Album Review: Robyn - 'Body Talk Pt 1' (Konichiwa/Island)

The Swedish pop siren may be a strong soul, but is best when she spills her heart all over the dancefloor

Is there a more inspiring pop star on the planet than Robyn? More than a songwriter, she is, to paraphrase Jay-Z, “a business, man”, a one-time UNICEF ambassador who releases records on her own label, Konichiwa. This independence enables her to go at her own pace – this is her first album in five years – and control her image. And, just like Lady Gaga, she’s sexy precisely because she’s provocatively anti-sexual: one much-used press shot finds her dressed as a cardboard JCB .

She’s also managed to make a particular emotion her own: that of being heartbroken on the dancefloor. It makes for suffocatingly great pop, most notably on single ‘Dancing On My Own’, a comet-trail of sadness and exhilaration that’s easily the equal of Robyn’s breakthrough hit, ‘With Every Heartbeat’.

There’s nothing else on here quite that good. While Robyn excels at playing the spurned lover, she has another mode, that of the bragging, Missy Elliott-style maneater. It feels less authentic, especially on ‘Dancefloor Queen’, a misfiring collaboration with Diplo that features the least convincing patois this side of a George Lamb radio show.

She’s on more solid ground when exploring the metaphysics of the dancefloor, as on ‘None Of Dem’, which finds her prowling a hometown club, caged and frustrated, hungry for escape (“None of these drugs get me high… none of these basslines fill the room”). It’s a feeling that has inspired songwriters since pop’s Year Zero, and Robyn totally nails it.

Robyn plans to release two more albums this year. This first instalment is impressive, but thin at eight tracks. Would it not have been better to hold back, and release just one, truly stunning record?

Luke Lewis

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Click here to get your copy of Robyn's 'Body Talk Pt 1' from the Rough Trade shop

7 / 10

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