Make Way For The Queen: Robyn Has Returned
Obviously, the new Robyn album is great. I cannot in good conscience call this a ‘review’; my sheer lack of objectivity whenever Robyn is part of the discussion prohibits the use of the word. Robyn has long since solidified her icon status, but what is remarkable is that she still seems to be an artist with a whole lot left to say. As far as the music industry is concerned, a woman’s sexuality expires in her 30’s; and as Honey is released through Robyn’s own Konichiwa Records label, this goes some way in explaining her outlier status as a thriving, mature and relevant female pop-star.
Honey is sequenced according to the chronological order in which the songs were recorded, and the second half of the record sees Robyn diving back into romance. As Robyn demands her partner to ‘come get your honey’ on the title track, she’s assured and cognisant of the headspace needed for the forthcoming emotional and physical intimacy. Robyn’s thoughtfulness extends into ‘Between the Lines’ where she allows herself to indulge in the psychological games that can be characteristic of the early stages of a relationship, ‘It’s not your words/ It’s what’s in-between them/ There’s no need to spell it out’.
Honey is by far Robyn’s most contemplative release to date, both musically and lyrically. ‘Human Being’ features long, patient notes drawn out initially that seamlessly morph into a melody on the chorus before being resigned to an atmospheric function again. There’s also real space on this record, especially on ‘Baby Forgive Me’ and its transition into ‘Send to Robyn Immediately’ (amazing song title). Behind the vocals on the former, the loop is minimal and persistent, a clear reference to the club culture that Robyn continually cites as an influence. On ‘Send to Robyn Immediately’, the chords whisper on their own for half the song before a single hi-hat is allowed to bolster the ensemble.
All this signifies something that Robyn alludes to on the opener, ‘Missing U’, when she mentions ‘the space where you used to be’ and ‘the space you left behind’. After the release of Body Talk in 2010, Robyn began psychotherapy and, as Honey is her first solo release since then, we are only now witnessing what that means for her art. Although she has always possessed an inexplicable gift of honing in on the emotional quality of a moment (her biggest hit ‘Dancing On My Own’ is a perfect example), it’s on tracks like ‘Human Being’, ‘Baby Forgive Me’ and ‘Send to Robyn Immediately’ where she gives herself and the listener space to determine what that emotion means. On the latter, every lyric centres on the one idea that if the subject of the song needs to tell her something, it would be disastrous to wait. Robyn is inviting her audience to take this universal idea and tailor it to their own experiences.
In spite of how dense Honey is thematically, the majority of the songs have the potential to become club fixtures. The percussion on ‘Beach 2k20’, specifically those tropical cowbells, makes it ripe for mixing; and the closer ‘Ever Again’ has a bassline so catchy that it would be a travesty if someone like DJ Koze didn’t morph it into a 12-minute disco journey. This is what makes Robyn totally unique, and so captivating; this ability she has to evoke gut-wrenching emotion on the same song that also makes people lunge for a space on the dancefloor. So fans can rest assured that her career has no prescribed end date because making us cry in the nightclub is a superpower that is all her own.
By Niall O’Shaughnessy – Music Editor