|Album Review: Robyn - Honey|
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Today is the day. Fans can breathe a sigh of release, because Swedish pop icon Robyn has released her eighth studio album after years of anticipation. Over the past eight years, Robyn has gone through life experiences that many of us can relate to as some that shape our adult life, our person. A breakup. The death of a close friend. Therapy. Honey is the product of those hardships, an achingly beautiful product of growth that has been delivered in glittering, danceable music form from a pop demiurge. It might have been almost a decade, but Robyn has been here the whole time.
The album art for Honey itself should be the first sign of what the album is all about. Robyn holds a position where she maintains an intense vulnerability, whether its in her lack of much clothing or in the stare she holds that is so powerful it's almost as if she knows things about us better than we know ourselves. Her stance emulates this grasp she has on us, tightly gripping something frail in her hands, but sturdy enough to keep her in a position where she is ready to pounce. It's beyond just being a ready-stance, conveying a sense of self-assuredness only belonging to those who have been through years of ups and downs.
Honey starts with its first single, the undeniable hit already aligning itself with all Robyn's favorites of her past. The lead up to "Missing U" felt long, but with its arrival was a decree that this artist has remained apart of the musical vernacular for a reason. It might even justify the long years between albums, as it feels relaxed and natural. Robyn herself was in “a softer place where I felt more vulnerable and more excited about music than I’ve been in a very long time,” she told ELLE earlier this month. “I had a big crisis, and that’s when the therapy started really working, because I think I just didn’t have any filters,” and the right time to make new music suddenly opened up its arms again.
There was such a physical pleasure and sexuality to making music and creating this soundscape in which my body could experience those kind of feelings again. That's when I felt like I was coming back- but it wasn't even about coming back, because I myself had really changed. pic.twitter.com/ByGhqX4676
— Robyn (@robynkonichiwa) October 25, 2018
"Human Being" follows, released as an exclusive via Adult Swim just one day before the album's release. It features Zhala, a vocalist Robyn has been supporting for years. Now on their first official work together, the two share a finely tuned manifesto for the everywoman, anyone who has not been recognized for their self worth.
As the album continues, Honey starts to take flight, spreading its wings. The next song goes straight in to an avant-garde, contemporary vision of The Supremes' forlorn daydream, with a bridge that hasn't been done so well - or with such self awareness - probably ever. Think about it: the early 2000's pop music that Robyn emulates on "Because It's In The Music" was notorious for its manufactured qualities. It's the music that gave us Robyn - "Show Me Love" and otherwise - that the Swedish singer now looks back on as work that might not have been her true self. But Robyn, unlike the teenage successes of her time and her own breakout into the world, is totally in control. It's this hindsight to her former self, years at her own Konichiwa Records, that have allowed such ownership.
"Baby Forgive Me" is the kind of intimate, dreamy angst that only Robyn can do. But its storybook narrative comes to focus as the next track, "Send To Robyn Immediately" begins. Two tracks that stand alone in single form are transformed with fireworks and fanfare as their relationship to one another is realized.
The album's title track is yet another track that shows the little subtleties that can make a track uplifting and danceable. Alluring and restrained, we are reminded of the difference between "want" and "need," and that knowing such has infinite power. Production ebbs and flows at this point in the album, with the following "Between the Lines" showing experimentation in production, giving a nod to the 90's rave music that built the platform for this version of dance music to shine on. Throughout this track and the playful bossanova on "Beach2k20," subtlety remains queen.
Honey closes with a reflective battle cry and notes to herself on what she has learned throughout her experiences. The simple mantras of being yourself, trying new things, learning from mistakes and the reminder that she's "only gonna sing about love," are positive affirmations we can all repeat. "Ever Again" and its funky bass lines happens to be a future singalong at the imminent Honey tour, which we know is currently in rehearsals but remains unannounced.
The success of this comeback is rare, something that we can only hope for artists re-entering their creative craft. For Robyn, an admittedly private person in her daily life, Honey is an example of how she's been able to share her journey. It is a testament to how she has been able to build and maintain a fervent, bourgeoning fanbase even through major gaps between releases.