Robyn Roundtable: Billboard Staffers Weigh In On 'Honey' Highlights & How It Lived Up to Expectations

The wait is lastly over -- Robyn's first studio album in eight years, Honey, is eventually out at present (Oct. 26).

And whereas the follow-up to the Swedish pop star's influential Body Talk LP is barely 9 songs lengthy, there's so much to unpack: Instead of the glowing dancefloor anthems that outlined her final LP, she's pursued softer and sometimes weirder tracks that, as an alternative of dashing towards cathartic choruses, dig deep for hypnotic, slow-burning rhythms and showcase influences starting from minimalist '90s techno to Prince-esque funk.

It's the newest evolution of a pop star who, for greater than 20 years now, has zagged every time her friends have zigged -- and been all of the extra celebrated for it. Here, Billboard digital options editor Nolan Feeney; senior editor Andrew Unterberger; and deputy editors, digital Katie Atkinson and Joe Lynch convene to debate Honey's highlights, the way it lived as much as expectations and what it says about Robyn's future.

Nolan: It’s right here, it’s lastly right here! Robyn’s first album in eight years, Honey, is out now. I believe a whole lot of us have been anxiously awaiting this report and dreaming of its contents for a while. So, I've to ask: How does it reside as much as the immense expectations we’ve positioned on it?

Joe: I don’t suppose Honey may ever reside as much as the expectations eight years of ready will create. And from the sound of it, she doesn’t need it to — there’s zero effort to copy the success of a pristine pop method like “Dancing On My Own” or “Call Your Girlfriend.” I do suppose it’s pretty — possibly a bit an excessive amount of of the modulated low-register voice within the background (does it should be on so many songs?), however the synths are so delicate and atmospheric they belong in Twin Peaks. And the disco affect may be very slight, however welcome. 

Andrew: Yeah, my first take heed to Honey made me query what I actually needed or anticipated from a brand new Robyn album within the first place. I assume if there was one factor I had missed within the interim years, greater than Big Single Robyn even, it was Pop Superhero Robyn — the invincible, wisecracking protagonist of “None of Dem” and “Konichiwa Bitches” and such. Pretty clear from the second observe that this wasn’t going to be that form of album both, and finally I believe that’s high quality — her insisting “I’m a human being,” which sorta feels just like the thesis for the entire album, is beautiful and highly effective in its personal means from the one-time Fembot. It’s not what I anticipated, however that’s at all times been Robyn’s deal, so I acclimated fairly rapidly. 

Katie: I needed my first take heed to be a very uninterrupted run by way of all 9 songs, and I'm so glad I did it that means, as a result of by the midway level (“Send to Robin Immediately”), I used to be absolutely immersed within the Honey world and satisfied that 2018 Robyn may do no improper. Every time I picked up on an apparent reference (the disco of “Because It’s the Music,” the Crystal Waters of “Between the Lines”), all of it made good sense within the context of the album and nonetheless felt like Robyn. That’s to not say that it sounds precisely like something she’s finished earlier than, nevertheless it is smart in her evolution.

Nolan: I’m curious if this album will encourage individuals to revisit or reevaluate the stopgap tasks she launched between Body Talk and Honey. There was that collaborative EP with Röyksopp in 2014 and her “mini-album” with the La Bagatelle Magique facet challenge in 2015. In latest years, I felt like some followers dismissed these as experimental indulgences: “Yeah, yeah, get all of the weirdness out of your system so you may get again to what you actually do!” But this album is simply as bizarre, if no more so. The music buildings are sometimes unconventional. Is this what she “actually” does? Were Robyn’s immaculate verse-chorus-verse-chorus pop songs only a transient second in time for her?

Andrew: I believe it’s fairly clear at this level that it’s on us for ever assuming that Body Talk was definitive Robyn — a testomony to the album’s measurement and stature, but additionally an unfair assignation for an artist clearly by no means meant to be outlined by anybody work or period. Going again over her catalog lately, I used to be shocked not solely by how nice and coherent and full these “stopgap” EPs had been, however how the self-titled album — now simply sorta seen as The Album Before Body Talk — holds up as a basic in its personal proper, and even what number of ahead-of-their-time gems there are on her first three, Robyn kind of albums. 

