Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Robyn

  • Robyn Is Here [RCA, 1997] B+
  • Robyn [Konichiwa/Cherrytree/Interscope, 2008] A-
  • Body Talk [Konichiwa/Cherrytree/Interscope, 2010] A-

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Robyn Is Here [RCA, 1997]
So front-loaded it could almost be a vinyl album with a hot side and a cool side, only since the singer is 17 call them perky and caring. Positioned at four and six, the Max Martin-aided "Show Me Love" and "Do You Know (What It Takes)" are key, but without Robyn and her boys' "Bumpy Ride," "You've Got That Somethin'," and "The Last Time" at one, three, and five you wouldn't listen twice. Then, a few spins in, you notice a hint of velvet in her timbre--more like suede, really--that suggests not sensuality but emotional depth. Which in turn makes the orchestrated popsongs about romantic responsibility sound thoughtful rather than mawkish. Too bad she'll turn 21 like every other teen idol. B+

Robyn [Konichiwa/Cherrytree/Interscope, 2008]
Initially I was disoriented by the hype for "With Every Heartbeat," the nearest thing to processed gouda electro Robyn has put on the table, although "Eclipse" is pretty goopy too. But without that add-on, which does grow on you the way pop breakthroughs will sometimes, this 2005 EU release might never have materialized here to prepare the way for Robyn 2010, and it's not like I thought "Konichiwa Bitches" was a sell track even before I deciphered my favorite couplet a dozen plays in: "Come in with the postman like I'm a mail bomb/Comin' in your mouth make you say yum-yum." Also before I realized that the slow one tucked away at the end is also the most political song she's recorded, and it's got competition. It posits Clubland as a safe haven for life's unfortunates be they good, bad, or ugly. Yum yum. A-

Body Talk [Konichiwa/Cherrytree/Interscope, 2010]
I don't hold it against her--in this musical economy, a Swedish disco dolly's gotta do what a Swedish disco dolly's gotta do. Nevertheless, the old codger in me is maddened by the sales strategy in which budget-priced half-hour June and September CDs are not quite subsumed by a full-priced December CD. Problem is, not counting remixes like the radio version of "Dancing With Myself," only one of the six new songs--namely, "Call Your Girlfriend," almost as discerning in its romantic decency as "Cry When You Get Older" on Pt. 1--matches up to anything on the first two, including "Cry When You Get Older," which it omits, as it does Pt. 2's "Criminal Intent" and "Include Me Out." Beyond milking obsessive fans, the idea of rounding her out commercially with a few more love songs is fine in principle. But it doesn't play to her strength, which is mindful defiance--club escapism that knows where it's coming from both personally and politically, and that feels the humanity of normals and freaks alike. From "Don't F***ing Tell Me What to Do" to "We Dance to the Beat," her songwriting in that vein is as strong as anybody's. Scattered across her three 2010 CDs is one great album. How I wish this was it. A-

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