Robyn describes Honey as “this sweet place, like a very soft ecstasy. Something that’s so sensual, and so good…”
And finally, to save us from god-awful acoustic covers of her finest moments, it’s here. Danny Wright sat down with Rhian Daly and Kelly Ronaldson to find out whether the wait was worth it. Spoiler: it was.
It’s been eight years since the last record so how excited were you for this?
Rhian: SUPER EXCITED. I wasn’t really into Robyn when the last album came out but that’s changed a lot in the intervening years. I’ve had a lot of moments that her songs have soundtracked and helped me through, so I was very ready for a new batch of music to do that.
Kelly: It doesn’t even feel like that long ago to me. After the success of ‘Dancing On My Own’ there’s been a lot of hype. She reached a new level of emotional depth with Body Talk, which is important to me when I hear a new album, so I was excited to see if this record could match up to that.
Do you listen to an album in a different way when it has those expectations? Were you surprised by it on first listen?
Rhian: Hype definitely can have some effect on the way I listen to things so I tried not to read anything about the album before listening to it. I was surprised on first listen but I also wasn’t, if that makes sense? I was expecting more heartbreak bangers but then I wasn’t surprised by the musical direction with more house/techno sounds because that kind of stuff has been present in Robyn’s work with La Bagatelle Magique, so it seems quite a natural progression.
Kelly: I was definitely surprised. Even with stronger dance elements, this album feels more stripped-back than previous releases, focusing on more simplistic beats and her vocal work. She mostly worked alone during the writing of the album, and it’s given her a chance to show off her own tastes, and it makes it feel so much more raw.
‘Missing U’ seems like a bridge into the album…
Rhian: There’s this arc to the album, both in terms of lyrics and sound, where it grows from the sad pop of ‘Missing U’ and gets warmer and brighter as it progresses. It feels very minimal in places where, like Kelly said, the focus is very much on Robyn’s voice. There’s also a lot of subtle, Prince-y funk basslines – like ‘Ever Again’. As a whole, it feels like a laid-back Ibiza record.
Kelly: I don’t think the single releases are a fair indication of what to expect. ‘Honey’ and ‘Missing U’ have an infectious synth-pop sound, but the other songs all seem to have their own individual influences. ‘Ever Again’ caught me off-guard, I heard the Prince influence there too, but for me it was very Fleetwood Mac.
I hadn’t thought of Fleetwood Mac but that’s a great shout. What’s your favourite song?
Rhian: That’s tough – so I’m gonna choose three (sorry): ‘Honey’ is such a perfect pop song – it has this magical quality to it where it feels like you’re floating. It makes me giddily happy. ‘Beach 2k20’ is a great, inventive, house-y track and I love the joyous, slightly naïve declaration in ‘Ever Again’ of “I’m never gonna be broken-hearted ever again”. It’s such an about-turn from songs like ‘Be Mine!’, so optimistic and beautiful. I also hadn’t picked up Fleetwood Mac until you mentioned it, but I really hear it now!
Kelly: All I could hear for the first few listens of ‘Ever Again’ was ‘Dreams’, haha. My favourite has to be ‘Missing U’. It’s such a heartbreaking track, but the synth-pop element gives it such an uplifting tone. It represents her journey towards overcoming loss and using music as a coping mechanism, essentially outlining the entire album.
She’s obviously been through a lot since the last record, and talks of how she’s had to ‘reboot’. Can you hear that?
Kelly: I can definitely hear that. There’s such a strong theme of loss throughout the record, but it seems focused on her loss of self, more than anything. I loved how ‘Human Being’ came across as this musical embodiment of her trying to find herself again through dancing. The whole album seems to say “This is what I’ve lost, but I’m finding it again”.
Rhian: Yeah, on ‘Human Being’, it’s almost like she has to remind herself that that’s what she is – human – and, then, she’s on this path to healing, for want of a better word.
Has she managed to stay one step ahead with this album?
Kelly: I think she’s always been one step ahead, but with this record she hasn’t been afraid to experiment a little more. With so many styles, I don’t know if it’s going to stand out as one of her more popular releases, but it’s a significant contribution towards the kind of artist she’s becoming. To me, it’s a record that opens itself up to you the more you listen and gives you new things to love every time.
Rhian: I think so. She could’ve come back with something more similar to Body Talk and it would’ve been amazing, but she’s a musician who always wants to be moving forward. Maybe this won’t be my go-to record when I’m crying over trash boys but I can definitely see myself coming back to it for a long time to come.