August 9, 2010

Album Review: Robyn's Body Talk, Pt. 2

What's been said about the current state of Robyn's career, her ambitions as a pop star and where she stands right now has already been discussed in full here on AwkwardSound, so let's jump right into it.

Releasing three albums in one year is nothing short of admirable, but ensuring each one has something uniquely redeeming for your audience is a fete within itself. On Body Talk, Pt. 2, Robyn struggles to do just that by offering a bundle of tracks that don't reach the potential of her best work heard on the first part of the trilogy, her triumphant 2004 self-titled return or even her past life as a creatively-restricted 90's pop pin-up.

Body Talk, Pt. 2 can be construed as Robyn's reaction to putting out a consistent string of shimmering, glossy synth pop tracks that contain little to no fault. "In My Eyes" and "Include Me Out" restrain the use of those elements, and in the end, sound more like a half-breed of Robyn circa 1994 and the Robyn of present day. The unfortunate surprise is that neither track can hold a candle to the former era's catchy hits, "Show Me Love," "Do You Really Want Me (Show Respect,)" "Do You Know (What It Takes?)" or the non-single cuts from recent work. Meanwhile, tracks such as "Love Kills" and "We Dance to the Beat" indulge in Robyn's more updated brand of danceable electronic, but fall short of actually being hook-heavy potential DJ anthems. "Criminal Intent" takes a stab at showcasing the pop star's bump 'n grind R&B club side, but again, it's no less fresher than anything coming out of Britney Spears' computer modulated mouth.

Finally, just as Body Talk, Pt. 1 concluded with an acoustic ballad, so does its follow-up. "Indestructible" is string-heavy, driven and a tad dramatic, but considering all that comes before it, the song might as well be a thud. It will be interesting to see if Robyn transforms the tune into a fast-paced pop number on Body Talk, Pt. 3, as one of the few highlights found on Pt. 2 is her reworking of Pt. 1's "Hang With Me." While there's no denying that it's a Robyn single in great form, the allure is dimmed by the fact that it did appear acoustically on the preceding album, and it's also a cover of a 2003 Paola Bruna song. Bruna is the ex-wife of Klas Åhlund, the founding member of Swedish electronic act, Teddybears. Åhlund wrote the song and is now lending his production skills to Robyn's version of the track. Swedish pop scandal? Perhaps not, as Robyn also collaborates with Snoop Dogg on the adventurous hip-hop banger, "U Should Know Better." If only the rest of Body Talk, Pt. 2 saw Robyn taking bolder chances like this, the album would at least have an edginess to distract listeners away from its lack of spunk.

And so, Robyn goes 1-1 in her audacious attempt to turn the pop world upside-down with three albums in one year. Maybe it's the fact she has set expectations high by defying odds and reinventing her nearly-dead career a decade later that makes Body Talk, Pt. 2 an unexpected sour note. Whatever the case, it would be incredibly foolish and preemptive to think the feisty Swede is down for the count. When the going gets tough for Robyn, she always comes back punching harder than before. Come Round 3, winner takes all.

Robyn's Body Talk, Pt. 2 will be released September 7, 2010 on Cherry Tree Records. Body Talk, Pt. 1 is available now and Body Talk, Pt. 3 will see its release sometime in the winter of 2010.

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