Tuesday, April 21st, 2009

Royksopp ft. Robyn – The Girl and the Robot

A thousand listmakers prick up their ears…


Dave Moore: Have you listened to Margaret Berger’s “Robot Song”? Here, you can stream it from her MySpace. Please listen to it. It is so so so good. This one’s OK, except the guy isn’t literally a robot. Missed opportunity if you ask me.

David Raposa: “Morning Train (9 to 5)” by way of “Blue Monday,” with Ms. Konichiwa desperate to make her unchained melody heard through an unending barage of mellotronic choruses and laser-guided string sections. Giorgio Moroder wept (for joy).

Martin Skidmore: Royksopp first attracted me through loveliness, but this is different: we get a circling, obsessive beat rather like Moroder’s best, plus tones and strings over the top offering reminders of the beauty they can offer. The lyric is that of an obsessed, frustrated woman complaining about her partner: rather than Robyn’s usual forceful delivery, she reaches for a higher register, suggesting a woman at the end of her tether. You sense that the man should be very nervous. I’m not sure the structuring is entirely well judged, with some halting moments, but mostly it’s wonderful, enticing and kind of scary.

Hillary Brown: Clearly, this is not just cold, dark dance that others see something deep in and I do not, or I would not keep listening to it. There’s something compelling me here, even though the hook isn’t strong, the beat isn’t new, the vocals are better than average but not stellar, and this is just generally not my kind of thing (“in the night” should be, like, off-limits as a lyric in any dance song). Maybe it’s the way the strings sing together, providing a sweet, jammy background for everything else.

Ian Mathers: On their own, Röyksopp are at best pleasant (and usually pretty boring), but their productions for Robyn and Karin Dreijer Anderrson are good enough that one wishes they’d just pick a vocalist and stick with it. On the strength of “The Girl and the Robot” they’re an even better foil for the former than Kleerup or Christian Falk are. Which the duo’s sweep and burble is nicely deployed, really it’s the keening sorrow laced through the singer’s “I’m so alone”s and “what’s the use”s that give the song almost all of it’s impact, and so the song becomes less a good Röyksopp track and more further proof (along with “With Every Heartbeat” and “Dream On”) that Robyn is fucking unstoppable.

Jonathan Bradley: I thought Röyksopp + Robyn was going to be a no brainer, but then I realized I was really thinking Kleerup + Robyn was a no brainer. Robyn sings it like a Kleerup song, too, trying to invest Röyksopp’s textured, slow-build with bright pop immediacy. It doesn’t seem as if Röyksopp really knew what they wanted, either; the synths are chunkier than I’ve heard them use in the past, but other than this slight instrumental shift, there’s no real change in sound. I guess girls aren’t actually meant to be with robots.

Alex Macpherson: Röyksopp are so boring, notionally a dance act but good for nothing more active than sitting down to. Here, they attempt to liven up an instrumental bereft of hook, interest or point with that insufferable harridan Robyn, who sounds particularly like a bossy, hatchet-voiced security officer jostling a crowd along. (Though the whole “move along, nothing to see here” tone is apt, it must be admitted.) “The Girl And The Robot” ends with strings which in most people would have turned into an epic, reach-up-to-the-sky climax; with Röyksopp, it feels more like one arm waving limply around at head height.

Edward Okulicz: On first blush, I thought Robyn was the worst thing about this single – I loved the thrillingly deep bass throbs, the gorgeously sinister backing vocals and the general dramatic sweep of it, and felt the verses were a little too close to “With Every Heartbeat”. But I can’t deny that the way she’s half obsessed stalker and half deeply bruised naif in her performance is incredibly compelling. The lyrical conceit is a little naff, but it’s definitely forceful.

Doug Robertson: It doesn’t really matter that it’s Robyn singing here – the vocal is such that it could be pretty much any female singer of her ilk – but the tune itself, following the pattern set by previous single Happy Up Here, is much warmer and more upbeat than their previous, slightly typecast, image as cold, Scandinavian electro boffins might lead you to expect. While not quite what you’d want to hear blasting out of the speakers at a party, they have at least made the move out of the kitchen, avoiding making a detour into the toilet at the same time.

Keane Tzong: The gobby Moroder-styled instrumental alone is the kind of melodrama pop music has long since deemed obsolete, and then in rolls Robyn, giving a vocal performance that is so over-the-top – so bunny-boiler – it makes everything else look tame by comparison. Luckily, it’s that level of committed insanity that gives the ostensibly ridiculous subject matter of the song real weight and gravitas. Would you – would any human – be brave enough to deny Robyn anything? No? Well then, of course she’s singing about a robot. Who else could it be, really?

