If Ariana Grande’s Sweetener was the feel-good pop project of the (late-ish) summer, focusing on the catharsis of newfound love (at the time…), then Robyn’s Honey is the melancholy-ridden antithesis, appropriately dropped in the middle of fall. The Swedish singer’s eighth album streamlines emotional distress into a series of mini-narratives that ruminate on the subjects of loss, endurance, and recovery — sometimes simultaneously. Opener “Missing U” telegraphs its volatile feelings through a whirlwind of glittering synthesizers, with the steady, thumping bassline providing a sense of emotional equipoise, as Robyn’s fragile voice laments, “There’s this empty space you left behind / Now you’re not here with me.” The lyric draws significance from Robyn’s personal life: The last four years saw the death of her longtime collaborator, Christian Falk, and the dissolution of her engagement to filmmaker Max Vitali. But there’s still a universal accessibility to the sentiment, allowing it to apply to any heartbreak. For Robyn, music represents an all-encompassing process of healing — a suture that doesn’t always demand specifics.
The Swedish singer’s eighth album streamlines emotional distress into a series of mini-narratives that ruminate on the subjects of loss, endurance, and recovery.
The stretch of songs on Honey from “Human Being” to “Send to Robin Immediately” serve as a stinging recoil from the boldness of “Missing U.” Minimalist synths, and the fluttering pianos melodies of “Baby Forgive Me,” all telegraph a somber retreat into the feelings of defeat caused by heartbreak. But then, the self-titled centerpiece track comes charging in, with even its cascading, house music-styled production being subsumed by Robyn’s commanding performance: “No, you’re not gonna get what you need / But baby, I have what you want.” This is the reclaiming of lost self-confidence, boldly taking back control of the album’s narrative and segueing into a liberated suite that’s danceable (“Between the Lines,” a straight banger) and unconventional (the deliberately breezy escape of “Beach2k20”). The newfound buoyancy and energy of Honey‘s latter half is encapsulated by its closer, as Robyn repeats a personal maxim (“Never gonna be brokenhearted / Ever again”) and uses the progression of a pounding drum kick to build intensity. The emphatic expression, a complete 180 from the album’s start, seems almost too much: like most things in life, grief and happiness comprise a cycle, with no real finality. But for now, at least, Robyn’s intent to overcome that reality registers its own power.