I know you’ve waited 8 years to say this: Robyn has new music. (Techincally, Robyn did have an album called Do It Again with frequent collaborator Royksopp in 2014, but this is the Swedish artist’s first solo project in eight years. In the meantime, if you haven’t listened to Do It Again, do so now!)
Body Talk debuted in the golden age of gay music. Every female artist was at her peak and dropping some of their best music between 2010 and 2012, and Robyn’s three-part release was among the best stuff released during that period. But, while other pop girls’ stocks have risen and fallen since then, Robyn has stayed mostly silent until now. Now that we have Honey, here’s a quick reaction to every song:
You’ve already heard “Missing U,” the album’s first single. Now, hearing it as a part of Honey, the song works on two fronts. Not only was it an intro to Robyn’s new era, it’s also a worthy introduction to the tone of the rest of the album. “Missing U” acts as a bridge between Robyn’s chapters. It combines the melancholia of “Call Your Girlfriend” and “Dancing On My Own,” but is less of an imploring to rejoin forces and more a lament of what it means to lose love. There’s a youthfulness in Body Talk when Robyn asks again and again that the two be reunited. But, “Missing U” is more introspective and contemplative than outward-facing, as well as a more muted, toned-down sound that establishes a sonic landscape for what comes next.
While “Missing U” was a bridge between the sounds of Body Talk and Honey, “Human Being” feels like an evolution of themes. Listening to “Human Being,” you can’t help but think about the robotic staccato delivery from robot-themed tracks like “Don’t Tell Me What To Do” and “Fembot,” but instead of lyrics on automation, Robyn talks about her humanity. She says the “streets are so cold”; she longs for human touch. One can imagine, in the eight year interim between albums, a move toward sentience that echoes some of Janelle Monae’s 2010 album ArchAndroid as well as 2014’s Electric Lady. Aside from the themes, “Human Being” is a moody slow burn that really works.
“Because It’s in the Music”
This song is a bop that sounds like some of Betty Who’s best work. While it’s a compliment, it’s also a troubling statement, given that in many ways, Betty Who’s debut Take Me When You Go often feels directly influenced by Robyn’s Body Talk era. (Robyn’s melancholy dance-pop influence still lives on with us in acts like Who, Troye Sivan, and even Ariana Grande’s Sweetener, though that’s a decidedly more R&B-influenced version.) So, though “Because It’s in the Music” is an unimpeachable bop (not a banger!) it’s a little difficult for it to sound like something that Betty Who could’ve done rather than something that’s pushing the envelope. Either way, it’s a great listen and a highlight on the album.
“Baby Forgive Me”
There’s a classic moment in Sex and the City when Sarah Jessica Parker’s Carrie implores Aidan, “You have to forgive me,” over and over. The scene is one of the series most affecting because it’s about the myriad ways two people who love each other can ruin each other and what happens when those traumas interact. “Baby Forgive Me” tackles some of those same emotions, but unlike some of Body Talk’s best tracks, it doesn’t sound like her lover is in the room. Rather, this sounds like a late night contemplation on loneliness. It sounds like sifting through Facebook statuses and tweets from an ex-lover. It sounds painfully human, meaning it’s about our need for validation and hope. Robyn really wins on this track.
“Send to Robin Immediately”
The transition from “Baby Forgive Me” to “Send to Robin Immediately” should produce chills and goosebumps in most listeners. Here, Robyn deals with the human hatred of silence and, having already dealt with it on “Baby Forgive Me,” turns to her audience and tells us that if we have something to say to the one we love, we should do it. Robyn has been hurt and is warning us against the same trajectory. The song sounds like a direct sequel to its predecessor in sound and tone, while also feeling unique, a hard tightrope to walk.
You might have heard “Honey” from its online leak, but if you haven’t, welcome. At this point, for some, the album’s melancholia, contemplation, and soothing vibe may have overstayed its welcome. Maybe it’s the fact that the US has sunk into a hell pit, but I don’t know if there’s a moment where Honey’s chill vibe overstays its welcome. This track will certainly test some listeners’ patience as to how many ~vibes~ they can endure, but this is still a good track, even if what is around it is even more listenable.
“Between the Lines”
While “Honey” might be a bit too same-same among the rest of the album’s tracklist, “Between the Lines” is a welcome change of pace. “Between the Lines” brings the album’s average tempo up a smidge while also feeling at home among the rest of the cuts. This is bound to be a lot of people’s favorite of Honey’s offerings, especially for its chorus which lands squarely in early 90s house music in a way that only Robyn and Azealia Banks seem to be using to great effect right now. “Between the Lines” is the album’s one true banger: everyone hail.
If “Between the Lines” might sound like a departure to some, “Beach” keeps going in that ’90s house direction, this time bringing strings to the party to great effect. This might be the lightest song on the album in terms of lyrics and content, but those who have listened to Do It Again know that Robyn also wants to deliver a vibe alongside her heartwrenching lyrics and this song might be a Pure Mood.
Drifting back to the rest of the album’s familiar territory, the final cut matches the front half’s tone, which makes the album’s final moments a little disjointed. However, thematically, the song wraps up several of the album’s themes, while looking toward the growth that can come with closure.
Final thoughts: Honey is a consistent album that might be a bit too boring for some after the thrill ride that was Body Talk, but Honey will also beg relistening, probably on a night when an old flame comes back into your life, or a new one is floating away. Like Sweetener and other melodic albums before it, some might ask, “Where are the bops?” but Robyn doesn’t need bops to get her point across, which she does very well.