Recommended Albums #15

Body Talk

Robyn: Body Talk (2010)

Swedish dance-pop queen Robyn Miriam Carlsson released her Body Talk album in the form of three separate EPs over the course of 2010. Finally the complete album was released, combining most of the material from the three EPs.

The most attractive elements of Robyn’s music are precisely those not normally found in Eurodance pop: strong melodic hooks and a powerful emotional connection. This music evokes classic disco songs like “Don’t Leave Me This Way”, which packed an emotional punch. Thus it isn’t just great for dancing, but makes great listening too, as much as any other pop. Robyn is on a very short list of dance music artists I actually listen to for pleasure.

As for the artist, there’s a free-spirited freakiness about Robyn that, in terms of comparison to her stateside counterparts, is more Pink than Madonna. Her dancing isn’t the smoothly choreographed stuff typical of American dance-pop divas. In fact, it’s choreography that might make you wonder if there is any choreography, which I think fits the from-the-heart vibe of the songwriting.

In this interview snippet Robyn discusses her fellow Swedes ABBA and specifically that element that I’ve always felt was the magic formula of their music. Her words, in English:

…I like to work with contrasts. It can show in many ways, but i.e. the contrast between something that gives you energy to wanna dance to it and something that at the same time is also sad. That is exciting for me…

I think Abba is great. They may not belong to a genre oft associated with realness, but I really believe so in the highest sense. When you take their songs out of their productions, you’ll get an eye for what it was that made it all so big.

Both ABBA and Robyn’s music contain both sadness and an ebullient energy. ABBA’s gift for creating melodic pop earworms is undisputed, but somewhat overlooked at times are the autobiographical lyrics which chronicled the demise of two marriages within the group. Lyrical angst was always counterpoint to joyful melody, which is why their songs have a timeless appeal and aren’t considered today to be mere 70’s bubblegum. Robyn deals in the same type of sad “realness”, counterpointed similarly by melody and irresistible beats. Robyn wants you to take your angst to the dance floor. But her quieter readings of the same songs in alternate versions bring the sadness into stark relief, just in case you didn’t get that she isn’t some superficial Ke$ha. It’s as if she wants to show that her songs can be “taken out of their productions” just as she suggests we do with ABBA’s songs, to reveal the song’s soft center.

Not a fan of dance pop? You might want to give Body Talk a chance despite. Because under those dance beats you’ll hear a heart beating too.

Listen to: “Hang With Me”

Listen to: “Call Your Girlfriend”

Listen to: “Dancing On My Own”

“Hang With Me”–a live ballad version:

“Call Your Girlfriend” live on SNL:

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