Review Summary: Smart, pulsing electro-pop from an artist with the makings of a true pop star.
Does anyone remember Robyn’s first big single, released sometime in the mid 90’s, called “Do You Really Want Me”? It’s one best left to the deepest, most barren depths of the Now That’s What I Call Music!
archives but it typified what she used to be: average. Under the guidance of super-producer Max Martin, Robyn was just like any of the other manufactured pop products clinging onto him for Top 40 survival and trust me when I say, the 90’s was not kind to mainstream pop. Aqua actually happened. S Club 7 had their own TV show. Things were bleak. Robyn, however, turned out to be one of those rare mainstream acts that realized she had more to offer than the constraints of this relationship could afford.
Cut scene to the present day and meet the new Robyn: under the artistic freedom of her own record label, she emerged in 2005 with a gutsy self-titled LP, dramatically reinventing herself as an electro-pop queen and earning her unprecedented commercial and critical success at that. It’s this underdog story that emphasizes just why Body Talk
is such a revelation; it is the musical peak of an artist who has always had a bigger picture for what pop could sound like. Released in three parts, as Body Talk pt. 1
and as the full Body Talk
LP (5 songs from both the initial releases along with 5 new ones), this follow-up project has been an incredibly interesting endeavour to follow.
As a look into her creative process, the Body Talk series has a remarkable consistency in quality and the records frequently pushed her sound towards new directions, as exemplified by the tongue in cheek robot pop of “Fembot”. Though Body Talk
as a final product suffers slightly for flow as a result of the compilation feel, the individual quality of nearly every song in the collection is enough to warrant the method used for its creation. Cuts like “Don’t ***ing Tell Me What To Do” and “We Dance to the Beat” deliver cool, pulsing observations through a cascade of synth rhythms, poised as something close to Uffie with a handle on subtlety, while others like the Diplo-produced “Dancehall Queen” squeeze reggae into cocky nightclub swagger. If there were limits, they don’t apply to Robyn.
The most remarkable standouts come in the emotion Robyn channels beyond the electro cold current. “Dancing On My Own”, “Indestructible”, “Time Machine”, “Hang With Me” – synth-sparkling, club-ready, contagious and perfect examples of the forward thinking pop that, in an ideal world, would storm through the charts. She seems to have all the ingredients in place: she can do sexy, cocky, heartbroken, you name it, and with melodies like no one else around. The good news is that it’s an idea others are willing to share: “Dancing On My Own” just got nominated for a Best Dance Recording Grammy, and even if she doesn’t win the exposure will do wonders, while second single “Hang With Me” has enjoyed chart spells across Europe and brief stints in the US dance charts. Robyn has what it takes to be a real force and with this display of innovation and execution, the only question left is to wonder when the rest of the world will catch on. Forget the 90’s: this artist was born in 2005 and has been growing ever since.