The Latin word penumbra once operated in relation to the singer that is Robyn. The magic sound of Robyn was something that hid the half-shadows of the music realm of quality pop music. Her material was often hard to track down and either required a trip to the land of Sweden or hefty import charges. In 2007, she decided to reveal herself to the audience of the United Kingdom and like a secret that is too good to be kept under the quilts the word is spreading. As such, it’s quite a busy time in Robyn’s world so it’s rather brilliant she managed to sit down and do a little interview with DontStopthePop.
Her single With Every Heartbeat is currently zooming up the charts and doing rather well on British radio. Her “a-listing” on Radio One was a momentous event, as the singer does not have major representation. In-between the EMI, Universal and Sony acts, the epic strings of her new single have managed to weave themselves a beautiful canvas that is slowly wrapping itself around the public of Britain. This is so unique I am not sure whether the UK radio stations have done it in the past. Robyn is no Lily Allen nor is she another Amy Winehouse. There are no quirky Internet instruments of promotion or mega record company supporting Robyn’s pop adventure. It’s simply Robyn and the Robyn L.P. The pop music is the tool, quirk and the promotional agent that has made her a freak of nature on the radio stations. After years of belonging to the institutions of Jive, BMG and RCA, Robyn decided to break out on her fourth L.P and release music on her own Konichiwa Records Label. When asked about her decision to go down her path she beams with pride and declares that “I´m very proud of my record company and everything I have accomplished so far.”
And she should be! While other singers in her field depend on record companies, Robyn and her tracks are the only things that will secure success. Many might have just given up, settled to write hits for other acts or would be literally cacking themselves. Such isn’t the case for Robyn. Its as if she has eyed-up the entire UK singles market and gone ‘yeah-that’s mine!’. There are no stereotypical record company ploys that create the bubbles in Robyn's pop music but rather its Robyn herself that is propelling the songs into the stratosphere.
Gone are clothing ranges with H&M and make-up. When Britney shaved her hair the singer said her baldness was a reaction to constant misuse of her body. In a very odd coincidence, Robyn-who was often seen as the “Swedish Britney” or a precursor to the American star due to their shared history of Max Martin songs and Jive Records-went bald in the video for Be Mine which just happened to be the first song Robyn released without a major record company. Be Mine is a clearly a love song about an ex but it can also be decoded as a song of liberation and departing the infrastructure of the record company. You almost feel that the Robyn wrote out the lyrics “You never were and never will be mine” the moment she turned her back on the majors and set up her own record company. It’s of no surprise then that she told me Be Mine is her favourite song on the album.
So gone were the politics, sadness and make-up and in was the song-writing and amazing pop songs. The effect is amazing. Robyn is striking. Just before a gig in the legendary Dingwalls, she’ll have a cappuccino whereas her fellow pop sisters would have been sat in front of the mirror busily being spray-painted with the latest line of botox. It’s clear that the fact that she is living in her own pop world has surpassed the requisite need of the eye-liner. She simply doesn’t need such things. When I asked her on this she said “I´m a happy girl. I´m where I want to be in life and I get to do what I want to do in my professional life. That´s real luxury and maybe that shows. I feel like a million dollars though.” It’s evident that Robyn’s choice to do her own thing has resulted in not only good music but a level of contentment that springboards from Robyn’s body and into her audience. At her gigs her fans always end up with huge smiles wrapped around their faces and generally keep on dancing despite Robyn leaving the stage...
Its not like she is some newcomer, Robyn was song-writing before she was born and securing hits for other singers like Beverley Knight, Britney Spears and the American girlgroup Play. When I asked her which “Robyn cover” she liked the most Robyn replied with a no comment but the chart positions speak for themselves. Robyn’s song for the Swedish star Darin, ‘Money for Nothing’, was a huge no.1 for the singer while Britain’s Beverley Knights version of ‘Keep This Fire Burning’ is still the biggest airplay hit for the soul singer in her illustrious career. Earlier in the year, the superstar that is Kylie Minogue was rather interested in a Robyn song called Dream On. In fact, perhaps Kylie is a bit of a Robyn fan. Robyn said-“I know she likes the song, but I think I will keep that song for myself”. Can we infer to mean that Robyn said no to Kylie? The jury is out on that matter but it is an amazing song so I can understand why Robyn would want to keep it to herself. Its certainly a shame Dream On never appeared on a Robyn release despite going down a storm during her live shows and making you go all warm inside.
