Gov. Gretchen Whitmer addressed the State of Michigan after a plan to kidnap her and other Michigan government officials was thwarted by state and federal law enforcement agencies. She started by saying thank you to law enforcement and FBI agents who participated in stopping this [...]
Of all the dance queens claiming the fame, Robyn’s our best queer-kept secret. But the Swedish stunner wasn’t always this exclusive – in the ’90s, the world did exactly what her teen-pop megahit “Show Me Love” told it to.
Ever since, the 31-year-old dark horse has rebuilt her career on crying-in-the-corner Eurodisco club anthems – following “With Every Heartbeat,” 2007’s comeback heartbreaker, with this year’s liberating triumph “Dancing on My Own” – and evolved into a boundary-pushing purveyor of swaggering, post-modern electronica.
Robyn’s music, some of the best pop in recent years, speaks to the feet – and the heart. No wonder she calls her CD series “Body Talk,” a trilogy rolling out this year on her label, Konichiwa Records. This week, the second installment, “Body Talk Pt. 2,” dropped. After touring the U.S., and stopping in the Detroit area for a divine show earlier this summer, Robyn rang us to chat about ’80s club culture inspiring her music, feeling close to the gay community and her “nerdy self.”
How was touring the U.S.?
I had such a good time on tour in America. I loved being there, performing. It’s really not just something I’m saying. It’s actually been a real pleasure to do this last tour. Such a warm crowd at every show. Just fantastic.
There seems to be a really strong emotional connection between you and your fans. When you were growing up and listening to music back in the ’80s, did you look for that connection with other artists?
I don’t know if I was aware of it, but that’s what I connected to in people like Prince or Kate Bush. I was listening to a lot of really commercial pop music as well, like Michael Jackson and Janet Jackson and Madonna. But my parents had a theater group, and I was always around people discussing performance and communication with an audience. That really shaped how I look at what I do – even though I do something very different from my parents.
I was lucky that I had that. When I got into the industry, I was really young and like all 16 year olds you don’t really know what you want to do. Getting to where I am was a really natural thing. For people on the outside, it was a more drastic kind of change. But for me it was always there. It’s just that I was making my way toward it in an industry that’s not very open to change.
The same subjects pop up in your songs – being on the outside, not being understood and, of course, heartbreak. Why are you stuck on these sad themes?
Because that’s how life is. I mean, isn’t that how we all feel? Those are the things that everybody – or a lot of people, at least – think about. That’s what pop music is supposed to be doing – talking about those everlasting issues, like love, being on the outside … and feeling like you want to dance.
Do you think that’s why your gay fans connect with you so much?
That’s what always defined gay culture, and that’s what defines a lot of cultures. But gay culture has always defined itself from that perspective, and also from the perspective of, like, making the space that is yours – creating that space where you can be what you want to be.
Naturally, being gay puts all those questions in front of you in a different way than they do for other people. Anyone who’s different, anyone who feels like that – no matter who you are – it makes you question what society is and what it makes you feel, so I always connected with the gay audience. Ever since “Show Me Love” I was always aware of my gay audience and I always felt like I could connect back.
You got a fantastic tweet from someone recently who wrote, “I wonder if Robyn realizes how many fags around the world are in love with her?”
Of course I do! I mean, that’s obvious to me. I’ve consciously decided to show my appreciation as well because I always loved the music that was connected to gay culture.
How does gay club culture play into the “Body Talk” albums?
It’s there all the time, not only with “Body Talk.” But on this album I’ve consciously chosen to explore that world sound-wise, and I’ve listened to a lot of old house and techno – everything from Sylvester to Donna Summer. Even the dirtier stuff – things that are more raw – talk to me. ABBA and Erasure, the bittersweet kind of songwriting that’s present in that world, have been important to me as well.
How will the rest of “Body Talk” compare to the first disc?
To me, they’re one album, and I just decided to release it in three parts because I felt like I needed to change my way of working – figure out a way where I could be more fluid and more intuitive and, I guess, spontaneous.
Also, everyone knows how music is changing. People go out on the Internet and they find what they want and what they’re into, and I think as an artist, you look stupid if you don’t recognize that, you know? For me, that was obvious, and it was logical to assess that. And I don’t think it’s a new idea; people have been doing this in a lot of different ways for a long time. Look back 20 or 30 years – like with “Thriller,” it was nine songs. Even before that, people were releasing one album a year and they weren’t so long. You had a more direct relationship to the music.
Why did you turn the video for the first single off “Body Talk Pt. 2,” “Hang with Me,” into a touring travelogue?
Touring has been a really important part of this record. I wanted to make this album through touring, because I think it’s necessary. And in the environment that we’re in at the moment, where things are changing and there’s a lot of really tough and hard attitudes in the visuals in pop music, I wanted to show the emotional side of what I do and connect to the audience in a way that feels real to me.
I also feel like it fits the song – it’s a very sweet song, and I didn’t really know how to perform the song in a way that would still give it the kind of depth and sincerity that it has.
Yeah, the video’s very intimate.
Good! That’s what I wanted.
There’s been debate about the gender you’re referring to in the chorus of “Dancing on My Own,” which would change the whole perspective of the song. Is it a guy or girl?
Yeah, I know! I guess it’s my Swedish accent, but I am saying, “I’m not the girl you’re taking home.” To me, it doesn’t matter – however you want to read into it, that’s fine.
Several of your songs involve robots. Why the obsession with them?
They’re funny. They’re like more simple versions of humans. It just helps me to put my finger on what it is that I want to get through. I guess it’s like a metaphor for the human condition.
I’m a sci-fi nerd – I was super into “Battlestar Galactica”; I know it’s tacky! – so it’s just fun to me. And yeah, I’ve been doing it for a while, so for me it’s not about trying to be trendy. It’s more about my own nerdy self.