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Robyn Review

by Heather Phares

"I present to you/Unleashed in the East/Best dressed in the West/Sorted in the North/Without a doubt in the South/the queen of queen bees," intones the booming voice on Robyn's opening track, "Curriculum Vitae." It's not bragging if you can back it up, and Robyn does just that, channeling all the frustration of her creative differences with her previous labels into a freewheeling, accomplished pop album that is so fresh that it could pass for a debut -- and, as the first release for her own label, Konichiwa Records, it is a debut of sorts. Robyn feels like she crammed everything she couldn't do before into a space that can barely contain it, starting with "Konichiwa Bitches," a sassy hip-pop manifesto with a title that could very well have been the first thing she said to her old bosses once she got her own label set up. On this song and the rest of the album, Robyn sounds equally empowered and irresistible, and doesn't hesitate to tell off labels, trifling boys, or anyone else who stands in the way of what she wants. She doesn't mince words on "Handle Me," but she purrs "you're a selfish, narcissistic, psycho-freakin', boot-lickin' creep" so sweetly that it stings even more. And even on the songs where she isn't so strong, like "Bum Like You" and "I Should Have Known"'s catchy recriminations, she's never the less than self-aware. She has a few words for the ladies as well: the cautionary tale "Crash and Burn Girl" is one of the album's funkiest tracks.

"Who's That Girl," the song that her old label didn't want to release, and sparked her emancipation from them, is also here, and its distinctive skipping, tropics-go-Nordic rhythms and aggressively buzzy synths -- courtesy of the Knife -- sound great, but it isn't even the best song here. That honor goes to one of two songs that really hit home that true independence can be the hardest thing. "Be Mine!" nails the complicated, sad yet liberated feelings surrounding an impossible relationship, celebrating "the sweet pain of watching your back as you walk away" as it propels itself on a buoyant rhythm. "With Every Heartbeat," the epic, Kleerup-produced breakup song that was Robyn's breakthrough single in the U.K., pushes her forward on percolating, escalating synths and strings until it peaks with the chorus echoing all around her. Not every independent moment on Robyn is so lonely, however. The way the album moves from whimsical tracks like the Teddybears cover "Cobrastyle" or "Robotboy" to subtle ballads like "Eclipse" and "Any Time You Like" just emphasizes that this album is a space for expression for and by Robyn. And like any self-titled album should, Robyn defines what she's all about. Even if it took a few years to put together the label and album (and a few more to get the album released everywhere), this is the pop tour de force that Robyn has always had in her.

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