Better: Robyn and Snoop

Dear Millicent,

I really like Robyn.  Her songs make me want to go that far-away place: the club.  They make me want to put on chartreuse eyeshadow that only makes sense in rooms with laser lights.  She’s also a bit of a reformed pop-star, starting her career as a teenager ( from profiles, I’m guessing she was a bit like the Swedish Mandy Moore), and is now a 31-year-old singer who has learned from the fluff and sharpened it to an interesting point.  For a much more informed profile than I can provide here, I highly recommend Sasha Frere-Jones piece on her in the New Yorker, ‘Dancehall Dream.”

Last week, the second in her Body Talk Series was released (Body Talk Pt. 2), and it continues the conversation from Pt. 1, doing a nice slice and dice of independent woman with the right to some confection and badassery.   She’s not MIA, and she’s not Gaga, and none of this works against her.

I was surprised at the appearance of Snoop Dogg late in the album, on the track “U Should Know Better,” especially because of its contrast with his hit duet with Katy Perry on “California Gurls.”  Both Perry and Robyn trade in the idea of the consumable female (e.g. Katy Perry’s whip cream bra, cotton candy undies), but where Perry embraces the confection to the point of drivel, Robyn is usually harshing the fantasy in an intoxicating way (in her song “Fembot,” she means it when she says “Fembots have feelings, too”).

NPR did a piece awhile ago about the demise of the duet, and featured “California Gurls” as an example where the woman is has less control of the song than the man. Maura Johnston notes “it’s clearly Snoop who’s driving the song — the video ends with Katy reduced to being one of four women surrounding him, and the primping she’s singing of is clearly done for the benefit of men.”  [Also, this piece gets a double star from me because Jay Smooth is the other half of the conversation here, and there is a reference to Farah Fawcett’s opus The Burning Bed].

Not so with Robyn.   In “U Should Know Better,” it is Robyn who swaggers, and Snoop seems happy for the conversation, surprised by her particular brand of chat.  He starts off by bragging about a girl who wants him. She topic hops to a political message to the Vatican. Every time he tries his old game, she pays no heed and blasts onto a larger conversation.

Snoop:

I missed my plane to Spain so I’m stuck in Colonna
I’m sippin Saronno with this chick named Ramona
She wants me to take a flick on her phone-ah
Then take her to my hotel room and then bone her

Robyn:

You know when in Rome I sat down with the Romans
Said \”We need a black pope and she better be a woman\”
There’ll be no more celibacy
Even the Vatican knows not to fuck with me

They both agree “U should know better than to fuck with me.” Robyn takes on the French (cutting off heads, in lingerie, no less), the Vatican , the Russians, and The Industry.  It’s great. And she DOMINATES. When Snoop warns off the FBI, she trumps him by saying she was at Watergate and takes on the CIA. He complains about the LAPD, she ups the ante, shouting “even the prince of darkness knows not to fuck with me.”

And then Snoop adds, “If you knew better, you would do better.”  Having done this smarter duet, I wonder if he is talking to his Candyland self?

Yours,

CF

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