Robyn masters musical simplicity with ‘Honey’

Robyn
 Honey

Interscope Records · October 26, 2018

With its artful sparseness and crooning notions of love and loss, Honey is exactly what Robyn needed to catapult herself back onto the pop throne.


Honey is Robyn’s first full-length album since 2010. The Swedish artist, who’s hailed to have transformed pop music, has finally returned to the spotlight with this bittersweet, emotionally-charged album. In it, she touches on personal turmoil and the cleanup afterwards, including dealing with the death of a friend, a breakup with her boyfriend, and their consequent reunion. Honey is deeply intimate yet light and airy, coating turbulent sentiments in cotton-candy vocals, rich basslines, and glistening synths.

Robyn’s lyrics are potent and powerful, but not flowery —they’re streamlined and concise. In the titular track ‘Honey’, phrases such as “At the heart of some kind of flower / Stuck in glitter, strands of saliva / Won’t you get me right where the hurt is?” pack a punch, eloquent and expressive. In other instances, such as in ‘Human Being’, verses like “You know we’re the same kind / A dying race” say just enough to leave you pondering your humanity and that which it entails.

Her command of musical simplicity is masterful. Each aspect incorporated—a switch-up in the bassline, a sparkle of synth, or an added layer of harmony—introduces a new depth to the track. “Beach2k20” is a prime example of this. The song has very little to say, lyrically yet it is one of the most interesting and fun to listen to on the entire album. It’s atmospheric, building up and up and then pivoting into something new countless times throughout the song—every time the overlaid speech changes or the baseline shifts, the song is given a new burst of flavor. There’s an intriguing, underlying distortedness in particular patches, with a hypnotically pervasive beat layered over it that ties the track together throughout its many transformations. ‘Between the Lines’ is another standout. The chorus hits with a groovy beat that could convince anyone to bop their head along to the rhythm.

Some songs fall somewhat flat, however, when the sparseness comes off as boring rather than artful and the song lacks the edge needed to push it over the line between dull and decadent. ‘Baby forgive me’, while its lyrics are achingly emotional, is quite boring to the ear. The entire last minute and a half of the song grows repetitive as the same underlying melody and single phrase loops on and on, rarely visited by a blip of novelty. ‘Send to Robin Immediately’ is comparably lacking on the front of novelty—you can feel an anticipation for a burst of energy bubbling underneath during the first minute or so of the song, but it never quite boils over into a satisfying resolution. Though this flaw certainly rears its head on more than one occasion, it’s a feat worth acknowledging that this is the only major weakness present in the album.

With its artful sparseness and crooning notions of love and loss, Honey is exactly what Robyn needed to catapult herself back onto the pop throne. She’s clearly grown into a newer, better Robyn throughout her hiatus, but she’s maintained continuity between Honey and her previous works that suggests she hasn’t abandoned her past self in the process. This sort of immense personal and artistic growth is glorious to witness, and only leaves more excitement for the future. In this, Honey satisfies the cravings for Robyn’s return, leaving a sweet, sweet taste in the mouth, but also draws you in, leaving you eagerly awaiting her next release.

Listen to Honey:

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