I was a fan of Robin Stjernberg going into the review and I’ve emerged out the other end a super-fan, bordering on slightly obsessed. I was taken with Robin’s Instagram account is fabulously photogenic and fortunately his music matches up. He ain’t just a pretty face y’all – boy can make sweet music!
The first stop on this tour of the frankly fabulous album that is ‘Pieces’ is Eurovision song and lead single for the piece, ‘You’. Is this a benchmark for the album? Controversially I’d say it isn’t the best song on the album, but I would say it’s a pretty good yardstick for what the rest of the album sounds like, except there’s a rockier edge to the album. I like to think of Robin as Sweden’s response to Adam Lambert, with a pinch of P!nk blended into the mix.
R-Stjern (his new handle, I’ve decided), gets to his rockiest with opening number ‘One Down Two To Go’ and current single ‘Crime’. It is a poptacular rock, but the rock edge is there nonetheless. ‘We take it up, we tear it down, gonna make it stop rain, end this pain, one man’s shame is another man’s blame,’ Robin declares, and you can imagine him stamping away, wearing one of his caped numbers on ‘One Down Two To Go’. ‘Crime’ is bouncy, and actually put me in mind of Metro Station. It’s infectious. Robin sounds very determined and it’s a thumping little number. Also the ‘ooh’ refrain is the catchiest thing ever. Insanely catchy. I’m still ‘oohing’ as I’m writing this.
Can R-Stjern slow it down? He certainly can, and he actually sounds tonnes better. ‘Scars’ is dang catchy Scandipop. ‘Are you strong enough, to rise up when you fall? Have you hurt enough, when you’re scarred from it all?” he demands. This is deep, dark stuff. It’s all about getting through the bad stuff and getting out the other side. An admirable message and Robin delivers it with aplomb It’s all low and sultry with falsetto in moderation. He gets the ballad bang on in title track ‘Pieces’ too. This is a lot softer and the falsetto is haunting. It’s also something of a post-Eurovision anthem, about how he didn’t do that well, and he’s going to do fabulous post-contest.
‘Isn’t It Time’ channels this in a way that calls for ballet dancers twirling around Robin while he sings it in a music video. ‘Isn’t it time that we all understand for the sake of the broken?’ he begs. It’s all about acceptance and equality, a beautiful message, close to the heart of WiwiBloggs, and I have to give him real props since the song’s gorgeous. ‘For The Better’ accompanies this as holding Robin’s falsetto in check, in favour of a lower key, which gives him a sultrier edge that’s better and almost a little soul. It’s emotional and sounds meaningful.
I have to give a special mention to ‘Rule The World’, which is a little bit pop badass. Its very head-bobby and calls for snapback wearing. It puts me in mind of a picture Robin instagrammed a few weeks ago wearing a Batman snapback. It’s a little tongue-in-cheek. He knows he isn’t really urban or anything: he’s hardly Sweden’s answer to Usher, but it has that tone to it. The falsetto is again here, employed sparingly which is for the best as Robin’s regular singing voice is just beautiful on its own. He just needs a lot of angular hand-gestures thrown at this and he’s onto a winner. I promise it’s better than his version of ‘Thrift Shop’ (skip to 1:20).
It’s not all completely fabulous though. I found it quite hard to gush about ‘Beautiful’ or ‘On My Mind’. For a start he sings in falsetto for most of it, which is absolutely dreadful. It’s too much. His falsetto is gorgeous when used sparingly, and it was just too painful. It’s a shame that after such a good run of ballads, everything fell apart with ‘Beautiful’. The message also sounds hollow. I don’t get the belief I have from the rest of the songs. ‘On My Mind’ is entirely unremarkable Scandipop with a smidge of P!nk’s sass. Perfectly enjoyable on its own, but it’s a definite skip-moment in the album.
One last surprise note is ‘Every Bit Of Me’ which actually has a country twang to it. Which sounds completely out of place on the album but is actually quite fabulous. It’s very sweet. ‘Pieces’ is confident and well executed. Robin may not have done as well at ESC, but the quality of his first post-Contest album is super high. Be afraid Eric Saade, be very afraid.