A few months ago, I gave Robyn some serious props on this very site. The Swedish singer had just released The Rakamonie EP, a teaser of sorts for her first American album in over a decade. The full-length finally arrived on American shores a little over a month ago, and it’s certainly well worth the wait.
For those that need catching up, Robyn was the bridge between the “urban” teenage girl singer wave of 1994-1995 (Monica, Aaliyah, and Brandy) and the “pop” teenage girl singer wave of 1998-1999 (Britney, Christina, Jessica). Hits like “Show Me Love” and “Do You Know (What it Takes)” were frothy and poppy (are Scandinavians born with a gene that allows them to make hooky pop songs?), but Robyn’s singing voice was powerful enough to give her some R&B respect. Her debut album, “Robyn is Here”, was successful enough, eventually selling a million copies. However, about a year and a half after Robyn’s debut album was released, Jive Records put out Britney Spears’ debut, and Robyn was promptly forgotten about. If you get similar songs and give them to a pretty but talented cipher who’s willing to sing them while prancing around half-naked, why take a chance with someone who might exert a little artistic tension?
Anyway, Robyn retreated from the American music scene as quickly as she’d gotten there, returning to her homeland and releasing music that was well-received throughout Europe but never released in the States. A song called “Konichiwa Bitches” got some indie/hipster love about three years ago, and it set the stage for Robyn’s return as a slightly edgier, but still pop-friendly American recording artist. “Robyn” is actually a compilation of sorts, mixing new cuts with songs that have been out abroad for a couple of years, but it still holds together as a cohesive album. Think of it as “FutureSex/LoveSounds”, only with balls.
“Balls” is the operative word here, as Robyn spends a great deal of this album talking shit to the opposite sex. The aforementioned “Konichiwa Bitches” is the greatest Missy Elliott song Missy Elliott never made, with Robyn rapping playfully about how hot she is: “Right now you’re probably thinking ‘how she get in them jeans’/Well I’m gifted, all natural and bursting at the seams”. It’s full of attitude, but you get the impression that Robyn’s just having fun with it. “Handle Me” sounds a bit like the Ne-Yo/Stargate/”Irreplaceable” sound that’s infiltrated the radio over the past two years, but Robyn’s emasculating lyrics have a bit more bite than Beyonce’s (wait, she didn’t write that one).
“Be Mine” proves that a great melody is a great melody, whether performed as a more upbeat dance/pop tune (like on this album) or a somber piano ballad (like on the aforementioned EP). “Crash & Burn Girl” is a heater guaranteed to light up dance floors worldwide and also finds Robyn rocking a very Prince-like falsetto, and “Anytime You Like” is an ethereal beat ballad that sounds strangely sensual, considering she’s singing about a breakup. Guess that’s something else she learned from the Purple One.
Not quite sure why the hipster crowd has latched on to this album-it pretty much defines what pop is right now. It’s danceable, youthful and fun, and manages to take everything artists like Fergie and Gwen Stefani try to do and do it correctly. If you remember Robyn’s first American album fondly, it’s probably time to head down to ye olde record store and welcome back an old friend. If you’re only hearing of Robyn for the first time and want to hear some quality pop music, pick this one up and thank me later.