Friday, October 12th, 2018

Robyn – Honey

Jukebox favourite notches her highest ever score. “Call Your Girlfriend” fans demand recount.


Alex Clifton: “Missing U” took a while to hook itself into me, but “Honey” is sticky and all-consuming; I liked it immediately. It’s nothing like what I thought it would be, which was a quiet ballad addressing a loved one. Instead Robyn gave us a throbbing beat that pulses with want and emotion. It’s the sexier counterpoint to Carly Rae Jepsen’s Emotion; where Carly Rae goes for the bubblegum, Robyn taps into the sensual. It’s less of a pop song and more of a meditation on desire. In the moment, nothing else matters except come get your honey, come get your honey, which lingers as a sweet aftertaste long after the song is over.

Alfred Soto:  “Never had this kind of nutrition, mm,” Robyn sings. She just knows something good is gonna happen! Klas Åhlund and Metronomy’s Joseph Mount’s aqueous beat has late nineties echos: Ray of Light, Sasha & Digweed. And Robyn, at her most lubricious, can’t wait to sink her teeth into it. For a singer-songwriter who’s triumphed by making standing on the outside compelling, she’s even better taking the dare on the cute dude staring at her over his vodka Red Bull.

Ian Mathers: If “Missing U” was “I’ve turned all my sorrows into glass,” well, “Honey” is “the waves come in and they’re golden.” Both songs demonstrate that Robyn is still just as good at writing lyrics that reveal more and more emotional resonances the more you get into these ferociously powerful pop songs. Here the track is already roiling and rumbling early on but as the track climaxes the whole thing almost seems on the verge of shivering apart. It’s amazing in a very distinct way from how “Missing U” was amazing but both are still clearly products of the same distinctly fierce intelligence and heart.

Edward Okulicz: “Honey” is as meticulous and thoughtful as any Robyn single, but I find its mix of sensuous — lyrics about breath and saliva — and fatalistic — “not gonna get what you need” — lacking in emotional firepower. Robyn usually devastates even when she makes you dance, and this track feels like a mood-setting pre-club scene more than anything. What I want, and what I need, after listening to this is the supercharged, even nervier cousin that is her last album’s always-underrated masterpiece “Indestructible.”

Stephen Eisermann: Robyn is the queen of the quiet banger. The production is exquisite, with that pulsing beat and her always provocative vocals dancing in perfect synchronicity. It’s hypnotic and enticing and infatuating and it’s honey.

Dorian Sinclair: “No, you’re not gonna get what you need.” On the face of it that’s a brutal sentiment: a truth that’s more than a little bit harsh. But the magic of Robyn lies in her ability to imbue even the starkest lyrics with compassion, to make you feel that she feels for you. The languorous production on “Honey” certainly helps to underscore that it’s not a sad song, but without her knack for shaping a bittersweet sentiment, it would play very differently. And in the end, for me, the line I quoted is proven wrong — because at this moment in my life, what I need might actually be “Honey” itself.

Will Adams: There is always a moment, sometime in the night, when the excitement of this is happening shifts into I am terrified. Terrified not of what is going to happen between us, but what isn’t. You’re not going to get what you need, because it’s 4am and we’re not thinking clearly. Because we’re strangers who just met through no means other than circumstance. Because you’re catching a flight home in the morning, on the other end of the country. Because I don’t have what you need, and we both know that; but for now, it’s what you want. That shift doesn’t really change anything in the moment. The sweetness will still come in slow waves, and it will feel like it sounds: synths diffused into haze, percussion filtered down into a throb, a voice that simultaneously reverberates forever and disintegrates into static. It will ebb and flow in those one-two hours, then begin to recede the moment you leave. It lingers the next day, in the initial text messages; the next week, in the mutual following on social media; the next month, sending a music recommendation out of the blue. And as the entropy increases, as we grow into our diverging timelines, as the connection between us is whittled down to a tap on the screen, the tiniest drop remains, and I swear I can still taste it on my lips.

