Good singles do one of two things.
First, they grab attention for themselves and make a concerted statement about an artist’s ability to craft three-and-a-half minutes of sugary perfection. Second, singles hint at a greater product, such as an LP of material congealing into more than the sum of its parts.
Think of Kanye West—“The Good Life” is the former, whereas “Diamonds from Sierra Leone” is the latter. Most singles accomplish this is some form or fashion, even the bad ones. Bad singles typically occupy the latter sphere. If you can’t find one single on a forthcoming record, the whole LP is in a lot of trouble.
However, great singles do both. They are a perfect concoction of effervescence and mystery. They are a clap of thunder before the lightning storm.
Robyn is a master of great singles. She has already crafted two this year with “Fembot” and “Hang With Me” from her two freestanding EPs. She’s been in the public eye for 11 months now, churning out near perfect Eurodance-pop for the American audience wise enough to pay attention. As Body Talk approaches, however, Robyn faces a unique challenge—how does an artist create a first single in a third single position?
Robyn had to figure out her own unique solution for such a unique problem. While still maintaining the familiarity of her previous EPs, Robyn leads off with “Indestructible,” a song revamped for Body Talk from a skeletal framework on Part 2. The Part 2 version of “Indestructible” was a palette-cleansing effort, cleanly showcasing Robyn’s vocal chops over a bevy of strings.
It’s unremarkable, especially given that it follows the destructive power of “You Should Know Better.” It wouldn’t have been a crime to skip it. However, this version of “Indestructible,” with its powerful Euro synths, backing vocals and identical melody (sans any whiff of string arrangement) perfectly encapsulates Robyn’s Body Talk series, making it the most comprehensive and valuable first single of the bunch.
This is certainly not to say that “Indestructible” is the best of Robyn’s singles. That distinction goes to “Dancing On My Own.” It doesn’t introduce a different side of Robyn, since we’ve known she’s capable of creating a song with a snaking synth line, waterfall hisses and hand claps years before Body Talk was even in its infancy. Yet, the lyrics are somewhat remarkable, simply because they’re exactly what Robyn has always purported herself to be.
In a scene ravaged by cliché personalities like Ke$ha, Lady Gaga and Katy Perry, Robyn carves out a new niche for herself, one pop starlets would do well to pay attention to.
Robyn, for all her heartbreak, remains indestructible, unflappable and unmovable even in the face of “your love, ultra-magnetic and taking over.” Her personality is not governed by the men that she lets in or weeps for. She is her own person, and if listeners aren’t feeling it, she doesn’t sweat it. Lady Gaga wishes she could be Robyn. Her “poker face” or “telephone” bullshit is a front, a little masquerade left at the drop of a hat at the sight of an “Alejandro.” What Body Talk, and in particular “Indestructible,” has taught listeners about Robyn is that she’s not faking it. She really is that powerful woman you one sees dancing at the bar by herself.
One wants to approach her, but they know they can’t. She’ll rip their face off.
Besides being lyrically complex and character defining, “Indestructible” makes a grand comment on the final Body Talk album as a whole, setting it apart from its predecessors, yet also markedly connecting it to them. Because it builds upon the string arrangements from the original, audiences will notice that the melody is basically the same. However, like all great pop art, the machination of “Indestructible” isn’t defined by the strings. It’s defined by that unforgettable quality Robyn imbues in her vocals and her beats—ear-catching pop perfection.
A listen to the “acoustic” version of “Indestructible” has that air, and you can hear it if you listen close enough. Instead of making the second version of the song derivative, Robyn makes the first antiquated and unfinished; a polish was the only logical step forward. As a precursor to an album that collects the choice cuts from her EPs and adds onto them, “Indestructible” works as an album-defining, sugar-coated pop gem that only Robyn, 2010s master of pop, could create.