The pop landscape has changed dramatically since Swedish pop-star Robyn put out her album, Body Talk, in 2010. Styles have come and gone, careers have been born, and the sound has shifted numerous times. However, Robyn was one of pop music’s most forward thinking and creative artists. Seemingly, she had fallen off the face of the earth. What was unbeknownst to us, is that Robyn was going through issues of her own. These issues would be the lyrical centerfold of her new album Honey, which comes a whole eight years later.
Honey is a record that is chalked full of sentimental and indelible dance-pop tracks that center on the nuances within relationships with individuals and how those people can leave an indelible mark on you. Robyn approaches this topic with a sense of maturity that seemingly comes naturally for her. As an older musician, she has an outlook that is very welcoming to see and even amongst the newer stars in the pop scene, Robyn’s veteran status is a refreshing one. And of course, seeing as how this is Robyn album, there are many earworms and bops present.
Robyn opts for an album that delves into her more personal side, all the while keeping the music upbeat and most importantly, danceable. This difference between this album and the ones that preceded it is that Honey manages to be centered primarily within the realm of dance music. To put it simply, Honey is Robyn’s most danceable to date and it works well within the album’s frame. The blissful and glittery production suits the pop star’s voice flawlessly and moreover, the combination of these two elements make the album feel almost euphoric. This euphoria is juxtaposed with moments of sorrow and occasionally, regret. There’s a sense of distinct melancholy that can felt deep within the album’s core. The instrumental palette sounds like something one would hear at a disco in the late 80’s or early 90’s. It feels as if Robyn wants to expose the deep, underlying emotions that reside underneath the sheen and gloss that we sometimes present to people. Deep down, the pain is still present.
The juxtaposition is one that lends itself to Honey, as it takes lyrics about heartbreak and makes them even more of a potent statement. On the lead single, “Missing U”, Robyn goes on to sing about the empty void that is left in one’s life once a person is gone. While this is certainly a heavy subject matter, Robyn uses this track to reminisce about the “empty space” that the individual in question left behind. As she said with her interview with Pitchfork:
“Missing U” is really about the psychedelic, trippy thing that happens when people are not there anymore, and how clear they become all of a sudden, and how you deal with the fact that there’s this big space in your life. In the beginning, there’s no segue between your life and that place where that person used to be.”
She feels fragmented without this person and as a result, as Robyn profoundly sings on the chorus, “…the picture’s incomplete”. It is this sense of fragmentation that is permeated across the many of the tracks on Honey and why the emotional toll that the album is giving is potent. There is a distinct sense of loneliness and even a bit of depression in the lyrics.
Honey still contains the sense of warmth and openness that Robyn’s earlier work, but with the influence of experimental electronics, dance and disco. She was able to craft a record that is not only personal but emotionally and tonally different of any album to come in her discography previously. The aforementioned juxtaposition allows this album the leverage it needs for Robyn to add in her own experiences with a sincere sense of cogency. The end result is an album that stands as not only one of the best in Robyn’s catalog, but one of 2018’s finest pop records.