I believe as a result of Body Talk's affect was so highly effective, widespread and long-lasting, we overestimate how a lot that interval means to Robyn’s core artistry. This is somebody who’s been producing important and ever-evolving pop music for over 20 years now; there’s no true middle to both stray from or return to. 

Joe: I don’t know if it feels all that experimental to me — undoubtedly a weirder album than Body Talk, however I really feel prefer it’s extra low-key pop with a number of oddball thrives than an precise piece of experimental pop, like one among her 10-minute odysseys on these EPs. Just like I, inevitably, do want there have been at the least one out-of-the-gate pop banger (I want a brand new operating music, Robyn), I additionally want there was one lengthy avant-pop music. Something that, because it performs, you don't have any concept the place it’s going to go subsequent. I really feel like most of those tracks discover a groove or temper and keep on with it, which isn’t a nasty factor, however given how mellow they're, it will probably go away for a little bit of a low-impact listening expertise.

Nolan: You carry up one thing actually necessary, which is the position of repetition on the album. In interviews main as much as the report, Robyn talked about discovering inspiration in membership music that wasn't constructed round a giant refrain or any form of launch, actually — music, as she defined, “that had no conclusion.” I nervous that I might discover the method inaccessible or unsatisfying, however that’s not been my expertise listening to this album. I may take heed to a loop of the “Human Being” beat without end. “Honey” may go on for 5 extra minutes and I wouldn’t be mad. I simply wish to wrap myself in these beats as in the event that they had been blankets and reside in them.

Joe: Totally agree about “Honey” and “Human Being,” however the repetition on “Beach 2k20” — which kind of feels like an ambient exotica music — wears skinny for me. The album nearer “Ever Again” seems like an outlier — extra like a ballad from The Cars than a house-indebted groover.

Andrew: Same on “Beach 2k20” — extra like “Beach 2k20/20 Experience,” amirite — however I like, love, love her closing the album with “Ever Again.” It’s the pure pop injection we’ve been ready for, and it’s even morphs into its personal Jacques Lu Cont remix midway by way of. It’s virtually a wink to her followers, a affirmation that in case you thought Human Robyn couldn’t nonetheless dangle on the dancefloor, she will be able to nonetheless Travolta with the most effective of ‘em. 

Katie: I’m right here to defend “Beach 2k20”! It completely reads ’90s rave-pop to me — like an unreleased Deee-Lite album interlude, which is concerning the highest praise I can provide a music. It made sense to me tucked in between the deep-house keyboard riff of “Between the Lines” and the retro synth of “Ever Again.”

Nolan: There’s a tenderness and intimacy on “Ever Again” that jogs my memory a whole lot of her self-titled album, notably tracks like “Should Have Known” and “Anytime You Like.” I understand I’ve missed the facet of Robyn’s music that makes me really feel as if I’m eavesdropping on somebody’s dialog. Are there sides of Robyn you all are discovering or re-appreciating? Did anybody else see any throughlines from Honey to her previous work?

Katie: Of all the brand new songs, “Missing U” would match finest on Robyn or Body Talk — which is why it was form of a deceptive lead single for Honey. But issues of the “coronary heart” are nonetheless entrance and middle past the intro observe, similar to they're on her final twenty years of labor, from bemoaning that her “coronary heart can’t cease beating” on “Human Being” to the skipping-heartbeat rhythm on “Between the Lines” (“it makes my coronary heart leap”), all over her proclamation on the album nearer that she’s “by no means gonna be brokenhearted ever once more.” While it is likely to be good for Robyn if she’s by no means brokenhearted once more, it could be devastating for followers of her unlucky-in-love classics if she by no means sang about it.

