Body Talk, Pts 1 & 2 Robyn (Konichiwa/Universal)
"I got all these great songs, so why not?"
That was Robyn's response when asked why she planned to put out three linked albums in 2010. Well, two of them are out now, and I'm thinking the Swedish electro-pop singer must be hoarding the great songs for the third volume, because there aren't many on these discs of sound-alike dance tracks.
Robyn's strongest suit these days is that of the pixie-voiced singer with a sting in her tail.
In U Should Know Better, her single from Pt 2, she gives a cheeky middle finger to all kinds of worldly powers with such flair that her duet partner Snoop Dogg sounds like he's trying to keep up with his feisty date.
In None of Dem, from Pt 1, she surveys both girls and boys on the dance floor and sees nobody worth bothering with: "None of dem get my sex, none of dem move my intellect," she sings girlishly in one of the year's shiniest odes to boredom.
Her jones for the feel of Jamaican dancehall (in Dancehall Queen, for example) is a witty move for a singer whose thin, diamond-bright sound is the antipode of the raspy growl of a real dancehall queen like Lady Saw.
On most tracks, Robyn's voice is either tightly encased in shadowing harmony voices, or worked over to sound like a sexy android (in Pt 1's Fembot, for example).
We Dance to the Beat takes this to the most effective extreme as she chants, in heavily-processed monotone, a series of speculative far-out positions ("we dance to the beat of silent mutation") à la Laurie Anderson. It's kind of epic in its rigidity and effusiveness, and one of the few things on either disc that ends with the doors flung wide open.
Robyn's voice sounds most natural in the disastrous Indestructible, in which she morphs into Diana Ross attempting to fake out a heart-clutching ballad. Hang With Me is another faux-sincere squirmer, done in two versions (acoustic on Pt 1, electro on Pt 2).
A bunch of producers worked on these records, but the second disc in particular feels as if a template has been set and seldom messed with. Lay down a jackhammer pulse on the tonic, wig out a bit with some squidgy keyboard bits, layer up the vocals with sounds as tightly synchronized as a fly-past by the Snowbirds, and you're done. Or overdone, through two discs that have only one disc's worth of decent material.