Where To Start With... Robyn
If you wanted to chart just how much the pop music landscape has changed over the last 20 years, you could hardly find a more instructive case study than the career of Swedish singer, songwriter and producer Robyn.
Born and raised in Stockholm, Robyn was just 16 by the time she released her 1995 debut album Robyn is Here, written and recorded with the help of Swedish production duo Ghost. Despite the fact that the album was initially released only in Sweden, her debut nevertheless yielded a couple of bona fide hits in 'Do You Know (What It Takes)' and 'Show Me Love', both co-written with a talented emerging songwriter by the name of Max Martin. The album was eventually given a North American release two years later, and by the time of her 18th birthday, Robyn was the proud owner of her first platinum disc.
Listening back to that debut album now, it's difficult not to be struck by the stylistic disconnect between the R&B-tinged sound of those early hits and the cool, icy electronica Robyn has become known for in recent years. With the benefit of hindsight, it's easy to see that this was a young artist with bags of potential, but also one still unsure about her own identity and musical direction. Plans to release her 1999 sophomore album My Truth internationally were cancelled by her label when the singer refused to make changes to a record that was much more introspective than her debut. On both this and its 2002 follow-up Don't Stop The Music, Robyn continued to explore different musical directions, taking in influences from electronica to hip-hop and scoring some favourable reviews from critics in her homeland, as well as a handful of minor hits.
However, her label wasn't as enthused and when Robyn turned in a new song co-written with boundary-pushing electronic duo The Knife, the label baulked, apparently unimpressed with the singer's new edgy, electronic sound. Frustrated, Robyn parted ways with her label and set up her own imprint Konichiwa Records, as well inking a distribution deal in the US with Interscope. The song in question turned out to be 'Who's That Girl?', one of the singles on her eponymous 2005 LP Robyn, which not only became her first international album release but also her breakthrough record, earning her plaudits from critics and fans alike and landing Robyn a Grammy nomination for her efforts.
From then on, Robyn has been a woman very much in control of her own destiny. The pair of Body Talk albums released in 2010 saw her further exploring and honing her new electronic sound and scoring monster hits with tracks like 'Dancing On My Own', as well as collaborating with the likes of Snoop Dogg and Norwegian electronic duo Royksopp. Robyn would go on to record a collaborative EP with the Norwegian pair, released under the title Do It Again in 2014, but besides a couple of other collaborations and one-off singles, Robyn has been relatively quiet in recent years.
That all changed in February this year when Robyn revealed she was working on her first album since 2010. Lead-off single 'Missing U' arrived in August, and a month later Robyn unveiled the release date and title of the album, Honey, which makes its arrival in stores today.
Work began on the album in 2015 following the death of her friend and collaborator Christian Falk. Turning to another longtime collaborator in Klas Åhlund, Robyn began work on new music and eventually reached out to Metronomy's Joe Mount, who ended up co-producing much of the album with Robyn and Ahlund. The album contains nine new tracks including the two already-released singles, 'Missing U' and the album's title track 'Honey', both of which offer a glimpse of Robyn's mastery of the electro-pop sound she has made her own.
You can find the lyric video for 'Missing U' below, beneath that we've picked out five key tracks from her career to date as a guide for those new to her work...
'Show Me Love'
By some distance, the biggest hit on Robyn's fresh-faced debut LP, 'Show Me Love' has all the ingredients a mid-90s pop hit should, but it's also striking just how of-its-time the production on her debut really is. It may sound more like erstwhile contemporaries Eternal or Toni Braxton than anything you'd associate with Robyn these days, but it also hints at her knack for a catchy melody and while it may be a million miles from where she is now, it certainly helped put her on the map.
'With Every Heartbeat'
By the time of her self-titled 2005 album Robyn had clearly decided on her direction of travel and was pursuing it with gusto, churning out a series of dancefloor-ready pop bangers such as this collaboration with fellow Swede Kleerup. Combining bubbling synths with blue-eyed pop melodies, this the sound of an artist really hitting her creative stride.
'Dancing On My Own'
If you only know one of Robyn's songs, chances are it's this. Featured on Body Talk Pt. 1, 'Dancing On My Own' is probably her best-known tune, having been the subject of two cover versions and countless remixes, but its the original that best exhibits what Robyn is all about: icy, minimalist drum rhythms and synths juxtaposed with the singer's typically raw, emotional lyrics and soaring voice. Still one of her best.
'U Should Know Better'
As her early albums clearly show, Robyn has taken inspiration from a wide range of genres and is particularly fond of hip-hop, so a collaboration with Snoop Dogg shouldn't be as surprising as it might initially seem. 'U Should Know Better' is anything but a hip-hop track however and instead, Snoop adjusts his flow to suit the song's driving dancefloor groove. One of the standout moments on Body Talk Pt. 2.
'Do It Again'
Our final pick is the title track from Robyn's collaborative EP recorded with Norwegian pair Royksopp, and probably the EP's most accessible track. Royksopp's production gives things a little more of a dark and moody edge, but that's no bad thing and as a stop-gap between Body Talk and her new album, you could certainly do a lot worse.
Honey is available in hmv stores now, you can also find it here in our online store.