Sunday, April 25, 2010

Robyn's Body Talk Part 1 - Pop Trash Review

Dear Kylie, all is forgiven. I thought "Aphrodite" was the worst cover of 2010 but "Body Talk Pt 1" raises ugliness to an artform. They say you shouldn't judge a book (or a CD) by its cover but this is one example where the exterior is unusually reflective of the content. It's cold, clinical, derivative (Sorry Robyn - Debbie Harry did it first way back in 1981) and absolutely desperate to be edgy. Unfortunately, the same goes for the music. Sweden's greatest export since ABBA has well and truly fucked up. "Body Talk Pt 1" isn't terrible but I expect so much more from Robyn and she only delivers the goods on a couple of songs. Not good enough. The very thing that made her different from all the nobodies to emerge from Scandinavia's conveyor belt of bland pop is noticeably absent from this not so hot mess - her heart. Robyn's gift is her ability to deliver an emotional sucker punch, usually camouflaged by killer beats and a catchy chorus. I can't believe the same woman who sang "Be Mine", "O Baby", "Giving You Back", "Blow My Mind" and "With Every Heartbeat" is content recording boring songs about robots and nightclubs. Fingers crossed she delivers the goods on Part 2 because I'd hate to see Robyn end up as washed up and creatively barren as Annie. Here is my review:

Don't Fucking Tell Me What To Do - 1/10

Great title, shame about the song. Robyn basically lists all the things that are pissing her off to some generic beats courtesy of Klas Åhlund (from Teddybears). Robyn loves to mix it up by throwing in the occasional oddity ("Konichiwa Bitches" springs to mind) but they are usually done with a sense of humour that is sadly missing from this deathly boring piece of shit.

Fembot - 4/10

Another song about a fucking robot. How cutting edge! Not only has this theme been done to death recently (by Kostas Kountas, Parralox, Gabriella Cilmi and Robyn herself among many others) - it's also been done infinitely better (see Margaret Berger and Marina & The Diamonds). "Fembot" is a just smug exercise in bad metaphors and irritatingly "hip" production. It's not clever or catchy. Just tired and pointless.

Dancing On My Own - 11/10

Just when I was ready to sell my Robyn collection on Ebay and wash my hands of the stupid Swedish troll for good, she comes up with this. "Dancing On My Own" is easily her best single since "Be Mine" and an early frontrunner for the year's best single. Everything about the Patrick Berger ("Jack U Off" and "Anytime U Like") produced gem is utter perfection. The lyrics are gut wrenching, Robyn actually sings for a change and the gloomy beats rain down with laser-like precision. It's dark and depressing yet simultaneously beautiful and uplifting. I feel every second of this anthem and fully expect it to be massive. "Dancing On My Own" is a very welcome reminder of just how good Robyn can be when she doesn't try to be something she's not. It's just a shame that such a spectacular song is housed on such a lousy album.

Cry When You Get Older - 7/10

Robyn re-visits the 80s on this cute little pop tune. I love the bouncy synths and unusually sweet lyrics ("love hurts when you do it right, you can cry when you get older"). This is the album's most straightforward pop song and should appeal to those of us who have been hanging around since the 90s. I feel that I've been a bit stingy with my 7/10 rating but this song reminds me of the mid-tempo synth pop on Gabriella Cilmi's "Ten" and I'm genuinely shocked to admit that Gabi did it better. Which makes me want to grab the nearest razor. Anyway, this is a smart choice for a future single.

Dancehall Queen - 8/10

When this leaked a couple of weeks ago along with "Fembot" and "None Of Dem", many fans dismissed it as the worst of the bunch. I totally disagree. "Dancehall Queen" is a bit of a grower but it's genuinely creative and innovative. I love how Diplo has re-created the raw and organic sound of reggae/dancehall music using synths and electronic beats. The song shouldn't work at all but it's strangely hypnotic and ultimately very catchy. It also the perfect vehicle for Robyn's fuck you attitude. I love her swagger on this. With any luck by the time Part 3 drops, there will be enough good material for one decent album.

None Of Dem - 6/10

This is probably the biggest disappointment on "Body Talk Pt 1". I love Röyksopp but they clearly don't know how to bring the best out of Robyn - as they previously proved on "The Girl & The Robot". "None Of Dem" isn't bad. It's just adequate filler. The production is epic but the song doesn't cover any new ground. Robyn just sings/talks about how hot she is (stop laughing!), while someone forgot to write a chorus. I'm sure the cool crowd will be uploading this as their new ring tone as I type. The rest of us will be too busy pressing 'skip'.

Hang With Me - 6/10

One of the most disturbing things about "Body Talk Pt 1" is just how little Robyn has evolved as an artist since 2005. This admittedly cute acoustic number is virtually interchangeable with "Eclipse" or "Robotboy". It's nice to actually hear some instruments and the lyrics are suitably pretty but it's all been done before and done considerably better.

