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Robyn – Body Talk

December 5, 2010

November saw the dual release of Body Talk Pt. 3 (the third and final installment in a series of demi-album releases which began in June this year) and Body Talk, which serves as the seventh studio album by Swedish electropop minstrel, Robyn.

Now this is a pretty extravagant and confusing way to release your new material, seeing as Body Talk (the album) is just a mere compilation of the Body Talk releases that have preceded it, but it is an example of the entrepreneurial nous of Robyn, who is clearly keen to bombard a market that really ought to have a place for her.

Robyn’s music first came to my attention when With Every Heartbeat (above) hit the top of the UK charts three years ago. Heartbeat served as a somewhat isolated success in an otherwise unaffected public consciousness, but it immediately stood out to me with its lush, soulful, melancholic edge. The staggered release of Robyn’s new material and the media affection that has surrounded it have done well to heighten Robyn’s exposure and reignite my interest for this somewhat under-appreciated individual, whose artistic confidence has propelled her to the top of her game in recent years.

What has struck me most about Robyn’s music is just how palatable it is. Far from being condescending or testing, her work still manages, at times, to have the depth and subtle complexity of work by musicians with far more artistic respect than her. Granted, Robyn’s choice of lyrical subject matter is mostly restricted to carnal notions of love and loss, but Body Talk is unashamedly designed for floor filling rather than navel gazing. In an age where critics are quick to acclaim those who seek to redefine the concept of pop music, I think it is wholly admirable that Robyn eschews any attempt to postmodern-ize pop, preferring instead to perfect it. And with fifteen years in the industry, she is well-equipped to take on this task.

In her collaboration with the multitude of producers on Body Talk, Robyn uses the tricks of her trade adeptly; no pulse or swell feels excessive or unnecessary, no beat too insistent. Often her sound can be dense from the sheer gravity of the layered production, but this only serves as ballast for the vocal melody, which is often bordering on anthemic in some of Robyn’s most accomplished choruses. The songs are well structured too. They may appear cute, with a seemingly vacuous lyric angelically introducing the melody, but this is Robyn’s Trojan horse and when the beat is dropped you’ll know you’ll need to pump up the volume.

All this cuteness is characteristic of an artist who isn’t one to take herself too seriously. Robyn has a penchant for role-playing and on Body Talk you will hear Robyn become “a very scientifically advanced hot mama” on Fembot, an outlaw DJ on Criminal Intent or even a reggae Dancehall Queen. Funny as her songs can be, one need only read in-between the lines to see Robyn musing on the state of dance music or youth culture. However, Robyn is perhaps most effective when she is direct, and her role most poignant when she is playing lovesick. It’s plain to see from Robyn’s best work that she has a talent for connecting with the listener on a very primitive level and I think this is why Robyn has come to realise, over the course of her career, that her vocation lies in dance music; a genre chiefly involved with merging the rhythmic corporality of music with the emotionality of words. ‘Body Talk’ by name, ‘Body Talk’ by nature.

So with four Body Talk releases on offer, where does one begin?

The Body Talk series is as mesmerizingly consistent in quality as it is tastefully varied in style. This essence, however, becomes a little lost on Body Talk (the album) which has some notable omissions as well as a questionable track ordering, and for this reason I would recommend dipping into the series of mini-albums instead.

As a starter, Body Talk Pt. 1 is not just the obvious place to start; it is the most varied and, as such, representative of the series as whole, of the three offerings. So here is the first track – Don’t Fucking Tell Me What to Do – to whet your appetite:

3 Comments leave one →
  1. December 6, 2010 12:29 am

    Loving your first post Dilsh. For some reason I had some issues stopping me from liking or even attempting to listen to Robyn, but after reading your post they seem so silly. I might have to download it quickly and give it a sleep-listen right now.

  2. jouliejools permalink
    December 9, 2010 6:12 pm

    Bangin’ baby!

  3. Daniel permalink
    April 30, 2011 1:01 am

    Good job! I really like this line: ”I think it is wholly admirable that Robyn eschews any attempt to postmodern-ize pop, preferring instead to perfect it.” This is a very keen way to summarize her work. Although I don’t usually need any motivation to listen to robyn, this review served pretty well ^^

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