Robyn’s Body Talk: Part One

Readers may remember two years ago I reviewed Madonna’s “Hard Candy” album. In that review I discussed the always evolving role of music producers in an artist’s album and stated, “Madonna wants you to dance, even if it means sacrificing herself on the altar of the producer.” I didn’t think it was a bad thing, and I still don’t. However, I just got done listening to Robyn’s new album “Body Talk Pt. 1” and I have to say, despite working with some big name producers, I feel as if the producers were sacrificed on the altar of Robyn’s pop music vision. Of course, what else would you expect from a pop music star who on her previous album said she’s “gonna’ make your balls bounce like a game of ping pong”?

Now before I launch into all the details of why I love this album, because I do love it, I first have a little beef with Robyn. Her new album “Body Talk Pt. 1” is one of three albums she will be releasing this year. It has only 8 tracks. In doing some poking around on line I see that this is all by design. It looks like the plan is that the three “Body Talk” albums are part of this rolling, evolving plan where she tours with the new songs, while testing out even newer stuff on the road, while leaking some tracks on line, to come together for an album, continually repeating until all three albums are out. It’s genius. This is the out of the box thinking that is going to save pop music. While labels are in a panic wondering how to engage a new technology savvy generation, Robyn is out there with Konichiwa Records doing it. If I think it’s so gosh darn awesome, what is there to complain about? Robyn, meet me in the next paragraph….

Robyn, ROBYN, I love you! You kick so much ass it is not to be believed. So I need to ask, why are you torturing me? TORTURING ME! While you’re out there shooting adrenaline into a tired music paradigm with your live shows and leaked internet tracks, I’m stuck in the United States. Yes, AMERICA. You know, where you’re barely touring, where much of your online stuff is blocked. While Europe is out there partying their way through your year of “Body Talk” I’m stuck in the U.S. with an album with only 8 songs! I can’t imagine it’s personal. You were 100% adorable in your appearance on “The Daily Show” a year or so ago. So why, oh why must you hurt me so?

With that out of the way, let’s take a look at “Body Talk Pt. 1”. I was hoping that the new album would open with a new version of “Curriculum Vitae” but alas, there is no one there to remind us that Robyn “is listed in section 202 of the United Nations Security Act of 1979 as being too hot to wear tight sweaters in international airspace.” The opening song is “Don’t F**king Tell Me What to Do”. It’s a quirky song where Robyn lists off things that are killing her over a techno beat but then tells you “don’t f**king tell me what to do.” It’s an all right track but personally I would love to hear what some remixers could chop it up into. (Robyn did do a neat Twitter contest where you tweeted what was killing you and it may end up in the music video for the song. See? Engaging through new technology.) Next up is “Fembot” which has a catchy 80’s breaking beat and insanely clever lyrics, “My superbrain is a binary. Circuitry and mainframe tin-foil hair, I’m sipping propane topped with a cherry. In fact I’m a very scientifically advanced hot mama, Artificially discreet no drama, Digitally chic titanium mama. I’ve got some news for you, Fembots have feelings too. You split my heart in two. Now what you gonna’ do?” You know at some point a producer was like, you want to do a song about you being some sort of sex robot? And Robyn was like, don’t MAKE me, make your balls bounce like a game of ping pong. Lyrically speaking she, or someone she works with, is way up on their tech talk because you groove while she sings about CPUs, calculators, and space cadets.

After that this mini album really hits its stride with “Dancing on My Own”. This is every thing you want from a pop song: driving beats, broken hearts, anthemic choruses, and the angelic bridge leading you into the banging drum to chorus. Check it out here (please note, I LOVE the song, I’m pretty whatever about the video):

This is followed by another bubble of pop perfection “Cry When You Get Older”. “Hey girl in the strobbing lights, what your mama never told you, love hurts if you do it right, you can cry when you get older.” That pretty much sums up the hybrid of the best pop songs in recent history. Following that are the songs “Dancehall Queen” and “None of Dem”. What I love about these songs are how petite, Swedish, feminine voiced Robyn manages to come across as threatening in these tracks. Some how Robyn creates Swedish pop music that contains a hip hop swagger.

Robyn slows it down for the last two tracks, “Hang With Me” and “Jag Vet En Dejlig Rosa” (Which I believe is a traditional Swedish folk song, but I may be wrong about that.). Both songs are lovely. Robyn has such a delicate, light, airy voice that is well suited for the material, but I have to admit after Robyn kicking your ass for 6 songs, it is a little hard to switch gears. If there had been another couple of songs on the album it may have transitioned better.

As I hoped, Robyn came back just as strong as ever. Yes, the album only has 8 tracks, and that does make me sad, but I’d rather have 8 songs than none at all.

By the way, I wasn’t kidding, Robyn was totally likeable in her “Daily Show” appearance.

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