Talking of things Australian, I then asked whether she’d be heading off to Australia in the near future. She said with a scent of bubbly excitement; “I´m going to spend most of this year touring and promoting my record in as many places I can. People in Australia have been supporting me for some time now, so going there soon should be great! Looking forward to it, I´ve never been.” So, Australian readers and fans of Robyn watch out as Robyn might just be planning an invasion very soon!
Key places: Official Robyn Myspace, OfficialRobyn Site, Myspace Robyn Group (Pictures)
Purchase: Robyn the album (UK edition), Robyn the Album (The Swedish edition) and the brand new German edition of Robyn.
ROBYN-THAT WOMAN IS ME!
by Bobby Pop!
Take a bottle of some fizzy drink, shake it and when it opens note the ether that sprinkles over and around the liquid. These bubbles stand out from the rest but not all pop drinks can muster enough of that stuff to stay as sweet for over a lifetime. The singer Robyn has somehow bottled all the best bits of what it takes to be a popstar and has been letting her fans drink it down ever since. She started at the age of 12 singing on the Swedish shows Söndagsöppet and Lilla Sportspegeln that saw her belting out songs like Nummer Ett and hasn’t looked back. Today her new single With Every Heartbeat is properly released and its massive success has taken aback even the best of her fans.
This is odd. This is unusual. This is obtuse. When With Every Heartbeat first appeared on this blog back in 2006, it was clearly a hit single. Despite backing from Popjustice, there was a nagging feeling that the fans of Robyn were dreaming way above their station. Radio One doesn’t a-list acts like Robyn. We know this-just look at Annie. However some months later and many a London concert to her belt, the song With Every Heartbeat has gone beyond the September 2006 expectations of DontStopthePop and other popbloggers and departed from the abject position of pop underground and into the mainstream. On downloads alone With Every Heartbeat is no.5 in the U.K charts.
This initial reaction perhaps is part of the reason for it being released for it would seem the response from fans both online and off is part of its success. When I asked the singer about the songs creation, Robyn informed that it was back in 2006 that “Kleerup […was…] making a solo album and we wrote "With every heartbeat" for that album. It turned out to be this beautiful song that every one I played it to reacted to in this very special way and so I felt I wanted to put it on the album.” So, With Every Heartbeat was not on the original release tracklist for Robyn’s L.P and yet it fits so neatly in its present position alongside the songs Robotboy, Who’s That Girl and Be Mine. Accordingly, following these words from Robyn the song and its success is connected to its fans in more ways than simple a Myspace or Itunes pathway as is now becoming common in the rise of the internet. When Robyn first performed the song the crowd at the Notting Hill Arts Club went wild despite never hearing it before. This was a hit with the fans before it was even officially ‘out there’ and thus the song is not just owned by the acts who wrote it but also its audience it was performed to.
Robbie Daw of the American magazine Instinct touched on this strange backdrop to the song when he told me “I remember so well [DontStopthepop’s] touting of "With Every Heartbeat” and remember driving to my eye doctor just before leaving for Christmas vacation, and blasting it in my car.... I'm really floored that it's gotten so much Radio One love... It really is a great track!” Evidently, the song has gone beyond a song written for Kleerup’s hotly anticipated solo album and has even grabbed fans in the U.S. Robyn herself is well aware of this when she concluded that “the song seems to have a very strong effect on people and that feels really cool.”
Her influence on her fans needs no real explanation but her effect and admiration from other musicians is also important. Previous DontStopThePop legend, Isabel Guzman declared, “I think Robyn is a brilliant artist!” However, the admiration didn’t just end with a simple musical appreciation as Isabel added that she was “very impressed by her amazing songwriting, her independence and her intelligence…..she really caught my eye (or ear) with her last album. Her strong pop melodies together with Klas Åhlunds electronic production is a killer!”. The new American artist and vocalist Mandy Daniels mirrored Isabel’s comments in stating that “Robyn is a fantastic role model for artists who want to break away from barriers and do their own thing.”
For Mandy, the Robyn albums were not just “background music of my life” but “were a big influence on me, both vocally and artistically.” If you check out Mandy’s vocal delivery on Mandy’s stunning song There’s No Getting Over You, the listener is taken to the same beautiful airspace where Robyn’s songs Should Have Known, Eclipse and Dream On soar. Returning to the sublime pop princess Isabel, ultimately what makes Robyn such a great pop singer is that “she is for real!” and this appeals to other pop singers coming up as well as music fans like me. Isabel should know this better than anyone else for some might not have known this but the two Swedish popstars and DontStopthePop favourites actually went to the same school when they were kids!
