Most genres are synonymous with one or two key artists that were crucial in defining its core characteristics; bands such as Kraftwerk or The Rolling Stones were instrumental in defining the salient traits of their respective genres. It’s certainly very hard to imagine pop music without Robyn.
Not only is Robyn synonymous with pop music, she is synonymous with classic pop bangers. Songs such as Call Your Girlfriend and With Every Heartbeat are still just as relevant today as they were when they were released, a feat that not many artists have since accomplished, especially in the pop realm.
So much is her affluence in pop banger-ship that their absence on her anticipated new album – her first in eight years – ‘Honey’ came as a major shock. The album’s lead single Missing U sounded her official return during the summer and sent flurries of excitement through the internet in doing so.
It is faithful to the calibre of music that we expect from the Swede, with its anthemic chorus and dance-infused rhythms, but it proves to be the track that bares most resemblance to the hits that the singer is known for. Interestingly placed as the album opener, the song begins with dramatic percussive hits and synth lines which make for a colossal intro, before falling away to make room for Robyn’s vocal.
What remains on the album after Missing U are songs that more represent the core themes than the sonic elements that define Robyn as an artist; heartache juxtaposes euphoria, longing juxtaposes independence and, of course, a good old analogue synth is never far.
The strange, dissonant opening hums of Human Being asserts that Robyn’s reluctance to follow trends has not wavered, you’ll find no reggaeton drum beats or cheesy trumpet solos here. Because It’s In The Music is reminiscent of the sounds of the early ’00s, with warped chimes and synth stabs following the vocal melody in the chorus, while Baby Forgive Me features a dissonant vocoder that would surely revolt pop-music mogul Max Martin. It veers close to becoming anthemic but falls short at the finish line; many of the elements feel detached and stunted; it has all the right ingredients to be a hit but fails to blend them correctly – and that was likely the intent.
Robyn’s refusal to stay in the safe lane is also embodied in the lyrics; Send To Robyn Immediately is a reminder to be true to herself in a world where mindless imitation is ripe. “No, you’re not gonna get what you need, baby you have what you want…” she croons in the album’s title track Honey, which could indeed serve as a description for the album in full.
With members of Metronomy on production duties, it’s no wonder that electronic-based instrumentation is prevalent throughout the album. Having said that, there are several surprises in guitar riffs and even a real bass in some tracks, which sounds a major development in Robyn’s tastes as a composer.
In Ever Again, she breaks what must be a force of habit in a new optimism after a break-up, “I’m never gonna be broken hearted ever again” she sings cheerfully over a syncopated bass line and groovy guitar strums that would feel more at home in a Nao album than here. The influx of synths arrive during the bridge, however, escorting the track safely back into Robyn territory.
By the end of ‘Honey’, several things are evident: the album stands as a product of authenticity and pursuit of creative vision. Robyn is an artist that has refused to compromise herself and her vision for the sake of what is expected of her, especially from her fans. In an industry where artists are encouraged to chase trends and styles, this is highly refreshing.
In remaining faithful to herself, Robyn can teach artists everywhere a lesson on the importance of sustaining yourself in the long-game as opposed to chasing the short-thrill.