"I don't imagine anything.": Robyn interview
Remember that song? The one that went, ‘Show me love. Show me life. Baby show me what it’s all about.’ Yep? Well that was Robyn, back in 1997. And the track, ‘Show Me Love’ was a worldwide supersmash that reached number eight in the UK.
And now, forget about it, because ‘Show Me Love’ is in danger of the becoming the albatross around Robyn’s neck. Her brilliant 2005 album, Robyn, blew those dusty memories of her teen hit-mongering away in a wave of shimmering pop that was uniquely hers: commercial yet not cynical; slick, but still full of emotion.
Now she finds herself in a very comfortable position. About to release a second album from her three-part Body Talk series (her sixth in total), she’s become incredibly proficient at producing hits. Like its predecessor, Body Talk Pt. 1, Pt. 2 is backed full of references to how ‘we dance to the beat’, brain-tickling synth hooks and auto-tuned vocals – all the clichés that the record buying general public happily scoff down like IKEA meatballs. Yet the albums still avoid sounding contrived, cheesy or dull. She’s simultaneously a calculating pop maestro, in charge of her own record label, and a tender singer-songwriter … she’s got this music-making lark sussed.
So, perhaps understandably, she’s not that keen on answering my interview standard questions about the Body Talk series’ unconventional release pattern. The album length Pt. 1 appeared in June, followed by Pt. 2 this month and Pt. 3 will be released in December. What’s the rush?
‘It’s not a conceptual idea,’ says Robyn, sleepily, on the phone from somewhere in Scandinavia, ‘or something I did to break the world record for how many albums I can release in a year. I just wanted to see if I could find a way of working where I was touring and working at the same time and have a more normal structure where I’m not away from recording for such long periods.’
The results have been prolific. But that’s perhaps not surprising when you consider that until 2009 Robyn was on the road for four years supporting the success of her self-titled 2005 album – there must have been some good ideas bottled up. She won’t say that she didn’t like the touring (‘it’s not so traumatic’), but the new way of working certainly suits her. ‘It makes sense. I feel like it’s giving me a chance to be really close to the listeners. I don’t really know a lot more than they do. So we have this possibility of actually sharing the experience of discovering the album.’
None of this is getting to the heart of the enigma, however, or closer to explaining how Robyn manages to keep ‘meaningful’ and ‘disposal’ in balance in her best tunes. How does she stay down to earth? For example, when she’s writing about clubbing, and ‘stilettos and broken bottles’ on the single ‘Dancing on my Own’, where are those seedy images coming from?
‘What’s seedy?’ Robyn asks. Seedy is clarified: not posh; more grimey and real. ‘It sounds like that’s what you’re imagining. I don’t imagine anything.’ Oh dear. ‘For me, pop music has never been equal to posh – pop music can be anything. I grew up listening to Kate Bush, The Police, Prince and Michael Jackson. For me, it became pop music because it reached a lot of people, and it was inviting to people. But pop music, I don’t think that it was until maybe later that pop music that became a musical genre that had a sound.’
Her success is by no means beyond comprehension, but it comes so naturally to Robyn it’s not very easy for her to explain it. Not that she has to, of course. She’s much happier speaking about how she plans to keep that all-important closeness to her fans through the live shows.
‘For me the live thing is a continuous process as well. It’s not a finished show, it changes all the time. It’s a simple thing as well. It’s very much about the music. It’s about connecting to the audience, and making them dance. It’s really not that complicated, for me.’
Which suggests we shouldn’t pry, and instead just enjoy the tunes, don our dancing shoes and go out on the town, Robyn-style.