Matias Taylor: Sex-as-a-sugary-food is a well-worn metaphor, but it has hardly ever sounded as sumptuous and intimate as it does here. Robyn’s continued exploration of the gooey heart of desire — equally melancholic and pornographic — may exude sex, but these golden waves also carry something else; Robyn knows there’s a sliver of sadness that accompanies abandon, and once again she manages to dig into that fraction of a state of mind and deliver four minutes of bliss. She’s giving us what we want, and what we need.

Jacob Sujin Kuppermann: Robyn’s music works on you in two separate paths at once, simultaneously impressing you with its icy precision and pop perfection and letting you into realms of pure feeling through the slightest subjectivities — the tone of her voice, the way she sighs and releases tension. “Honey” completes the first easily — the pulsating beat and the amorphous synths behind that are excellent as always. But on the second count there’s something missing here; whether it’s in the lack of a proper emotional arc or the rushed pace of the verse, “Honey” doesn’t ever fully come together. Even as an unfinished work, though, it’s still eminently listenable dancefloor material.

Katherine St Asaph: Did you know “Hang With Me” is a cover? The original is an shy, intimate, almost folky love song, to which Robyn adds the “recklessly, headlessly” chorus and all that Robyn Energy: conviction via big strobing synths, turning a wallflower’s song into a big synthetic light-projection of a violet. This is what Robyn does; for a while it seemed like it’s all Robyn does anymore. But “Honey” is the closest Robyn’s gotten to that quiet draw. What “Don’t Fucking Tell Me What to Do” does with steeliness, this does with murmurs. She flips the conceit of The Weeknd’s “What You Need” and drains it of sleaze: the “you won’t get what you need” seems less like a neg than unguarded honesty. She gets lost in her verses, voice almost a hum, lyrics remarkably explicit but sounding more like snuggling against someone’s shoulder. Unlike “Missing You,” it evokes artists other than Robyn, most obviously Róisín Murphy. But it still sounds like nothing else in the alt-pop world, which is a goddamn achievement.

Joshua Minsoo Kim: A song that knows how to embody the lightheaded euphoria of late night dancing. Robyn buries her voice in the mix so that it doesn’t have a spotlight shining on it. Every second of her vocal delivery and every word out of her mouth consequently becomes about the feelings they project: pure evocation. This is music to get lost into, that reminds you that you’re lost in it, and that encourages you to stay inside; this is five minutes but it could be fifty.

Andy Hutchins: “No, you’re not gonna get what you need,” Robyn taunts, over a throbbing instrumental that never attains an explosive climax. She knows perfectly well how to punctuate with those, so the delicious misandry — maybe misanthropy — of “Honey” must be deliberate.

Reader average: [7.65] (26 votes)

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8 Responses to “Robyn – Honey”

  1. 1. How rare is it for a song to score an 8.00 or better with zero 10?

    2. How long will it pain me that I typoed “attains” without the S?

  2. The latter is fixed now!

  3. lots of lovely writing here (particularly liked will’s blurb) but mostly wanted to say i agree with edward that indestructible is the secret best robyn song

  4. I’m glad I didn’t blurb this because I would have given it a 7 but 8.00 is a perfect score for it

  5. seconding isabel and edward in the true and powerful conviction that “indestructible” is the best Robyn song

  6. I absolutely love this song (and can’t wait for the album). I know that comparing music made by women to Kate Bush is the saddest of cliche of all, but still I’m surprised nobody mentioned her. Robyn has talked about KB’s influence in interviews about the new album, and to my ears the soft, repetitive, atmospheric vocals spiraling in space and the sex-and-food word salad lyrics are an homage to The Sensual World. “I’d taken the kiss of seedcake back from his mouth” never had this kind of nutrition mmmmm yes.

  7. wow I can hear that

  8. Andy:
    Jamala – “1944”
    DJ Raff – “Digital Rain”
    Invy Da Truth – “Loyalty”

    It does happen!