RATE BODY TALK PT. 2:
It would be tempting to say that Robyn’s Body Talk Pt. 2 picks up where the first installment left off, but that would be a clumsy use of the phrase – in actuality, Body Talk Pt. 1leaves off with acoustic tracks and Swedish folk songs. That is distinctly not where Pt. 2 picks up. The second of three albums in the Body Talk series picks up somewhere right around the middle of part one, full of lush synthetic pop songs sung by a singer making a case to be the most adorable badass this side of, well, anyone.
Let’s talk. Let’s talk as if we’ve never heard Body Talk Pt. 1, as if this is our introduction to Robyn. In that world, this album is phenomenal, untouchable. Every song on the record is stellar – and I mean that in the scrape-the-stars sense of the word. The production is spotless, the hooks are catchy, and Robyn’s personality rings true across danceable beats and swelling synths. Album opener “In My Eyes” gradually builds in density, before dropping out and leaving Robyn to promise “You’ll be OK.” On the next track, Robyn breaks it down for us – “It is really very simple, just a single pulse, repeated at a regular interval.” If that’s how she builds her dance songs, she’s doing something rare: making the easy look delightfully complex.
The album’s highlights come in the form of “Hang With Me,” “We Dance to the Beat,” the Diplo-produced “Criminal Intent,” and Snoop Dogg feature “U Should Know Better.” For those of you keeping track of these sort of things at home, that’s half of the album. It seems that in this whole mini-album foray, Robyn has chosen to separate the wheat from the chaff, leaving the chaff on the cutting room floor. I’m for it.
“We Dance to the Beat” is another example of that single pulse, repeated at a regular interval, mixed in with repetitive phrasing reminiscent of Passion Pit’s “Sleepyhead.” It’s Robyn at her most robotic, hypnotic and trancelike but imbued with an understated emotion that pokes through on certain phrases. “Criminal Intent” smacks of cougar-ism, a siren-referencing tune that bumps its way into your brain with little remorse. “U Should Know Better” is the most urgently dynamic song on the record that overcomes (unsurprisingly) lackluster Snoop Dogg verses to make Robyn seem absolutely unstoppable.
Body Talk Pt. 2 is awesome. It is across the board excellence – even the slight dip of “Love Kills” and the acoustic mood change of final track “Indestructible” can’t tarnish that fact. But the jig is up. I’ve gotten five paragraphs in without referencing the elephant in the room. While I would love to consider Body Talk Pt. 2 on its own, I cannot help but compare Body Talk Pt. 2 to Body Talk Pt. 1 – the two records are linked by shared names and shared sonics.
When approached from a comparative standpoint, Body Talk Pt. 2 loses some of its luster. The album is more consistent than its predecessor, which has a bit of a dragging back half, but seems a bit like a new building built from the same blueprint. “We Dance to the Beat” mimics the structure of “Don’t Fucking Tell Me What To Do.” “Hang With Me” is a recapitulation of an acoustic track from Pt. 1. “In My Eyes” and “Include Me Out” reach for the heights of “Dancing On My Own” and “Cry When You Get Older” without every quite reaching that level. Indeed, the opening quartet of tracks from Body Talk Pt. 1 has set a standard that has yet to be met, a tough act to follow for sure.
Fact is, I’d wager that if Body Talk Pt. 1and Body Talk Pt. 2 had been released in the opposite order, I’d be saying that the second release didn’t live up to the first – it’s the similarity of the releases that causes that sentiment, not the quality. From album to album, we are accustomed to hearing some sort of evolution in artistry - a change in direction, an additional influence, a growth in style. That development just isn’t present here. But can we really expect much transformation from Robyn in the span of just a few months (during which she is touring material from Body Talk Pt. 1, I might add)? Let’s not damn her for giving us good music twice in a single year. Take Body Talk Pt. 2 for what it is, without comparing it to its older sister. It is a phenomenal album, digestible in length and chock full of bangers. Can we really have too many albums like this?
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