Jag Vet en Dejlig Rosa - 1/10

Sanna Nielsen called and wants her act back.

"Body Talk Pt 1" is released in the UK on the 14th of June. As yet there is no Australian release date but Modular already have it on their release schedule, so it will be hitting local stores around the same time. I'm off to listen to "My Truth" on repeat to wash away the taste of this aural turd.


John said...

You only gave 3 of the 8 songs less than a 6, so that doesn't really sound like a horrible review from the surface. I think it would be impossible to replicate the brilliance of Robyn, but you are right that, at least from the tracks I have heard, Body Talk is uneven at best. I will say that "Fembot" has absolutely grown on me, because it annoyed me on first listen.

The Spider said...

I absolutely agree with you about Dancing On My Own, absolutely amazing. The same can't be said for Fembot though, which is a shame :(. I particularly disliked "automatic booty applications" as a lyrical choice. said...

I haven't heard it all yet but I agree about Dancing on my Own, but think you're being hard on None of Dem. I thought the "I'm so bored in this town get me away from here" was more of being stuck living somewhere where people don't get you than just a "I'm hot and you'll never get me, non-hot people". Otherwise I agree about Don't Fucking Tell Me What To Do and about the robot thing being stale on Fembots although by now I do like the song.

undisco_me said...

I'm so glad you gave some criticism - people are so defensive about Robyn it's really offputting.

Danving On My Own is very pretty. Is the one about looking for love on this?

I'd have bought a proper album straight away but won't bother immediately if I need to buy 3.

tommie said...

The three album project was always going to be a bit problematic since there'll be no room for self-editing. A lot of the songs are like marmite - you either love them or hate them.

It's odd for her to throw a 500-year-old Swedish folk song on it though, even if I think it's lovely.

tommie said...

(apparently the uptempo version of Hang With Me is on part 2, by the way)

Mario said...

I personally think that the first Body Talk album is brilliant. It's a "give it more than one listen" album. The beats are sick and the lyrics, although often times obscure, are refreshing. It takes some guts to write and sing something as vulnerable and seemingly pathetic as Dancing On My Own and yet have something as confident as None of Dem. Personally, I think Robyn is gorgeous and that being said, good for her. It's nice to see/hear a woman singing about how hot she feels she is without having to slut her way up the top of the charts. Not saying I don't like some of the artists that do that, but she along with Christina, Pink, Gaga and very few others sing live and pull off what they do in the studio on the live stage. So props to her for staying in the game this long and still putting out amazing music.

Anonymous said...



tommie said...

Just a few more thoughts...

I like "Don't Fucking Tell Me What To Do" - but I think it would've probably been a lot more accessible if they cut it down to 2:30 and made it into more of an intro instead of making it 4+ minutes long.

"Fembot" didn't impress me at first, but it grew on me after Robyn's Skavlan performance (despite the loud backing track), so I kind of like to imagine that in my head when I listen to it.

"None of Dem" sounds great when I blast it on stereo, but less impressive on my iPod, if that makes sense?

"Hang With Me (acoustic)" would probably be higher rated IF we heard the uptempo version first. I mean, imagine if we heard the piano versions of "Be Mine!" and "With Every Heartbeat" first? A complete error in judgement from Team Robyn.

"Jag Vet En Dejlig Rosa" should've been a Scandinavia-only track.

Overall, if she wanted to release all these tracks, she probably would've been better off just compiling the best tracks on one album and then do a Diana Vickers and do a four track single for each single released. That way fans could've wanked over the "amazing" b-sides, while the overall product would've been better.

Still, I find this three-album plan intriguing.

Me said...

I guess the only body part Robyn is talking with is her arse...

Mike said...

John - it's not horrible per se. The thing is... I must have played "Robyn" once a day in full from 2005 to at least mid-2008. Admittedly, I was over it by the time it blew up internationally but I still think of that album as one of the essential pop releases of the noughties. I knew it would be hard to top but this isn't even on the same playing field. If you're going to release an 8 song album - you had better be sure that each song or at least the vast majority is fucking perfect. See Lady Gaga's "Fame Monster". This is just lazy. Where is the innovation? Where is the heart?

Spider & Chemistry - "Dancing On My Own" is the album's saving grace and proof that Robyn hasn't entirely lost the plot. I do like "None Of Dem" for what it is - a bit of superbly produced fluff but it would have made a better B side. It's just not up to scratch lyrically.

Mario - I've never questioned Robyn's talent. Click on the 'Robyn' label at the bottom of my review and see my concert review among other very positive posts. It doesn't change the fact that she spent 5 years on a shit album that could have been released by any Swedish nobody.

Tommie - There is no PLAN! She admitted that she was sick of waiting around and wanted new material to tour with, so she was just going to release the albums as she completes the songs. The thing is you can tell. I'm sure some of this shit would have never seen the light of day if she put all the 24 songs together and just chose 10 or 12 really good ones. I love your idea about B-sides. That would have been smart marketing. Why not go even further and release a couple of EPs to tide fans over until she had perfected the album? That would have made more sense than coming back after 5 years with a sub standard (and worse yet - boring) album.

