Robyn

Body Talk, Pt. 1

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Robyn's 2005 self-titled album showed that when she was free to do whatever she wanted, she could do just about anything. However, it took a while for Robyn to reach all of her listeners -- the U.S. had to wait until 2008 to discover it was a modern pop classic -- and during that time, she amassed enough songs to fill three mini-albums. Since she doesn’t have to prove what she can do in the confines of one release, Body Talk, Pt. 1 is a more focused listen than Robyn was. At eight songs long, it’s also leaner, and a little meaner: Robyn sounds more frustrated and assertive than ever on “Don’t Fucking Tell Me What to Do,” a hard-edged dance track topped by a litany of everything that’s killing her: her shoes, her diet, her manager, her label. The words and tension are so dense that there’s no room for any musical embellishment besides stark beats and synths, and it’s not till the song is almost finished that Robyn finally lashes out with the song’s titular chorus. She’s not afraid to brag on the dancehall-tinged “None of Dem” and Diplo-produced “Dance Hall Queen,” but her boasts are more tempered than Robyn's taunts. Instead, she shows that she’s as independent as ever in different ways -- most often by displaying her vulnerability. As revved-up as Robyn sounds on “Fembot,” there’s a sensitive undercurrent behind Klas Åhlund's whiz-bang production, and though “Cry When You Get Older”’s melody is pure bubblegum simplicity, Robyn's advice to boys and girls (“love hurts when you do it right”) is anything but. She can also capture the heartache of a fiercely independent woman like few others, and “Dancing on My Own”'s wounded strength and soaring melody make it Body Talk, Pt. 1's “With Every Heartbeat.” The album takes a much more intimate turn as it closes, with the acoustic version of “Hang with Me” finding a unique perspective on being “just friends”; the traditional Swedish song “Jag Vet en Dejlig Rosa” (I Know of a Lovely Rose) ends the album with Robyn singing of a faraway love with just a vibraphone accompanying her. Capturing the freedom and loneliness of independence, Body Talk, Pt. 1 is a concise set of songs on its own, and an impressive first third of the whole ambitious project.

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