One of the biggest questions in twenty-first century pop music has to deal with North America's pop scene to greet Sweedish pop sensation Robyn with open arms. Not only does Robyn have some of the catchiest, best produced pop songs in recent memory, she also has the attitude and image of a star--almost. Perhaps North America's problem with Robyn--the thing keeping her from an acceptance of Aguillera/Pink/Timberlake/Gaga proportions--is that every facet of her pop star persona is just a half step off from the industry norm. She's got an unusual fashion sense, but not unusual enough. She's got a tough "bad girl" exterior, but also a warm, surprisingly human center that exposes the toughness for what it is, a facade. She brings killer club dance songs to the table, but peppers them with lines of playful bursts of midnight poetry. While these might be the reasons Robyn isn't massively successful State-side, they are also the reasons she is one of the most engaging and endearing pop starts making music at the moment.
On Body Talk pt. 2, the middle chapter to Robyn's alleged three mini-album Body Talk cycle, all of these idiosyncrasies are on full display, and work together to further illuminate just what makes Robyn so interesting. The album's songs veer from sincere pep talks like "In My Eyes," to the crude smack talk of "Criminal Intent," and "U Should Know Better," the later of which includes a surprising, and well employed guest vocal from Snoop Dogg. As usual, Robyn's ability to seamlessly blend the gooey bubble gum synths and heart-to-heart vocals of a song like "Hang With Me," with the electro-clash pulse and absurdly vulgar lyrics ("Even the Vatican knows not to fuck with me")of "U Should Know Better" is still the crux of the album's success, and points toward Robyn's biggest asset--her persona.
There are songs on Body Talk pt. 2, on both of the Body Talk albums for that matter, that shouldn't work. A song like pt. 2's "Include Me Out," with its overly earnest verses and nonsensical chorus should not work. But it does. And the reason it works is because of the balance Robyn maintains within her persona. She blends toughness with vulnerability, sincerity with knowing nods to pop artifice, and she does it all with an undeniable exuberance. Not many pop stars could get away with speaking the line "we dance to the beat of bad kissers clicking teeth," over a club-banging beat in a way that isn't embarrassing. Robyn does it, and the line is successful for the same reason Robyn is successful--it's fun and weird, a little bit awkward and a little bit sexy.
Like Body Talk pt. 1, this second entry is a solid collection of eight songs that sneak up on us, get under our skin, and don't leave us alone. Now with the first two installments of Body Talk to enjoy, let us wait with baited breath that pt. 3 arrives this year, as promised.