The song itself is clearly a Robyn-Kleerup masterpiece but it also recalls Moroder, Mozart and has elements of Kylie thrown in for good measure. If you listen to the normal version available on the album, Robyn introduces the melancholia between herself and the lost Other not before a beautiful prologue of strings and withdrawn beats. Robyn eventually appears on the epic track with a plea “baby, we can make it” and for some reason she’s wrenched every broken heart and burrowed them into those first couple of notes. The moment she utters “we could keep trying” a throbbing baseline begins perhaps to sooth that broken heart but also to bring the tears to the eyes. She repeats “I don’t look back” with violins and electronic snippets from some lost SpaceRocket as Robyn’s backing vocalists. This however is not the songs’ chorus.
For the title alone “With Every Heartbeat” is the chorus. Indeed, Andreas Kleerup engineers a crescendo rather than a traditional repetition of two inane couplets as the song actually erupts into its chorus. No, this is no traditional pop song. Just as Can’t Get You Out Of My Head altered the construction of a pop song, Kleerup and Robyn produce the title of the song and its chorus at the back-end of the track. If you check the exact time Robyn sings “with every heartbeat” it should be over two minutes into the song. She then repeats the line “and it hurts with every heartbeat” a number times until the rising hurt runs around your veins, brings a smile to your face but a wink to the eye that makes you want to chant the lyrics outside somewhere important like Westminster. Its beautiful construction is not only reflected in its amazing success but realised by the iconic song-writer behind Kylie Minogue’s epic songs Confide In Me and Butterfly and her recent tours the producer Steven Anderson. Anderson of Brothers in Rhythm glory, Rent the Musical and long-time pop producer to Kylie Minogue told Don’t Stop The Pop that With Every Heartbeat was clearly “the record of the year.”
I asked Robyn how a song like With every Heartbeat came to be. As in its guttural mechanics? Somehow foretelling its internet reception Robyn and Kleerup “email each other beats” when creating songs like With Every Heartbeat. Naturally, this led me to ask about future work with Kleerup to which Robyn said “We are working when ever we can. Emailing beats and stuff back and forth and spending time in the studio, I´m sure some of it will end up on my next album.”
The next album? What! Already? Yes, it would seem Robyn has already started the process of tinkering with new sounds, motifs and sounds once again. With my eyebrows both raised and very excited I asked for more! Robyn did not disappoint and in what is perhaps an exclusive for DontStopthePop she confirmed that, yes, another L.P was in the works- “I can’t say exactly when, but I’ve started to work on the next album. As soon as possible.”
So as I tried to pick myself up from the floor she quipped, “That’s the great thing of having your own record company, that you have more say over when and how often you can release records. I would love to create a festival to address the inequalities faced by women in the music industry. A space for girls to experiment. The inequalities within the music industry mirrors the rest of the world. I wanna address that. And, work on my next album” I think all fans of Robyn punched the air in jubilation right about here! Robyn does her thing and no one is ever gone stop her.
With all the talk about the future, in my position as a long term and huge fan of Robyn I decided to ask some questions that Robyn rarely gets asked but are often explored by her fans. In essence, I wanted to go back. When I mean “back” I’m talking about her older material that was never released outside of Sweden. I mentioned those brilliant album tracks like Blow My Mind and O Baby from her Don’t Stop The Music L.P and what was her favorite from those recordings. Without any clear hesitation she said “Well, I decided to rerecord "Should have known" for this record as well, I dig that song.”
So if you love that song from Robyn’s current release try and check out the original version. It’s timid, beautiful and extremely powerful. As such, its belongs to not just one Robyn album but two she loved it that much. She added “I play a lot of my old song at live shows still. A good song is always a good song.”
While I accepted this, Robyn rarely mentions her older material especially from her second album so I decided to do some elaboration. Now if you’re a fan of Robyn you might get just tad excited if the following actually comes to something. As we were going through older songs I said, and I quote myself here, “Universal Woman is stunning in construction and would be stellar with a 2007 touch to it. Perhaps Universal Woman-the KleerUp mix?”. And her reply? “I never thought about that….” If you don’t know the song go and check it out. Its closeness to With Every Heartbeat is quite surprising considering it was composed by Robyn back in the months of 1999. It has the beats, the strings, the electronic trinkets and the soaring vocals. Perhaps recalling Universal Woman herself and a possibility of a 2007 remix Robyn offered a “maybe” finished with the dessert of “That’s cool you know my old albums”. Insert a “!!!!!!!!” right about here.
