It must be tempting, if you're a pop star, to treat your album as an afterthought. Once you've released a couple of successful singles, a lot of people will go out and buy your record even if the other tracks consists of you trying to recreate Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music using a ukulele. Putting time and effort into the album tracks probably won't benefit you too much commercially. This is one reason why too many pop records follow a predictable formula: two or three great singles, a handful of songs which sound like watered-down versions of those singles, a remix, and a whole lot of execrable nonsense. We should be thankful, then, that 2010 has seen the release of not one but two superb, all killer no filler pop music long players. The first of these was Janelle Monae's ambitious, superb Archandroid; the second is Robyn's Body Talk.
This is nothing if not a consistent record. It features fifteen songs, and only two of those are less than essential. Even those weaker tracks have their moments. 'Don't Fucking Tell Me What To Do' is a slice of skeletal dance pop which sounds like a single half-decent studio idea stretched into a four minute song, but it's passably entertaining, and any piece of music which features Robyn icily announcing the arrival of a kick drum can't be all bad. 'Dancehall Queen' sees the Scandinavian singer pretending she's from the Caribbean; it's unmemorable, but not as bad as the words 'Swedish reggae' might imply.
The other songs collected on Body Talk are all excellent. This is a triumph for the unusual process through which the album was created. Ten of the tracks were recorded and released earlier this year on the mini-albums Body Talk 1 and Body Talk 2; the other five are new. This gradual process of creation seems to have allowed Robyn to take her time and write songs for the album slowly, freeing her from the burden of having to produce fifteen tracks all at once. It also means, of course, that fans will already be familiar with some of the highlights here. Not to worry: songs like the clicking, whirring, stuttering robo-pop gem 'Fembot' and the utterly splendid 'U Should Know Better' (which features an on-form Snoop Dogg rhyming 'Cologne' with 'bone her') still sound as wonderful as they did earlier in the year.
The new tracks are all excellent. They're the result of Robyn doing what she does best, producing intelligent, cleverly constructed synth pop which is at once icy and vulnerable. She sounds wise on 'Call Your Girlfriend' ('call your girlfriend/it's time you had the talk'), she admonishes herself on Time Machine ('I remember the words/how I said them so they would hurt'). During 'Stars 4 Eva', she just sounds like she's love. This is pop music with a heart and a soul, and Robyn is its human centre. It just so happens that her ability to compose perfect pop songs sometimes seems superhuman.