PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.

Robyn's 'Honey' Is a Lead Contender for Best Pop Album of 2018

Photo: Mark Peckmezian / Courtesy of the artist

Honey is primed in its fearlessness and repositions Robyn to reclaim her pop empire.



October 2018

The queen of pop music has finally returned. After releasing the critically acclaimed Body Talk, Robyn took an eight-year hiatus to contend with personal tragedy, professional upheaval, and general malaise. She simply wasn't going to create new music until she was ready. It was clear that she was defining her own personal and professional conditions. The break is career suicide for mere pop-rucks, but Robyn is not any old musical mortal. She returned stronger, potent, and rectified. Honey is primed in its fearlessness and repositions Robyn to reclaim her pop empire.

A day before releasing Honey, Robyn took to Twitter to contextualized her return. She told her eager audience, "there was such a physical pleasure and sexuality to making music and creating this soundscape in which my body could experience those kinds of feelings again. That's when I felt like I was coming back - but it wasn't even about coming back, because I myself had really changed." Indeed, Honey exhibits Robyn's musical stamp yet moving her work into a transformative realm.

The title track, in particular, is significantly more sexualized and assertive than anything Robyn has previously released. She is unapologetically bodacious about her sexual prowess. As she confides, "No, you're not gonna get what you need / But baby, I have what you want / Come get your honey." Without question, she is in control. Her requests for pleasure are brazen and imperious especially when she sings, "Can you open up to the pleasure? / Suck it up inside like a treasure / Let the brightest place be your passion / I got your honey, baby / Let go of your doubt, say yes / Let it soak up into the flesh." Gender norms suggest women should not be sexual, and if they are, they need to be meek or else be perceived as unfeminine. Robyn is immune to normative proscriptions. Her ardent and controlled approach to sexuality is unequivocally feminist. The quintessential title track, "Honey" fully encapsulates the album's and Robyn's triumphant return to pop music.

With the lead single " Missing U," the road from Body Talk to Honey is apparent. The opening synths drizzle down and create the same danceable spiritedness as heard on "Dancing on My Own". Robyn's vocal pitch is noticeably higher thereby contrasting the instrumental fortitude to a distinct docility. Her voice, though, matches the lyrical content, which illustrates loss and vulnerability. Especially when she laments, "And going places we went / Remember to forget / Thinking how it could been / I've turned all my sorrow into glass / It don't leave no shadow." This is Robyn's trademark motility: heartfelt lyrics and vocals over computerized instrumentation juxtaposing the humanistic with the cyborgic. Here Robyn is faultlessly relatable as she engenders the initial impassioned response to heartbreak then demonstrates it is significantly more beneficial to remain self-possessed.

"Missing U" is a curtain-raiser. Positioned as the album's opening track and released as the first single, the song slowly prepares listeners for Robyn's transformation. There's no better way to make an audience receptive to innovation than to first give them what they want then subvert the expectation. "Because It's in the Music" relies on a distinct disco flourish emphasized by an unmistakable drum machines beat. The contrast works to give the track a resolute energy and move Robyn away from her standard shimmery euphoria.

The subsequent "Baby Forgive Me" is quixotic and mellow. Truly bittersweet, this track is one of the few songs where Robyn centralizes her accountability. "Baby Forgive Me" overlaps with "Send to Robyn Immediately" creating a study in contrasts. The distinguishable use of melismas and a lowered vocal register in "Send to Robyn Immediately's" first moments signal a changed perspective. Considered in tandem, "Baby Forgive Me" depicts Robyn prostrating in front of her lover while "Send to Robyn Immediately" recaptures her agency. Whereas she accepts her responsibility in the failed relationship, she refuses to wallow in the heartache. "Send to Robyn Immediately" sees her moving on without retreating. Clearly, a lesson learned from her professional aperture.