Craig said...

Of the 4 songs ive heard only 'Dancing on my own' is any good. Im scared to hear the rest now!

Ro Ro said...

I have to admit i was a bit put off by this. But i love her and the songs aren't really bad but i agree also that they are not up to the standards of her Robyn album. "Fembot" is a catchy tune though i really love it :S

Jump! said...

"Dancehall Queen" is my fave track behind "dancing on my own"

R said...

Fembot is awesome. Cry When You Get Older is absolutely amazing. None of Dem is again very good, but one minute too long. Dancing on my own is another very good song. Not a huge fan of Dancehall Queen, I hate Don't Fucking Tell me what to do, and I haven't heard the other two, but I'll take any album where half of the songs are good or better, and that is the case here. Plus, Cry When You Get Older is worth the price of admission alone!

tommie said...

Mike - but there IS a plan though. If I understand it the plan is to release two mini albums and then a compilation of the best tracks from the two albums plus new stuff.

I honestly think she would've gotten a better reception for these if she would've just made them EPs rather than mini albums. That way she would've gotten new stuff to tour with and not the same amount of negative response as people wouldn't've judged the EPs as proper albums.

Oh well. Error in judgement on her part I guess!

D'luv said...

H8er, "Fembot" is good. Maybe if you washed the clit slop Ninel Conde shot in your ears out, you'd realize!

tommie said...

Body Talk pt 2 will be out August 2nd.

Anonymous said...

is this her best? no but it's better than 99% of the stuff on the air. i'd give it a B+

Harbinger of Truth said...

I own this album and happen to have a higher opinion of it than you do. To be honest, I felt the same way about the "My Truth" Album that you feel about this one, but the more I listened the more I enjoyed. She did Dejlig Rosa as part of the Tsunami relief telethon they did in Sweden. Her fans (people like ME) liked it so much she gave us some fan service by including it on this album. The woman's worth. This review is simply you seeing how crass you can be to one of the hardest working most talented musicians working today.
Why don't you pick on Lady Gaga's tone-def ass or Fergie's bland bullshit before sinking your fangs into a legitimate talent like Robyn. BTW "My Truth" was a great album...artistically, but "Don't Stop the Music" was a better album.

Marcus said...

The first time listening through it, I suppose I came to a similar if slightly less acerbic conclusion.

But the bloody thing grows on you like crazy. I now swear by all tracks but the intro, imagine that! I even like the intro, but feel it is about a minute or so too long.

While "Dancing On My Own" probably is the most straightforward hit, I suspect "Hang With Me" will be a total killer in full beat version on Pt2...(just listen to the bloody chorus!)
"Fembots" are so tounge in cheek I can't but smile. "Dancehall Queen" is pretty charming and "Cry When You Get Older" is one of those songs with lyrics that shows some real brilliance. None Of Dem should be played on a big sound system in the middle of the night (mind the neighbours though).

Releasing a minialbum is so typically Robyn not-the-same-procedure-as-last-year-james. It's risky, but whether brilliant or a mistake we really can't say until we see the whole set.

Lastly, since I understand Swedish, and since I heard "Jag Vet En Dejlig Rosa" when originally performed in the wake of the tsunami I really can't look at it outside that emotional context. It is a love-song, but it is also a song about bittersweet grief.

I will supply a line by line translation, and you may judge for yourself:

Jag vet en dejlig rosa, och vit som liljeblad.
I know a lovely rose, white as the lily's petal.

När jag på henne tänker, så görs mitt hjärta glad.
When of her I think, my heart is filled with joy.

Dess stämma ger en hjärtans tröst, likt näktergalens blida röst,
Her voice give solace to my heart, like the gentle voice of a nightingale,

så hövisk och så ljuv.
so courtly and so sweet.

Som solen fagert skiner, är hon som purpur klar.
Like fair sunshine, clear as purple she is.

Gud låt dig aldrig sörja, men alltid vara glad!
God never let yourself lament, but always be happy!

Må de få komma samman med hjärtans fröjd och gamman,
May those come together with joyful hearts and rejoicing

som längta till varann!
who long for each other!

Var dag går solen neder och dagelig uppgår.
Each day the sun goes down and each morning it rises.

När kommer dagen blider, att jag dig skåda får?
When will the gentle day come, when again I may behold you?

I hågen är du städs mig när. Farväl, farväl, min hjärtlig kär!
You are always close to me in my mind. Farewell, farewell, my beloved!

Mångtusende godnatt!
Many thousands of goodnights!

Randal said...

You're crazy. Fembot is by far the best track, and Dancehall Queen is by far the worst. I mostly agree with the rest, except I would rate None of Dem and Cry When You Get Older a bit higher.