At a time when elaborate fashions, pyrotechnics and big, arena-worthy electro beats rule the American pop landscape, Robyn has arrived in North America to shift our focus back to where it belongs: on the music. On her all-too-brief “All Hearts” co-headlining tour with Kelis, which makes its way toward the east coast this week, the Scandinavian singer/songwriter is promising to dazzle audiences with a minimally-art directed, high-energy stage show styled as an after hours club jam.
This year Robyn plans to release a trilogy of albums that incorporate diverse musical influences, ranging from gay dance anthems to dancehall and minimal techno, into her platinum blonde pop world. Though her songs are sometimes heartfelt and introspective, there’s no mistaking Robyn’s swagger and self-confidence — either in song, on stage or over the phone.
“For me, there’s nothing like, what do you call it? A ‘guilty pleasure’,” she says. “I don’t even know what that means. Either you like it or you don’t.”
Check out the video for Robyn’s latest single “Hang With Me” below and then read our Q&A with the singer after the jump.
You’re about to release a new album Body Talk Pt. 2. Does the theme of loneliness on the dance floor that was so prevalent on Body Talk Pt. 1 carry over to this album as well?
Um… yeah, I think it does.
I don’t know why I keep writing about heartbreak and lovesickness. [pauses] I just think that it’s something that I like. [laughs] And it’s something that I like in other people’s music as well. But I think if you want to analyze it, those classic themes have always been important in pop music and it’s always gonna be because that is what’s important to people. It’s what consumes us a lot of the time as human beings and I think it’s not just about, you know, bad love situations, it’s also about the urge that all people have about feeling connected to the world: feeling love, someone seeing them, someone understanding them. It’s like a more distilled or more concentrated way of talking about feeling like you’re on the outside.
You’ve mentioned in your press notes that some of the songs were inspired by gay dance anthems, such as Ultravox’s “Dancing With Tears In My Eyes”. Why do think pop music with that type of theme resonates with gay audiences?
I think gay culture has always had to deal with being an outsider culture, being on the outside and having to fight for yourself and who you are and being accepted for what you are. That bit might be the connection there.
When you were growing up, did you ever find a community through nightclubs or bars? Or did you have a club or bar was the one you always went to?
I was a club kid and I spent a lot of time in clubs in New York when I was a teenager there working. I never really went to festivals or was a part of an indie scene but club culture was always important to me and so was club music. In Europe in the ’80s and the ’90s, especially in the ’90s, you had this interesting phenomenon in the pop scene where club music started mixing with the rave culture from the UK and hip-hop music from the states and there were people like KLF and Technotronic and Neneh Cherry were making pop music in a way where unexpected genre and cultures were mixing. That’s something I definitely see a connection to nowadays where you have the minimal techno scene influencing a lot of music even hip-hop, but pop music as well. You have [Diplo’s reggae project] Major Lazer, which is mixing stuff from all kinds of places in the world. There are reference points for all music styles in electronic music, so that’s interesting to me. We’ve come 360 back to a place where club culture and club music is influencing almost everything you hear on the radio.
You have a dancehall-influenced track on Body Talk Pt. 1. What do you like about or relate to in reggae and dancehall music?
I grew up listening to dancehall music and hip-hop music too, so it’s always been a natural part of my references. I’m not a dancehall artist, I’m not attempting to become an urban quality to my music. It is still very pop music. [On the song “Dancehall Queen”] me and Diplo thought it was fun to experiment with the concept of making a reference to white music that references reggae culture but in a way that was very cocky and not afraid to be cheesy… It’s more about putting my finger on how that kind of music is a reference for me today. It’s not about reggae. It’s about pop culture and how it’s a reference for people.
Robyn and Diplo in the studio recording “Dancehall Queen” in November 2009.
In what ways does your music resonate differently in the U.S. compared with Europe or elsewhere?
I think there are certain things that I reference to in my music that are very typically American. I listened to a lot of rap music growing up and that I like to use slang and mix languages and culture in my lyrics. Those things definitely resonate here in a different way than they do in Europe. There are other things that resonate more in Europe, like the Euro sound or the trashier stuff. People aren’t as afraid of that in Europe ⎯ four-to-the-floor dance music is not considered something ‘dirty’ in Europe. It’s considered to be something of great importance and in that way, that part of [Body Talk Pt. 1] resonates differently in Europe. It’s really interesting because just like Europe has embraced American music for a long time now, that is starting to happen over here. The techno and house club scenes in Europe are starting to influence people over here as well. I think it’s becoming more and more easy for to make people albums that people actually get.
You collaborated with Snoop Dogg on a track for Body Talk Pt. 2. What do you like about him as an artist?
He’s a great rapper. He has a style and a voice that is very much his own. I grew up listening to him I’ve been a fan since I was a little kid. Everything he comes from and what he represents ⎯ the cool and the cockiness of his music and his style ⎯ has always been inspiring to me. I was very happy to bring him into my work because that’s definitely what we’ve done. It doesn’t sound like a Snoop record, it sounds like a Robyn record and he fits right in there and he sounds more gangsta than ever, I think.
When I met Snoop what really struck me was what kind of a musician he is. He’s really smart and he was really open to try stuff. Just being around him and watching him record vocals was, like amazing. It explains why he’s been in the industry such a long time.
Does he sound more gangsta than “Ain’t No Fun”?
Ah, well we’ll see. I don’t know what you’re gonna think.
Robyn and Kelis’ “All Hearts” summer tour dates:
7/27 – Boston @ House of Blues
7/30 – Toronto @ Molson Amphitheatre (Disco Lemonade: Summer Mashup Festival)
7/31 – Montreal @ Parc Jean Drapeau (Osheaga Festival)
8/2 – Washington @ 9:30 Club
8/3 – Philadelphia @ Trocadero
8/5 – New York @ Webster Hall
Robyn solo tour dates:
8/13 – Oslo, Norway @ Oya Festival
8/20 – Trondheim, Norway @ Pstereo Festival
8/21 – UK @ V Festival
8//22 – UK @ V Festival
8/27 – Stockholm, Sweden @ Popaganda Festival