Review Summary: Pop perfection, seductive and sweet.
It's hard to discern exactly what it is that sets Robyn apart from other pop stars. Is it the fact that she isn't tethered to a major label, thus rendering her "indie"? Is it that we are still enamored with her Swedish exoticism? It's tempting to dismiss Robyn's critical acclaim as a byproduct of her being a creatively independent Scandinavian, but listening to Body Talk Pt. 2
, her newest studio album (and the middle installment in a proposed trilogy), one gets the sneaking suspicion that we love Robyn because, well, she's good at what she does.
Not just good, but consistent
- there are no weak tracks here. Several of these songs epitomize pop at its best; the irresistible "Include Me Out", with its bleacher-stomping beat, rap-sung verses, and endearing plea to "please don't include me out," deserves more attention than it will probably get. The Snoop Dogg collaboration "U Should Know Better" (as in, "you should know better than to f*ck with me") is appealingly silly, with each star attempting to outdo one another (Robyn rapping, "you know when in Rome I sat down with the Romans/said we need a black Pope and she'd better be a woman" is a highlight). "Criminal Intent" and "Love Kills" suffer from staid production but are saved by excellent vocal performances and, in the case of the latter, monstrous hooks.
But the key to Robyn's best songs ("With Every Heartbeat" and its counterpart "Dancing On My Own" spring to mind) has always been her emotional vulnerability, and Body Talk Pt. 2
is most successful when it follows that trend. Kleerup-produced opener "In My Eyes" is a hug in musical form; in it, Robyn delivers messages of comfort and support to "boys and girls" in a "cruel, cruel world". The sentiment isn't anything new - the empowering ballad has been around longer than Robyn's been alive - but when Robyn sings, "When you feel like it's all pretend/then you look into my eyes," she isn't just preaching. You get the sense that she's been there, that she really knows what she's singing about.
This sense of worldly weariness permeates lead single "Hang With Me", which appeared on Body Talk Pt. 1
as a stunning acoustic ballad and is reworked here with sparkling production by Teddybears founding member Klas Åhlund. The song delicately balances sorrow with optimism, with the scale tipped slightly towards the latter - the most noticeable change in the song from its original incarnation is the insertion of the line "we can do whatever", a statement easily tossed off but not to be taken lightly. After all, the song's first lines go, "Will you tell me once again/how we're gonna be just friends?" Acceptance and heartbreak, two emotions that may seem contradictory on paper, seem like ideal bedfellows in Robyn's hands.
This might just be the secret to Robyn's critical acclaim - her ability to fuse various emotional ingredients into one delectable, four-minute slice. In a recent blog post, Robyn wrote, "Pop should be seductive and sweet when it can...it's like a sweet and sour bon-bon wrapped in melancholy." This shrewd understanding of pop is displayed throughout Body Talk Pt. 2
. It's hard to resist comparing a sequel to its predecessor, and while there isn't anything quite as jaw-droppingly stunning as "Dancing On My Own" here, the overall consistency of Pt. 2
holds its own against Pt. 1
well; it's arguably more focused than its sometimes scatterbrained predescessor. And the gorgeous closer, "Indestructible", has the teasing annotation "acoustic version" tacked on, whetting our appetite for Body Talk Pt. 3