though, Body Talk is more focused than Robyn, and just as bold in the intimacy it creates with listeners. ~ Heather Phares, Rovi

Robyn [2007] Play

"I present to you/Unleashed in the East/Best dressed in the West/Sorted in the North/Without a doubt in the South/the queen of queen bees," intones the booming voice on Robyn's opening track, "Curriculum Vitae." It's not bragging if you can back it up, and Robyn does just that, channeling all the frustration of her creative differences with her previous labels into a freewheeling, accomplished pop album that is so fresh that it could pass for a debut -- and, as the first release for her own label, Konichiwa Records, it is a debut of sorts. Robyn feels like she crammed everything she couldn't do before into a space that can barely contain it, starting with "Konichiwa Bitches," a sassy hip-pop manifesto with a title that could very well have been the first thing she said to her old bosses once she got her own label set up. On this song and the rest of the album, Robyn sounds equally empowered and irresistible, and doesn't hesitate to tell off labels, trifling boys, or anyone else who stands in the way of what she wants. She doesn't mince words on "Handle Me," but she purrs "you're a selfish, narcissistic, psycho-freakin', boot-lickin' creep" so sweetly that it stings even more. And even on the songs where she isn't so strong, like "Bum Like You" and "I Should Have Known"'s catchy recriminations, she's never the less than self-aware. She has a few words for the ladies as well: the cautionary tale "Crash and Burn Girl" is one of the album's funkiest tracks.
"Who's That Girl," the song that her old label didn't want to release, and sparked her emancipation from them, is also here, and its distinctive skipping, tropics-go-Nordic rhythms and aggressively buzzy synths -- courtesy of the Knife -- sound great, but it isn't even the best song here. That honor goes to one of two songs that really hit home that true independence can be the hardest thing. "Be Mine!" nails the complicated, sad yet liberated feelings surrounding an impossible relationship, celebrating "the sweet pain of watching your back as you walk away" as it propels itself on a buoyant rhythm. "With Every Heartbeat," the epic, Kleerup-produced breakup song that was Robyn's breakthrough single in the U.K., pushes her forward on percolating, escalating synths and strings until it peaks with the chorus echoing all around her. Not every independent moment on Robyn is so lonely, however. The way the album moves from whimsical tracks like the Teddybears cover "Cobrastyle" or "Robotboy" to subtle ballads like "Eclipse" and "Any Time You Like" just emphasizes that this album is a space for expression for and by Robyn. And like any self-titled album should, Robyn defines what she's all about. Even if it took a few years to put together the label and album (and a few more to get the album released everywhere), this is the pop tour de force that Robyn has always had in her. ~ Heather Phares, Rovi

Body Talk, Pt. 1 Play

Robyn's 2005 self-titled album showed that when she was free to do whatever she wanted, she could do just about anything. However, it took a while for Robyn to reach all of her listeners -- the U.S. had to wait until 2008 to discover it was a modern pop classic -- and during that time, she amassed enough songs to fill three mini-albums. Since she doesn’t have to prove what she can do in the confines of one release, Body Talk, Pt. 1 is a more focused listen than Robyn was. At eight songs long, it’s also leaner, and a little meaner: Robyn sounds more frustrated and assertive than ever on “Don’t Fucking Tell Me What to Do,” a hard-edged dance track topped by a litany of everything that’s killing her: her shoes, her diet, her manager, her label. The words and tension are so dense that there’s no room for any musical embellishment besides stark beats and synths, and it’s not till the song is almost finished that Robyn finally lashes out with the song’s titular chorus. She’s not afraid to brag on the dancehall-tinged “None of Dem” and Diplo-produced “Dance Hall Queen,” but her boasts are more tempered than Robyn's taunts. Instead, she shows that she’s as independent as ever in different ways -- most often by displaying her vulnerability. As revved-up as Robyn sounds on “Fembot,” there’s a sensitive undercurrent behind Klas Åhlund's whiz-bang production, and though “Cry When You Get Older”’s melody is pure bubblegum simplicity, Robyn's advice to boys and girls (“love hurts when you do it right”) is anything but. She can also capture the heartache of a fiercely independent woman like few others, and “Dancing on My Own”'s wounded strength and soaring melody make it Body Talk, Pt. 1's “With Every Heartbeat.” The album takes a much more intimate turn as it closes, with the acoustic version of “Hang with Me” finding a unique perspective on being “just friends”; the traditional Swedish song “Jag Vet en Dejlig Rosa” (I Know of a Lovely Rose) ends the album with Robyn singing of a faraway love with just a vibraphone accompanying her. Capturing the freedom and loneliness of independence, Body Talk, Pt. 1 is a concise set of songs on its own, and an impressive first third of the whole ambitious project. ~ Heather Phares, Rovi

Robyn Is Here Play

Robyn's debut album, Robyn Is Here, isn't particularly deep, but it is well-executed European dance-pop. The Swedish teenager has an appealingly thin voice, and her producers and songwriters have a knack for crafting hooky dance-pop that sounds as if it was made in 1990, not 1997. Half of the album rides by on mediocre songs and first-rate production, but when Robyn is given a good song -- as on "Show Me Love" and the dynamite "Do You Know (What It Takes)" -- Robyn Is Here is as good as mainstream dance-pop gets. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi

Body Talk, Pt. 2 Play

Robyn declared her independence on Body Talk Pt. 1, but on the project's second volume, two's company. Trading hard-edged dance floor assaults for softer but still sleek sounds, she sings the praises of companionship and support and proves that stylish, cutting-edge pop doesn't have to be competitive or egotistical. This friendly vibe is apparent from the beginning of "In My Eyes," which opens Body Talk Pt. 2 with a sweet, and catchy, message of reassurance to misfits and outsiders. Bookended by Robyn's assurances that "It's gonna be OK!," it couldn't be more different than "Don't Fucking Tell Me What to Do," Body Talk Pt. 1's opening salvo. Even on more kinetic tracks like "Include Me Out" and "We Dance to the Beat," it's all about sharing the groove, not dancing on one's own. Speaking of which, Pt. 2's single "Hang With Me" is just as good as "Dancing on My Own." It appeared on Pt. 1 as a somber yet hopeful acoustic ballad, but here she gives it the full Robyn treatment, with longtime producer Klas Ahlund transforming it into emotionally complex pop that rivals Robyn's "Be Mine!" Meanwhile, the acoustic "Indestructible" and "Love Kills" reflect the downside of needing someone, whether it's reaching beyond past hurts for new love or dealing with a breakup's immediate aftermath. Hip-hop tinged tracks featuring Diplo ("Criminal Intent") and Snoop Dogg (the exuberant "U Should Know Better") help maintain the mini-album's connection with Body Talk Pt. 1 while maintaining the set's own identity. Two thirds of the way through the Body Talk project, it's clear that this experiment is reaping rich rewards for Robyn and her listeners. ~ Heather Phares, Rovi
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