Robyn: ‘Body Talk’ – A Retrospective
Robyn Carlsson is a bit of a musical anomaly – emerging from the frankly amazing pop and music scene in…
Robyn Carlsson is a bit of a musical anomaly – emerging from the frankly amazing pop and music scene in the Scandinavian countries, Robyn has always straddled the fine line between mainstream and the little-known. She’s a driving major pop force with fans across the globe. This, therefore, is my attempt to relay my opinion that her seventh studio album and pet project ‘Body Talk’ is one of the strongest and most cohesive pieces of pop music – hell, music in general – and deserves to be recognised as such.
Robyn has often been considered one of the best popstars in the world – from humble beginnings as a recording artist for Swedish cartoons, she has risen to become the greatest secret popstar of the modern era. She’s simultaneously a massive success and not known very well in the mainstream music scene, despite her aptitude for penning and creating addictive and iconic pop songs.
She’s already racked up an impressive list of songs that have entered the public consciousness (even if the singer generally hasn’t) – “Be Mine”, “With Every Heartbeat” and “Who’s That Girl” are gorgeously hummable tunes that at least for someone in the UK like me, have become karaoke staples.
Then came the announcement in 2009 of her ambitious new project – a trilogy of three EPs, each consisting of no more than eight songs of dance and electropop goodness. Hence “Body Talk” was born and in my opinion, one of the strongest and most brilliant pop albums of the 21st century, as well as one of the cohesively and well-structured musical projects in the past few years.
Consider this simple fact – how albums can you think of that work as stories or that tell a journey, a history? I’m not saying ever album needs to – there are literally hundreds and thousands of albums who are peppered with singles and great songs that all work completely independently of one another. That’s why an album or album series that works entirely as a progression from beginning to end is that much more remarkable.
The first part of the Body Talk saga, appropriately titled ‘Body Talk Part 1’ is a study in isolation, independence, loneliness and the fierce, icy attitude that comes with it – with the lead single ‘Dancing On My Own’ literally detailing how Robyn finds her boyfriend dancing with another girl and being heartbroken about it, it’s clear that the beginning of the trilogy finds Robyn in a completely broken, lonely place.
Songs like ‘Fembot’, ‘Cry When You Get Older’ and ‘Dancehall Queen’ continue this underlying current of fierce independence in the face of a broken heart – she sings about being isolated, being alone and having put up the perfect mask and veneer of being above it all, being strong in the face of being alone. More than that, the entire EP sings of being trapped in your own shell of sadness.
The links and bridges between the parts of the Body Talk EPs begin to show themselves here – with songs linking in Parts 1 and 2 and Parts 2 and 3, there’s a definite sense of the entire saga as a whole, cohesive evolution. Here, an acoustic version of Part 2’s lead single “Hang With Me” had been included onto Part 1, indicating the direction that Robyn was heading in.
Fortunately, things start to pick up a bit when we enter ‘Body Talk Part 2’ – the opening track ‘In My Eyes’ is a comforting track that warms and inspires both singer and listener. Things are gonna be alright when your heart begins to heal. Songs such as ‘Include Me Out’ and ‘Love Kills’ show Robyn becoming guarded but more hopeful and open to the idea of healing herself and being able to love someone once again.
At its core, ‘Body Talk Part 2’ is largely about the aftermath of a breakup, the part when the true healing starts to come to the surface – you can pretend to be fine, but you still need to heal and recover from having invested your time and heart into something. The Snoop Dogg duet ‘U Should Know Better’ is fierce and fun and is the most perfect representation of having fun in your singledom after a break up – it’s all gonna be okay.
Finally, ‘Body Talk Part 3’ is the shortest, sweetest and in my opinion, the strongest of the bunch of the project’s EPs details only happy, positive vibes throughout – ‘Indestructible’ describes how Robyn acknowledges her previously broken heart, but isn’t going to let that ruin a new relationship she’s entered into; ‘Time Machine’ asks for forgiveness in the world’s greatest three-minute Nine Step Program and ‘Get Myself Together’ is a rallying call for the pieces to be picked up with the support of friends and family.
‘Call Your Girlfriend’, my favourite song from the series, honours care, compassion and love in breaking up with somebody when you’ve found someone else. Robyn tells her beau that he needs to break up with his girlfriend, but to do so gently, kindly and with the respect that she deserves. In the final song, ‘Stars 4 Ever’ shows the transformation of Robyn from broken-hearted girl to a woman full of love in an ending so joyous it practically writes itself as the ending song for a romantic comedy.
“Body Talk” remains one of the strongest pieces of pop music across the board in terms of lyrics, vocals and production and while it is definitely something fun and incredible to dance to (even non-Robyn or non-pop fans will find at least four or five songs that they like), it has a much deeper meaning than that, one which can resonate across all listeners. Robyn gets visibly more and joyful as the Parts continue, echoing her transformation and redemption from misery and pain into acceptance, strength and hope.
In the end, her journey mirrors that of everyone who has ever been in love – though our hearts are broken and our confidence is shaken, we move on and grow stronger, learning to believe in love and unity together. “Body Talk” is more than a breakup record, however; it’s practically a guide, a directory of life lessons that could be considered the pop music equivalent of Dante’s Divine Comedy.
Embrace love and dance until it’s okay. That sounds like a hell of a philosophy to follow. Sign me up.