If you don’t remember Robyn, you’re going to become well acquainted with her soon. Since the 90s, she has been a force in the pop industry, offering hard-hitting electro-pop for every taste and occasion. She came into the mainstream in 1995 with the fittingly-titled debut Robyn Is Here, full of the roaring confidence that most other female pop icons wouldn’t have for years to come. The album produced two top-10 singles and for a while she could only go up — until she disappeared. It’s been eight years without a single word from Robyn, but she’s finally back and offering only one word you need to know: Honey.
Honey began production in 2015, following a break up and the death of Christian Falk, a close friend and frequent collaborator. To say this album was born out of tragedy would be an understatement, but Robyn has never been one to shy away from baring it all in her music. On Honey, she pairs this familiar vulnerability with dreamy, dance-friendly production. Certain songs are practically confessionals, read over an airy synth-pop track. Take the album’s opener, ‘Missing U’, for example — the production is bubbly, light and easy to move to, but the lyrics carry the intimacy of a diary entry that no one was meant to read. It’s this type of transparency that makes Robyn more relatable than your typical pop star.
This is the note that the album both leads on and ends with. The final track, R&B-influenced dance number ‘Ever Again’, is Robyn’s defiant promise to stop being upset over breakups. This final track leaves the listener with the message Robyn learned during the creation of this album: beauty can be born out of tragedy. She’s certainly not wrong about that; her soft but haunting vocals can sometimes feel buried beneath the album’s production, but at their best they seamlessly blend together into an almost ethereal atmosphere.
Throughout the album, Robyn walks fans through the places she’s been the last eight years, reassuring them that she’s made it out okay and, more importantly, that anyone else can. It’s an empowering album, capable of eliciting tears and pumping you up in equal measure.
Bringing all of this together creates pure easy listening. Robyn’s production — which Robyn has had a bigger hand in than on previous records — is simple but huge, helping the album stick with you in a big way. This album is made up almost entirely of catchy songs, as though Robyn has some secret formula for pop greatness.
The title track was well chosen: Honey is the most striking song of them all. An early version of this song found its way into an episode of Girls last year; since then Robyn fans have kept it on repeat in anticipation for this album. This new version, with only light polishing added since, is just as addictive as the first time we heard it. Robyn’s songs have a way of sticking with you for weeks at a time after you hear them and the title track is this album’s strongest example of that.
Robyn has built another dance-pop dream world and invited us in to explore with her. It’s accessible, but it’ll still be something different for today’s pop crowd. Robyn reworks her 80s and 90s influences into something no other act on the scene right now is bringing us. Even after eight years out of the game, Robyn holds power as a trendsetter in her genre. If her next project takes even longer, I’ll still have Honey on repeat by the time it’s announced. I have no doubt that it’ll be worth the wait.