Robyn - Robyn
Tue 16th Oct, 2007 Music Reviewsin
The anti-major-record-label stance of Robin Miriam Carlsson (known as Robyn to her music aficionados) is well-documented. Her singing/song writing talents were discovered by Swedish pop singer Meja during a school workshop when she was only 13 and this lead to an immediate BMG signing. At 28 years young, she has already contributed 15 years to the music industry and shook its very foundations when she bought herself out of her contract in 2005: she felt her creative freedom was being compromised. From here she founded her own label (of which she is CEO) called Konichiwa Records. Extra props as her pipes feature on Hey U by Basement Jaxx (from their sinfully underrated 2006 album Crazy Itch Radio). Modular Records (the label with all ten fingers simultaneously on the pulse) have picked this foxy vixen up for Australian appreciation.
Robyn’s self-titled release kicks off with an audibly simulated Jacuzzi scene from which the petite Swedish songstress places a phone call: “Yeah get me Studio 1. Listen I want some rain, thunder and some hell’s bells, alright? Just tell them to stick to the script, okay? DO it!” A voice as sinister as Darth Vader’s then orders us to “turn it the fuck up!” before launching into a far-fetched faux Curriculum Vitae (presumably Robyn’s). Apparently “she sucker-punched Einstein, out-smarted Ali and even out-super freaked Rick James”. All this sets the scene for a bad-ass rap album. Cue the first single lifted from the record, Konichiwa Bitches.
Bursting through your speakers without an ounce of trepidation, this track has instant appeal in a sassy, foul-mouthed, girl-power kind of way. Robyn warns “you better watch your tongue” then does nothing of the sort. Lyrics are as uncensored as they come – “Come in with the postman like I’m a mail-bomb/ Comin’ in your mouth make you say ‘Yum! Yum!’” No wonder it garnered heavy rotation on radio request shows: understated electronic backing bleeps, realistic sound effects, hand claps and what a finish! A car boot slams then Robyn’s voice is muffled, as if her final piece of flow is delivered from outside the trunk – “See you next Tuesday, you is a punk”. If it’s more of the same you’re after, this record will almost certainly disappoint.
Cobrastyle (the second single) follows on and appears to be a watered down version of its predecessor. Vibratory bass bellows beneath one-finger-style keyboard playing direct from an old skool Gameboy and Robyn’s vocal has been infused with saccharine. This song hangs in there and there’s no doubt the girl can sing. From Handle Me (track 4) onwards, the repetitive theme of unrequited love (from major record executives, personal relationships or both?) becomes wearisome: “It’s a good thing tears never show in the pouring rain” ( Be Mine ), “We could keep trying but things will never change/so I don’t look back” ( With Every Heartbeat ), “I should have seen it coming/ I should have fucken’ known” ( Should Have Known ).
The CD’s start is arresting so when it becomes the definitive break-up album it feels like you’ve been king-hit: easy-listening background music with the occasional swear word to check you’re still listening. The precedent may have been erroneously set up by Konichiwa but every other track suffers in comparison. The ‘Robyn’ experience feels like false advertising and sounds authentically ‘80s – many of the tracks would sit comfortably on a compilation from that era.
The fuller-bodied arrangement of With Every Heartbeat is a welcome change. Escalating, trippy keyboard trills and strings drenched in pathos elevate Robyn’s vocal which seems to channel Kate Bush in the verse, Madonna in the chorus – a remixer’s dream. But Who’s That Girl is unfortunately not a Madonna cover. Lyrics plunge to the depths of post-adolescent lame: “The girls are pretty, like all the time/I’m just pretty some of the time”. It’s devastating to note this track was co-written by Swedish brother/sister duo The Knife – albeit in 2005- they must have temporarily lost their mojo.
All this makes a helluva lot more sense if you recall Robyn’s late ‘90s love song, Show Me Love. Yep, that’s right! This is the same Robyn and her pop influences have travelled safely into the next millennium. It’s a sad state of affairs when a major label look upon this kind of material (I believe it was Who’s That Girl ) and can’t see any commercial potential. Robyn’s integrity is admirable, her rants “whup schoolboy ass” but the majority of these ditties give off a niggly deja vu feel. That’s sayonara from me.