Robyn Glitters and Glows on Masterful ‘Honey’
Swedish pop sensation Robyn has returned after a lengthy hiatus, during which she underwent some trials and tribulations, with the loss of longtime collaborator Christian Falk, and a breakup that has now made up the songs of her latest album “Honey” Circumstances would suggest a brooding, morose album, but that’s simply not in Robyn’s nature. Some of her new songs tackle somewhat weighty subjects, but she’s bright and beaming in every song, to an incredible extent. Appropriately titled, “Honey” is a nonstop sugar rush of pop perfection.
Opener “Missing U” is like an exercise in excess, as if designed to be as “pop” as possible, priding itself on how ridiculously bubbly and bright it can get. It’s styled in EDM of the David Guetta variety, but with some boldly unconcerned eighties flavor, and a giddy, effervescent vocal throughout that belies the subject matter — simply a sentimental reflection on a past relationship. “Human Being” gets more eighties, with a freestyle sound, and tuned percussion. “Because It’s In the Music” is glittery and glowing, with Robyn sounding enraptured by the power of music. There are little trills that complement her singing perfectly in their outlandishly colorful verve.
“Baby Forgive Me” features a low-pitched backing vocal that gives it a slightly surreal sound. The beat is fist-bumping fare, but with a trudging pace that somehow compensates for the gaudiness of that. Robyn’s voice, during the chorus, sounds almost cloyingly sweet, and the eighties instrumental stylings are of the most decadent variety. “Send to Robyn Immediately” continues the refrain of “Baby forgive me,” coming across as an extension of the previous track. The beat is centered around a riff that’s reminiscent of Bjork’s “Violently Happy,” although the vibe is decidedly different — no angst or edge, just sugar. Keeping with this, the next track is titled “Honey.” It’s another rather generic pop EDM number, with a kick drum pulse and sidechain compression. It’s very Eurotrash, and Robyn sounds a bit as if you took Aqua’s “Barbie Girl” and took away any possible irony. This is her niche — the cheeriest, bounciest music imaginable.
“Between the Lines” is the most throwback track yet, early ‘90s dance music. It’s the sound that bands like Little Dragon have revived. There’s a lightheartedness to it that’s quite charming, even if a little silly. The vibe continues steadily on to “Beach2k20.” It sounds a bit like something you would hear in Tony Wilson’s Hacienda, or like a soundtrack to an aerobics video. Robyn’s vocals are less prominent in the mix here, making the song rather unconventional in a way, and giving a whimsical feel. Many of the vocals are feisty spoken word, like in Madonna’s eighties output. There’s a midsong pause, after which Robyn picks things up saying “Let’s go party.” The song certainly sounds like a party, and puts on no fronts. All of the retro stylings culminate grandly in “Ever Again,” with everything from the bass tone to the vocal harmonies screaming eighties. Robyn gasps and pants in an alluring way, before setting off on a chorus that consolidates the festive feel of the album.
“Honey” is the epitome of pop. Robyn is so consistently bubbly and brimming that you can’t help wonder how she manages to muster so much cheerful energy and buoyancy, but that’s the particular charm of it. Robyn takes everything giddy and girly to an extreme, and does it with plenty prowess.
“Honey” is available Oct. 26 on Apple Music.