I was quite taken aback that she was surprised I knew her older material. I am not the only British person who adores Robyn’s previous albums. Steve Anderson informed me that while he’d grabbed “the new album since it came out in Sweden 2 years ago” he also owned “all her others”. The music producer concluded that they were “still as fresh as it was then.” I’m not being funny or nothing but Robyn-your older stuff is just as good as your latest work! Moreover, I am not the only who thinks this but other very successful musicians think so too.
For example, My Truth is a brilliant set of songs and is her most personal to date. It’s a must for any Robyn fan! A new version Universal Woman? Perhaps not, but you never know.
With questions about her older material out of the way I thought I’d venture into even further fan-stroke-geek territory by demanding b-sides and collaborations. Perhaps it was the bewilderment that this was actually an interview with the Robyn and as such I forgot the question was and starting going on and on about her music. Remember, I am not a professional journalist-I am just a fan of pop so forgive me. As you can see it started off well but like a klutz the question evaporated into itself. Here’s a snippet of the rather embarrassing segment-
“Your fans love your music. We can’t get enough of it. Whether it is with Basement Jaxx or the Fläskkvartetten! What really want are some more b-sides. Perhaps even a double a-side with a previously unreleased song like you did with Good Thang and Play?”
As you can see it was all over place. Flustered doesn’t even come close does it? The interview had come so out of the blue I hadn’t got my questions sorted. However, Robyn saved it with her response. Seeing it wasn’t going anywhere she affirmed that “Ok, that wasn’t a question really” but in a moment that made my heart flutter she concluded that she was however “taking notes” as I rambled away. Trying for some composure I narrowed in and put it out all on the table. “Simply put, fans don’t really like endless remixes. We like bonus tracks and b-sides.” Whether it be a Japanese import of some Kylie album they’ve already got or a rare Dutch E.P of a David Bowie gem, fans adore the sidelines, morsels, tidbits and extra bits. After Robyn’s ‘taking notes’ comment I re-clarified with “You see, we just adore the mixes but b-sides are just more fun”. Perhaps drawing attention to the fact that Robyn loves pop too she agreed, “I like B-sides too!” However there is a but-but a good but!
Despite expressing a requisite for b-sides fans might not see anything like that for the moment as, and get this, b-sides are secondary and not because of being too busy. Oh no. Something far more splendid! For “right now I’m writing for my new album”. This is where I was pretty much doing a dance of sublime joy! Another Robyn album! Its ever so close people! That’s why theres no B-sides. It’s a cool trade off don’t you think? B-side or new album. I think you know which I’d prefer! Fan desires aside, the thought of another album from Robyn is perplexing. Where else in pop music can explore? Fellow pop princess Isabel Guzman poignantly pointed out that part of the fun of listening to Robyn is “there is so much more to come from her” which makes the entire affair rather exhilarating. However Robyn didn’t leave it there with regards to b-sides. She put in a “but I will do my best to keep you listening baby!!!!”.
By this time I was both on cloud 9 and doing that dance of sublime joy previously mentioned. Bringing the interview an end I asked the Robyn of four albums, global chart success and the C.E.O of Konichiwa Records what she’d say to the girl belting out Number Ett on Lilla Sportspegeln back when she was just 12? “I would tell her to just not worry and try to have as much fun as possible.”
Robyn-Pop Princess, DontStopthePop Icon and Record Company exec, “the queen of queenbee’s, Lioness of Juda and Phoenix from the ashes…..”-she’s back and what an entrance! Its been over twenty years since Robyn popped on the stage like a shaken fizzy drink and that ether is still bubbling a way. 1995 marked the release of her first single and this week see's Robyn take her well-earned place in the charts of the U.K. With possible releases of future instant smash hits like Be Mine, Crash And Burn Girl, Who’s That Girl, and Handle Me the future seems certified Konichiwa! Robyn is one girl who refuses to stop the pop let alone the music!
What did we learn? DontStopthepop can exclusively reveal here that theres a new album in the works, Andreas Kleerup is involved and she’ll try and get it sorted as soon as possible. Her words not mine! She also loves b-sides, is surprised that we love her older material(!) and Universal Woman might have some life in it yet. We learnt Isabel Guzman went to school with Robyn before Ms.Carlsson left to follow a career in pop, Steve Anderson is a huge fan and Americans love Robyn!