In the eight years since her last album, Swedish singer Robyn has come to stand for something bigger than herself.
In the eyes of fans, she’s a manifestation of pop in its purest essence — the ideal against which lesser artists (everyone from Britney Spears to Ariana Grande) must be compared and found wanting.
As is usually the case, myth doesn’t quite match reality. Robyn has released some fantastic and influential music, singles ‘With Every Heartbeat’ and ‘Dancing On My Own’ taking the Abba formula of sad lyrics paired with upbeat music and ratcheting it up to devastating effect.
She’s never had an old fashioned hit — though among hardcore devotees this is regarded as a signifier of her hallowed status (she worked with Britney producer Max Martin before deciding she wasn’t going to be anyone’s compliant poppet). That seems unlikely to change with her first long play record since 2010, even if Honey is already subject to a fusillade of hyperbole — a frontal charge of over-praise likely to cause more harm than good.
Honey is a solid and occasionally transcendental album. The eponymous lead single is gorgeously jittery — swelling with ennui (albeit the same ennui in which Robyn has trafficked through since the late Nineties). A blistering vulnerability likewise runs through Missing U while the tempo turns punchier on Human Being, a spikey duet with Kurdish-Swedish singer Zhala.
But the LP never panders to mainstream sensibilities. Robyn’s refusal to cheapen her music is of course to her credit and speaks to her career-long determination to play by rules of her exclusive devising (“I was raised in a theatre family. I came from a creative place where I was already used to having my own opinions and writing my own songs,” she once told this writer.)
Honey is likely to feature prominently in the countdown of year’s best albums and is undoubtedly deserving of the accommodate. What it isn’t is the reinvention of pop that Robyn’s cheerleaders have touted it as. Approached with slightly grounded expectations and it will prove a revelation.