Most of the music that I listen to come together in a complex algorithm of recommendations, accidental mentions that usually have no connection at all to what I am doing or feeling at the moment, and a dedicated time devoted to web-trawling every day. This usually does not have much bearing on the quality of the stuff I listen to – the basic demand I have, from any new album that I hear – is that it must stop me at least once from whatever it is I am doing, and make me listen to it. If it does not, it will probably earn itself a second listen if the buzz is pretty good, but not more. Life’s too short.
Robyn’s Body Talk came into my consciousness because of two reasons. One was the fact that I was making a dedicated effort to track down artistes who feature as – um – ‘feat.’ artistes on stuff I’ve heard. Example: Esthero and Keri Hilson, both of whom have been featured on Timbaland tracks, and whose solo albums are delicious slices of pop. Listen to Esthero’s ‘Wikked Li’l Grrrls’ from her album of the same name – the retro brass line itself is worth the price of entry. Wait, I digressed again. So, Robyn. She was on Röyksopp’s Junior, on a track called ‘The Girl and The Robot’ – lovely voice, a very unconventional melody that really grabs you. Yes, I know Junior released in 2009, but I heard Senior last year and it pretty much kicked my expectations into the ground so I went back to the former to regain some of the Röyksopp-love. Then again, I heard I Blame Coco’s The Constant just after it released. (I Blame Coco, FYI, is the stage name of Coco Sumner, she who’s the offspring of the Honorable Gordon Sumner Esq. You would recognize the vocal resemblance if you listen to any of her songs – my recommendation would be ‘In Spirit Golden’) The Constant featured Robyn on a track called ‘Caesar’ – and that was it. Eager to see what exactly was it about this Swedish lady that made her pop up in all these albums, I checked for her discography. Wait a minute, this could not be right – she has been around since 1991. And she was coming up with – believe it or not – THREE albums in 2010.
That was Body Talk. Because she did not want to wait for all the songs to be recorded, she broke down the album’s release into three parts – yeah, some of the songs from Body Talk vol 1 did carry over into Body Talk vol 2. The first song from Vol 1, ‘Don’t Fucking Tell Me What To Do’ was whimsical enough, but it was ‘Fembot’ that made my heart stop. ‘I’ve got /some news for you/ Fembots/have feelings too’. She pronounces ‘noos’ instead of ‘news’, and these opening words are buoyed by thumping beats, a reedy synth line that accompanies the rest of the song as well, and a crunchy, snazzy bassline that forces you to pump up the volume. Everything works for it – the auto-tuned robot voice that punctuates her lines, the sudden jumps in the melody, the rap portions. I saw a live version of the song on Youtube and that made me love it even more, and for about 3 days, ‘Fembot’ was on repeat on the playlist.
Then my attention turned to ‘Dancehall Queen’ – a bouncy Jamaica-tinged song that has its share of quirks – in particular, the main chorus line where Robyn hammers the line ‘Now what | Your jaw has dropped | Until the music stops | You know I run this thing | like a Dancehall Queen | I really don’t want no hassle’ in a single breathless refrain. That was my next earworm, until I listened to ‘Dancing On My Own’ closely again, and it….well, you must have figured it out already, but Body Talk vol 1 became a playlist staple for a few weeks. Not many albums that do that.
That’s when things got interesting. I decided to download Robyn’s self-titled 2007 album, the one that won her a pile of Swedish Grammies. That was also the album with which she showed her record label the finger, started her own company to release the album, called Konichiwa records, and came up with a stunner of a single to kick things off. The problem with ‘Konichiwa Bitches’ is this – it lasts two minutes and forty five seconds. One of the most glorious pop songs in the history of pop music, and it’s less than 3 fucking minutes long. This should go into a textbook definition of ‘injustice’, in my opinion. ‘Konichiwa Bitches’ is alarmingly catchy, the lyrics insane, the video completely cuckoo. In short, totally my kind of music.
‘Cobrastyle’ is the second song from the album, and while I thought the main chorus, which went ‘bom-diddi-bom di-dang di-dang diggi-diggi’ was a riff on Las Ketchup’s ‘Asereje’, it turned out that the song is a Teddybears cover. The Teddybears being a Swedish band that’s so anti-scene that they came up with their band-name just to keep themselves apart from the <insert_dark_and_gory_name_here> Scandinavian metal scene. As it turns out, Klas Åhlund from the band not only produced Robyn, but also co-produced Coco Sumner’s debut album. The Teddybears song itself samples the Bomdigi chorus from a song by rapper Erick Sermon, who in turn was inspired by The Sugarhill Gang’s ‘Rapper’s Delight’. Now, what’s the Las Ketchup song all about? It narrates the story of a guy named Diego who walks into a nightclub, and asks the DJ to play his favorite song – which happens to be Sugarhill Gang’s ‘Rapper’s Delight’. The chorus of the Spanish song is a phonetic reinterpretation of the hip-hop classic!
It’s all connected, I tell you. But if I asked a question about this in any quiz, I would get lynched, no?