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'Honey' review: Robyn's first album in 8 years is one of the year's best

Robyn's "Honey" on Konichiwa / Interscope Records.

Robyn's "Honey" on Konichiwa / Interscope Records. Credit: Konichiwa / Interscope Records

ROBYN

"Honey"

BOTTOM LINE The long-awaited return of a dance-pop master

Robyn’s first album in eight years, “Honey” (Konichiwa/Interscope), opens with a song about death.

Maybe that’s no surprise, considering how her friend and longtime collaborator Christian Falk unexpectedly died  while she was working on the album. After all, the Swedish singer-songwriter established herself as one of pop music’s brightest stars with a string of hits like “Dancing on My Own” and “Call Your Girlfriend” that combine heartbreak and dance beats.

But, as an album, “Honey” goes far deeper than her previous seven albums. It’s a poignant, yet joyous, journey of healing that you can dance to every step of the way. Starting with the stark realization of “Missing U” and moving through life's rebuilding stages, Robyn eventually reaches the slinky, hopeful “Ever Again,” where she sings, “Never gonna be brokenhearted ever again, only going to sing about love ever again.”

Most pop acts would launch their albums with “Ever Again,” where the soothing synths and funky bass line conjure up memories of Prince in the “When U Were Mine” era. Though Robyn says she was listening to Michael Jackson’s “Off the Wall” and “Thriller” demos for inspiration, “Honey” often has the feel of Janet Jackson’s “janet” album, especially in the gorgeous “Because It’s in the Music,” which shimmers in its disco-inspired string flourishes and thumping bass line.

However, Robyn is too crafty to do anything that straightforward. The bubbly, yet chill “Beach2k20,” produced by Mr. Tophat,  is like a deconstructed house anthem deconstructed, mixed with echoes of her breakthrough hit “Show Me Love." On the plaintive “Baby Forgive Me,” she teams her breathy voice with a mechanically processed harmony that makes it sound like she’s being haunted by the lyrics as she sings them.

The mood of “Honey” pivots in the title track, as if it’s the moment when Robyn allows herself to be happy again. That's only fitting considering how much joy “Honey” will bring to the world as one of the year’s best albums.

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