Despite seeming unflappable, Robyn adroitly balances a fembot's aloofness with a distinct humanity. The album's heart is "Human Being", as it typifies the emotional fragility Robyn so often literally and figuratively dances around. The emphasized percussion reinforced by the drum machine's pulse collided with Robyn's clarion call: "I'm a human being/ And so are you / My heart can't stop beating / Don't know what to do." Robyn is backed by Swedish musician, Zhala, giving the usual crystalline vocals a heady sound. Together, the vocals evoke the soothsaying of an inner voice: "All these emotions are out of date/ I know it's hard / No peace of mind, but don't shut me out." Listening to Robyn's inner speech will certainly imbue the listener with a sense of empowerment.

There is nothing left to be said: Robyn's Honey is the lead contender for best pop album of 2018.


Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.





Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.


While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.


Peter Frampton Asks "Do You Feel Like I Do?" in Rock-Solid Book on Storied Career

British rocker Peter Frampton grew up fast before reaching meteoric heights with Frampton Comes Alive! Now the 70-year-old Grammy-winning artist facing a degenerative muscle condition looks back on his life in his new memoir and this revealing interview.


Bishakh Som's 'Spellbound' Is an Innovative Take on the Graphic Memoir

Bishakh's Som's graphic memoir, Spellbound, serves as a reminder that trans memoirs need not hinge on transition narratives, or at least not on the ones we are used to seeing.


Gamblers' Michael McManus Discusses Religion, Addiction, and the Importance of Writing Open-Ended Songs

Seductively approachable, Gamblers' sunny sound masks the tragedy and despair that populate the band's debut album.


Peter Guralnick's 'Looking to Get Lost' Is an Ode to the Pleasures of Writing About Music

Peter Guralnick's homage to writing about music, 'Looking to Get Lost', shows how good music writing gets the music into the readers' head.


In Praise of the Artifice in George Cukor's 'Sylvia Scarlett'

George Cukor's gender-bending Sylvia Scarlett proposes a heroine who learns nothing from her cross-gendered ordeal.


The Cure: Ranking the Albums From 13 to 1

Just about every Cure album is worth picking up, and even those ranked lowest boast worthwhile moments. Here are their albums, spanning 29 years, presented from worst to best.


The 20 Best Episodes of 'Star Trek: The Original Series'

This is a timeless list of 20 thrilling Star Trek episodes that delight, excite, and entertain, all the while exploring the deepest aspects of the human condition and questioning our place in the universe.


The 20 Best Tom Petty Songs

With today's release of Tom Petty's Wildflowers & All the Rest (Deluxe Edition), we're revisiting Petty's 20 best songs.

Joshua M. Miller

The 11 Greatest Hits From "Greatest Hits" Compilations

It's one of the strangest pop microcosms in history: singles released exclusively from Greatest Hits compilations. We rounded 'em up and ranked 'em to find out what is truly the greatest Greatest Hit of all.


When Punk Got the Funk

As punks were looking for some potential pathways out of the cul-de-sacs of their limited soundscapes, they saw in funk a way to expand the punk palette without sacrificing either their ethos or idea(l)s.


20 Hits of the '80s You Might Not Have Known Are Covers

There were many hit cover versions in the '80s, some of well-known originals, and some that fans may be surprised are covers.


The Reign of Kindo Discuss Why We're Truly "Better Off Together"

The Reign of Kindo's Joseph Secchiaroli delves deep into their latest single and future plans, as well as how COVID-19 has affected not only the band but America as a whole.


Tommy Siegel's Comic 'I Hope This Helps' Pokes at Social Media Addiction

Jukebox the Ghost's Tommy Siegel discusses his "500 Comics in 500 Days" project, which is now a new book, I Hope This Helps.


Kimm Rogers' "Lie" Is an Unapologetically Political Tune (premiere)

San Diego's Kimm Rogers taps into frustration with truth-masking on "Lie". "What I found most frustrating was that no one would utter the word 'lie'."


50 Years Ago B.B. King's 'Indianola Mississippi Seeds' Retooled R&B

B.B. King's passion for bringing the blues to a wider audience is in full flower on the landmark album, Indianola Mississippi Seeds.


Filmmaker Marlon Riggs Knew That Silence = Death

In turning the camera on himself, even in his most vulnerable moments as a sick and dying man, filmmaker and activist Marlon Riggs demonstrated the futility of divorcing the personal from the political. These films are available now on OVID TV.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.