Nolan: “Missing U” is an attention-grabbing one, as a result of it’s kind of the obvious throwback to the earlier period, nevertheless it additionally has the Honey fingerprints throughout it, with the best way it shape-shifts and dissolves. It’s the primary music Robyn wrote for the album — she’s stated that the tracklist goes within the chronological order during which she created the songs — and in that means it seems like a connecting bridge. But in different methods it feels prefer it’s caught in between for me. As a lot as I get pleasure from it, recently I virtually need it to both be a decent, centered three-minute basic or an Eight-minute jam that winds and twists and builds — the form of extremes Joe talked about earlier.

Andrew: The extra wounded, in-her-feelings Robyn of this album undoubtedly does flash again to the Robyn-era singles like “Dream On” and “With Every Heartbeat” — the Robyn who would wallow in her synths, who hadn’t fairly realized weaponize them but. That was the Robyn that a whole lot of us first fell in love with within the blog-pop days of the mid-’00s — effectively, fell in love with for the second time, if you happen to rely the late-’90s, proto-TRL Robyn of “Show Me Love” and “Do You Know (What It Takes)” — so it’s cool to see her return, for certain. 

Also, whereas I’m not wild concerning the second half of “Beach2k20,” I'm undoubtedly intrigued by the emergence of Travel Guide Robyn. I’d love to listen to her and Todd Terje crew up for some form of “Lanzarote” sequel.

Nolan: Speaking of a Robyn want listing — the place does Robyn go from right here, each by way of the music and the way she releases it? Until an early model of “Honey” premiered on Girls, I had virtually given up on the concept we'd ever see a full-length Robyn album once more. But not in a despairing means — I simply figured she’d proceed to launch songs a la the Röyksopp and La Bagatelle Magique tasks: Smaller, (hopefully) extra frequent batches of songs which have totally different obsessions and focuses. Honey is a “correct” album, however with solely 9 songs, its size felt like a affirmation of this less-is-more method. What do you all suppose the long run holds for Robyn? (Robyn, if you happen to’re studying this, no rush!)

Andrew: This is an efficient query, and the actual reply is: no matter she desires. That’s a cop out, although, so I’ll predict that her subsequent challenge will likely be of a multi-media kind of selection — both a movie rating, a visible mini-album or one thing else revolutionary and completely unforeseeable, in a form of 21st-century Björk mildew. If not that, possibly a return to some very particular retro dance-pop sound or vibe, like a three-song acid home EP or an electroclash throwback teamup with Peaches or one thing. (Too dangerous Cher already beat her to the ABBA covers album.) 

My private want? A next-gen collab album, co-starring Grimes, Carly Rae Jepsen, Azealia Banks, Troye Sivan, Cashmere Cat, Betty Who, CupcakKe and numerous different disciples. Supernatural meets Pop 2! Twitter would by no means get well. 

Nolan: I’m already having coronary heart palpitations.

Katie: How am I presupposed to reply this query when Andrew gave the definitive response?

Nolan: If we wish to be sensible, she’s talked about hitting the studio with Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis and even shouted them out at her Red Bull Music Festival speak this previous spring.

Joe: Yes! I do not forget that. She stated she had materials with them, however the ball was (and stays) of their courtroom.

Katie: Borrowing Nolan’s “connecting bridge” analogy, if “Missing U” picks up the place her earlier album left off, that might imply we ought to be trying to final observe “Ever Again” for clues about the place the subsequent period will decide up. Just like “Human Being” appears to be Robyn’s declaration that she’s leaving her robotic alter ego behind, “Ever Again” appears to level to Robyn leaving heartbreak behind. Can we even think about what a Robyn album that doesn’t deal with misplaced love would sound like?

Joe: I really feel it’s extra probably that the subsequent Robyn challenge we’ll see will likely be one thing akin to the EPs launched during the last Eight years — stuff that provides her an opportunity to collaborate and take dangers in new territory, versus delivering that “full album” album. But that's one potential knock you would levy in opposition to Honey — it’s very reflective by nature, and so it’s laborious to think about this sound getting pushed ahead. I really feel like she’ll virtually have to start out over for the subsequent album. Which is ok! If the final 20 years have confirmed something, it’s that she’s not afraid of detours and reinventions. I simply hope we don’t have to attend one other Eight years for a nine-track album.