Martin Kavka: This might have been called “I Feel Alienation.” The Moroder touch is all over here — and I am putty in Moroderites’ hands. In this case, however, Robyn isn’t waxing orgasmic; instead, she’s torn between hating her lover and wanting him/her to come back. But why? So she can hate more intensely? In the current recession, a portrayal of the emotional costs of an on-the-go lifestyle just seems so … 2005.

Rodney J. Greene: I’m sure there will be much scrutiny of this song’s sad robot content, but let us ignore all that for a second and focus on the twelve-foot-tall Valkyrie choirs singing their verdict down upon doomed little Robyn. I would too be morose if I had such an unfeeling mass directing their significant powers of menace toward me. The distended bassline grinding away even sounds like some pronged instrument they’d use to poke their luckless victims.

Frank Kogan: Music like the gaping pit of hell from Lord Of The Rings, desperate Robyn suspended above the rumble. Stunning song from a group I thought I hated.

Jessica Popper: Music like this demonstrates why people who think that dance music is just party music and has no real meaning or emotion are completely wrong. Emotions don’t jangle or plod, they rush and whir, and that’s what a song like this conveys perfectly.

15 Responses to “Royksopp ft. Robyn – The Girl and the Robot”

  1. I knew there was a song I was meaning to review!

    Collaborators bringing out the best in each other – Robyn sounds urgent instead of smug for once. Not the most original record in the world but good stuff, I’d have thrown an 8 its way so this mark seems fair enough.

  2. Not sure what keeps making me think about how weak of a conceit for a song this is — the production is certainly big, but it doesn’t feel like it’s being put toward anything, just a nifty looped Epic Sounding Thing that fights with Robyn for a spotlight. Thing is, I don’t care about either of them. And if y’all hadn’t noticed, the lyrics of this song are IDENTICAL to Soulja Boy’s “Kiss Me Thru the Phone,” and I object to it for the same reason — great idea (all we have is the damn phone/I’m in love with a robot) put toward a really banal and low-stakes issue: see, he is so obsessed with his work (like a robot! See?!) that he has not come home to see her yet. JUST PUT YOUR FAXES DOWN HONEY I NEED YOUR LOVE.

  3. And in case you thought I was going to let anyone not think of Soulja Boy the next time they heard this song, his other single is basically the music concept here that suffers from the same problem — “Turn My Swag On” has solid massive production loop with no song (and/or demo vocals?) attached to it. Maybe someone will remix “Girl and the Robot” with a completely different song plastered on top of it. (Think you could mash “With Every Heartbeat” on top?)

  4. Turn My Robot On: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Pga4ax5aus

  5. LOL I hadn’t even noticed the annoying robot theme (despite the title!) b/c Robyn’s harridan voice pissed me off so much. That would’ve been another point docked. Seriously why do people care about robots so much?

  6. I didn’t say it my blurb because it was rather beside the point, but the chord progression and synth texture reminds me oh so much of Ladyhawke’s far better “Magic,” except that it turns into something much less satisfying halfway through the riff. If Robyn had sung the Ladyhawke song, I might have been a better disposed toward it.

  7. I was really underwhelmed by this – I’m alarmed that this is one of the best so far on the jukebox’s terms (i.e. alarmed that of the rest of pop that I have not investigated yet, things may be bleak). I loved Robyn’s album in its first version but I think the electro-diva collabs are generally weak, and here her voice sounds really exposed over the big (and quite enjoyable) squelchy synths.

  8. My saturation point has been a long time coming – hell, it’s been DECADES – but d’you know what, I think I’m finally Morodered-out. When did the future become so entrenched in the past?

  9. Ha, Mike, have you heard The Juan Maclean’s album? You can never be Moroder-ed out if it’s done well. Unlike, for example, this. The squelchy backing is pretty much exactly the same as Beyoncé’s ‘Sweet Dreams’, btw, and while I’ve no doubt that if anyone did the thieving there it was probably Queen B, the Röyksopp track does pale even more in the light of that comparison.

  10. Am I the only one here who is a pretty huge fan of Röyksopp?

  11. Also, I think this song is great, but it’s no “What Else Is There?”

  12. “here her voice sounds really exposed”

    I think that’s a lot of what I like about this song and Robyn in general. She doesn’t hide her flaws so much as use them to her total advantage.

  13. I think it is a great song. I love Robyn. The song is very catchy, has a great beat and makes you want to dance. Has a great melody and good harmonies. You guys do not know what your missing!!!

  14. I’m so completely obsessed with this now, one of my singles of the year so far.

    Alex M, sometimes I think I will never quite understand you :).

  15. I overrated this. More a 6 or 7.