It’s been eight long years since 2010’s two-part ‘Body Talk’ albums were released, meaning eight painful years withholding pop gold from fans. And that, thankfully, will change tonight when Robyn finally releases her latest batch of songs.
It’s been nearly a decade since we last heard solo material from her, and what a decade it’s been: Robyn’s brand of diary-honest, melancholic electro-pop has been used as inspiration for today’s more emotive crop of stars. Back then, it felt like we were witnessing the rise of unapologetic and traditionally powerful women in the industry, with Nicki Minaj’s ‘Pink Friday’ and Rihanna’s S&M-starring ‘Loud’ both dropping to wild commercial success earlier in the year.
But amongst it all, Robyn reminded us all of how broken we could be too, and that it was OK. She reminded us that we were still in love with people we weren’t destined to be with; dealing with feelings those around us were begging for us to leave in the past.
“Robyn reminded us all of how broken we could be too, and that it was OK. She reminded us that we were still in love with people we weren’t destined to be with; dealing with feelings those around us were begging for us to leave in the past”
Before Lorde was singing odes to distant ex-boyfriends on the immaculate ‘Green Light’ (“Honey I’ll come get my things, but I can’t let go“), Robyn was doing the same on ‘Dancing On My Own’ – a complicated, revelatory slice of pop that’s become a tonic for outcasts, queer kids and just about anybody who’s ever had love snatched out of their hands prematurely. But pop as great as that, as Robyn’s fans have learned, can take time.
There was once a moment when musicians dealing with the prospect of Top 40 success were forced to fill up their release schedule, releasing shedloads of records in quick succession; “catching the wave”. It’s all rooted in the idea of musicians having shelf lives, with labels wanting to make sure they get their money’s worth before the public lose interest, but there’s a pretty strong correlation between the number of popstars who submit to that and the amount that wind up giving up after a few short years too.
It might be a moneymaker, but it’s exhausting – to both the artist and the audience – to have to see the same face everywhere all the time, and the results are almost always stagnant. Let’s not forget Rihanna made her biggest mark culturally with the release of ‘ANTI’ four years after ‘Unapologetic’ dropped when, before that, she’d churned out an LP every year since 2005.
Thankfully, Robyn exists outside of that draining cycle; a popstar with an approach more in line with Joanna Newsom’s ‘once in a blue moon’ take on things. You see, pop is not merely an “industry” to Robyn, nor is it an art form that deserves to be treated with less care than, say, a folk or rock-based body of work. Her message is incisive and people are listening to it. Whatever goes out there clearly needs to be perfect. Needless to say, her fans are still a fervent bunch, and they’re chomping at the bit to fall in love with new material.
She’s not playing dumb though. Earlier this week, Robyn dropped a moving documentary titled ‘Missing U’, about a trio of fans who set up a weekly club night in NYC to play her music in a club setting; a room full of those who love her breaking down to and being restored by her sound. It lays the groundwork for her next single that bears the same name, due for release tonight.
She says ‘Missing U’ is about “this trippy thing that happens when [people] disappear: they become even more clear.”
Perhaps that’s true of Robyn and her music. In the time she’s spent lurking in the shadows, appearing every so often to drop a surprise project with another artist, fans have been mulling over ‘Body Talk’ to the point that it’s creator no longer seems like a stranger to them, though she may have eight years ago. In that time, pop seems to have changed so much, but Robyn’s ‘Body Talk’ feels eerily timeless, as if she knew what fans would be crying out to dance through their tears almost a decade before that idea became commonplace.
I’m glad it’s taken eight years for Robyn to return, but it’s safe to say we’re ready now. The Scandinavian star, it turns out, was just waiting for the rest of the world to catch up.