Pop music is a fickle beast. Robyn had a number one smash with 2007’s ‘With Every Heartbeat’ but this year despite the glorious ‘Dancing On My Own’ reaching top ten, both of her ‘Body Talk’ albums have hardly scratched the top 50 album charts despite many a rabid journo musing over their brilliance.
When Robyn announced she was to release three albums this year she enthusiastically frothed about how she’d be releasing a record number of tracks. This proved to be bluster, however nineteen new tracks in one year is certainly not to be sniffed at.
The previous two volumes of ‘Body Talk’ have contained some of the finest examples of 21st Century pop music you can find, if you can find a pop act as rich in terms of innovation and quality, you are probably dreaming…or slightly misguided. At the same time the cynical pop machines of Cheryl Cole & Rihanna are literally top of the pops, Cole’s success is particularly bothersome; a conduit for faceless teams of conveyor belt pop music, singing second hand candid and ‘autobiographical’ lyrics written by anybody but herself, the most expensive producers out there lavished upon her generically auto-tuned voice for all to enjoy and share her pain.
Robyn on the other hand, can literally drown the listener in tears in her vulnerable guise then have the listener run for cover when she’s being all fuck you-ish. The ‘Body Talk’ series had the best of both worlds, songs like the camp drama of ‘Hang With Me’ and ‘Dancing On My Own’, the AIDS awareness anthem ‘Love Kills’, the obnoxious Peaches-like ‘Criminal Intent’ and the belting ‘U Should Know Better’ featuring Snoop Dogg are true landmarks in pop music. ‘We Dance To The Beat’ and ‘Don’t Fucking Tell Me What To Do’ are crammed with stamping beats and treacherous attitude, both statements of intent, she is NOT to be messed with, these are amazing pop songs.
So far… so, so good. Unfortunately the ‘Body Talk’ round-up, five tracks from the first two volumes plus five new ones, sound more like a mop up exercise than a coherent album, the atrocious programming of the tracks doesn’t help either. ‘Body Talk 3’ consists of five tracks instead of eight and within the context of the full ‘Body Talk’ album they sound like leftovers, the off-cuts. It’s the third slab of vinyl of ‘Sandinista’, it’s the whole second CD of ‘Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness’, it’s an underwhelming finish to what should have been one huge hurrah.
Instead of the three and a half minute mini tragedies backed with icy cool electro pop, fusing the drama of Pet Shop Boys with the dance-ability of New Order, we are becoming accustomed to with Robyn, volume three’s tracks can’t be differentiated from the kind of creatively redundant pop you hear on the majority of commercial radio stations. Despite attempts to hide these songs within the quality of the other volumes, it doesn’t work, making what could have been a fantastic pop album a good one which sometimes lapses into pop cheese, someone even thought it would be a good idea to include the appalling ‘rood gall’ ragga stylings of ’Dancehall Queen’ from volume 1, a huge no no.
So, while Robyn shows that her body can certainly do the talking, when it comes to walking the walk she’s prone to stumbling in directions she should avoid.
Words by Chris Todd